Truth and Other Enigmas: Preface
Dummett (Michael)
Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. In this volume I have collected all but two of those of my purely philosophical essays and articles, including a few reviews, published before August 1976, that I think remain of interest.
  2. It is not because I am wholly satisfied with everything contained in these essays that I have adopted this policy of not attempting to improve them: it is, conversely, because, once the process of emendation had been initiated, it would have been hard to bring it to an end. An essay is not, or should not be, a sequence of detachable propositions, but should have its own unity. While one is writing it, one may hack it about, deleting one passage, rewriting another, transferring a third to a different place; but the whole process is an attempt to give expression to a view of the topic held at the time of writing. Any attempt by the writer, years later, to convert it by similar means into an expression of his present way of looking at the topic will produce only a mutilated object, representing neither his former nor his present view: he must either leave it as it stands, or write a completely new essay on the subject.
  3. On most of the topics discussed in this volume I shall probably, in one place or another, write again; it is not my purpose, in publishing this volume, to set out my present, let alone my final, views on these topics, but simply to collect together some scattered writings which have a certain unity, derived from a fairly constant general outlook on philosophical problems, and which retain, as I think and hope, some interest and value. Thus, while I certainly do not want to be regarded as endorsing everything that will be found in these essays, still less to be accused of inconsistency because a remark in one contradicts one in another, or something I have written elsewhere, I have included only those articles which still seem to me to be at least partly on the right lines and to contain something of genuine value for the discussion of the topics of which they treat.
  4. Probably people differ a great deal in this regard. I know that I repeat myself a lot. Sometimes, when I find in a drawer something that I wrote years ago, I am surprised to discover in it some point that I remember to have made quite recently in a lecture, and which I had no idea had first occurred to me so long before. And yet I always try to avoid giving the same lecture twice, even to different audiences. Even if one's opinions on a topic have not changed — and perhaps mine change too little — a lecture, like an essay, is not just the enunciation, in sequence, of a number of propositions, with attached arguments in favour of them: it is an attempt to get a topic in perspective, by posing the questions in a particular manner and in a particular order, by distributing the emphasis in one way rather than another.
  5. If you have been thinking about a subject between one occasion of discussing it publicly and the next, then, even if what you believe to be the truth of the matter has not altered, your view of how it fits with other things, of what is important and what secondary, in short, of how it is to be approached, will have shifted. And that is how, in re-reading these essays, they have mostly struck me. I have not often thought, 'That is just wrong'; but I have frequently felt that, if I had to write about the topic now, I should pose the question differently, or start from a different point, or put the emphasis in a different place. So I have treated each essay as a completed object, to be either excluded or else included just as it stood.


This preface is a substantial work of philosophy in its own right.

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