David Lewis’s place in the history of late analytic philosophy: his conservative and liberal methodology


  • Frederique Janssen-Lauret University of Manchester
  • Fraser Mac Bride




David Lewis, W.V. Quine, philosophical method, history of analytic philosophy, commonsense,


In 1901 Russell had envisaged the new analytic philosophy as uniquely systematic, borrowing the methods of science and mathematics. A century later, have Russell’s hopes become reality? David Lewis is often celebrated as a great systematic metaphysician, his influence proof that we live in a heyday of systematic philosophy. But, we argue, this common belief is misguided: Lewis was not a systematic philosopher, and he didn’t want to be. Although some aspects of his philosophy are systematic, mainly his pluriverse of possible worlds and its many applications, that systematicity was due to the influence of his teacher Quine, who really was an heir to Russell. Drawing upon Lewis’s posthumous papers and his correspondence as well as the published record, we show that Lewis’s non-Quinean influences, including G.E. Moore and D.M. Armstrong, led Lewis to an anti-systematic methodology which leaves each philosopher’s views and starting points to his or her own personal conscience.