Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe is for the most part remembered for her contributions to the philosophy of action and the philosophy of mind, especially with Intention (1957); ethics, above all for “Modern Moral Philosophy” (1958), and despite her professed disbelief in the existence of such a science; and, due to her work on causation and personal identity, metaphysics. Her more than scholarly interest in figures of the past, most notably Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume and Wittgenstein is also widely known, but what she had to say about them, excepting perhaps, and then only sometimes, Aquinas and Wittgenstein, is generally little read and less understood by contemporary scholars. Similarly, her work on “practical” subjects, such as abortion, euthanasia or sexuality, is either unknown or scorned and scoffed at as Catholic homiletics.
A hundred years have passed since Anscombe was born, and only eighteen since her death. Neither number justifies the foolhardiness of trying to judge now her importance as a philosopher. And yet the fact that we chose to celebrate the centenary of her birth clearly shows that we do think she was important, and that she remains so today. To argue that Anscombe should be read today would not, however, be an adequate excuse for our foolhardiness, as it would be both futile and idle. There is no way the future history of philosophy should be, and therefore no way the future history of the importance of any given philosopher should be. And it is hardly to be believed, and would be silly to hope, that so small a contribution as ours, or any single contribution for that matter, could have any significant effect on Anscombe’s posterity. But we do hope the articles we now publish will be found worth reading by those, few as they will certainly be, who come to read them. We wanted above all to honour Anscombe, and this we have done. Our efforts shall have been amply repaid if it turns out that we have been able also to share with others the excitement her thought has afforded us both in solitary moments of reading and in public discussion.