Sir Peter Frederick Strawson (23 November 1919 – 13 February 2006) was an English philosopher. He was the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at the University of Oxford (Magdalen College) from 1968 to 1987. Before that he was appointed as a college lecturer at University College, Oxford in 1947 and became a tutorial fellow the following year until 1968. On his retirement in 1987, he returned to the college and continued working there until shortly before his death.

Early years

Peter Strawson was born in Ealing, West London, and brought up in Finchley, Middlesex, by his parents, both of whom were teachers. He was educated at Christ's College, Finchley, followed by St John's College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.


Strawson first became well known with his article "On Referring" (1950), a criticism of Bertrand Russell's Theory of Descriptions (see also Definite descriptions). He was largely responsible for establishing metaphysics as a worthwhile direction in analytic philosophy.

In philosophical methodology, there are (at least) two important and interrelated features of Strawson's work that are worthy of note. The first is the project of a ‘descriptive’ metaphysics, and the second is his notion of a shared conceptual scheme, composed of concepts operated in everyday life. In his book Individuals, Strawson attempts to give a description of various concepts that form an interconnected web, representing (part of) our common, shared, human conceptual scheme. In particular, he examines our conceptions of basic particulars, and how they are variously brought under general spatio-temporal concepts. What makes this a metaphysical project is that it exhibits, in fine detail, the structural features of our thought about the world, and thus precisely delimits how we, humans, think about reality.

Peter Strawson was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 1960, and Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1971. He was president of the Aristotelian Society from 1969 to 1970. He was knighted in 1977, for services to philosophy.


Sir Peter Frederick Strawson Poems

Sir Peter Frederick Strawson Quotes

No philosopher understands his predecessors until he has re-thought their thought in his own contemporary terms.
Sir Peter Frederick Strawson (b. 1919), British philosopher, Oxford University. Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics, p. 11, Methuen (1959).
The concept of a person is logically prior to that of an individual consciousness. The concept of a person is not to be analysed as that of an animated body or an embodied anima.
Sir Peter Frederick Strawson (b. 1919), British philosopher. Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics, p. 103 (1959). The central theme of the author's Individuals.
To refer is not to assert, though you refer in order to go on to assert.
Sir Peter Frederick Strawson (b. 1919), British philosopher. Logico-Linguistic Papers, p. 15, Methuen (1971).

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