Philosophy of Panayot Butchvarov. A Collegial Evaluation

Author: Blackman, Larry Lee
This anthology consists of twelve essays concerning the thought of University of Iowa Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Panayot Butchvarov, together with his comments on each. Butchvarov’s work reveals extraordinary breadth and depth, running the gamut of metaphysics (including proto-ontology), epistemology, ethics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. Unusual for contemporary philosophers, he is sympathetic both to continental phenomenology and existentialism and also to British-American analytical philosophy. Highly eclectic, he draws upon the views of Descartes, Hume, Kant, Meinong, Moore, Wittgenstein (both “early” and “later”), and Sartre as well as other classical and contemporary thinkers, but at the same time he is quite original, setting forth and defending a range of bold, often controversial, theses on identity, existence, reality, knowledge, language, mind, consciousness, goodness, and universals.


“Panayot Butchvarov is a major contributor to metaphysics and epistemology. His work has been widely discussed, and as a philosopher and teacher he has been an influential role model for more than forty years. He is outstanding not only for powerful original work, but also for his unique way of combining three virtues: systematicity, clarity, and an illuminating engagement with historically important philosophers. This volume is both an intensive study of Butchvarov’s philosophy and a series of interconnected, independently intelligible contributions by a very able group of Philosophers. For readers interested in metaphysics, the volume has two major sections in this field. One treats such core ontological problems as existence, predication, and consciousness; the other related section addresses realism in and beyond the realm of perception, and it contains phenomenologically sophisticated discussion of the significance of dreams and hallucinations. Another major section of the book concerns basic questions of epistemology, including the structure of knowledge, the status of the a priori, the nature and ontology of perception, and skepticism. The final section deals with the metaphysics of ethics. Here Butchvarov has made one of the most theoretically sophisticated contributions to the theory of value since G. E. Moore’s work of a century ago. For philosophers and students of philosophy interested in Butchvarov’s work, the book contains treatments of both his early and his recent contributions. Through the commentaries themselves and in his detailed replies to them, some new directions of inquiry are also identified. Butchvarov’s own contributions to the book are particularly noteworthy. He responds in detail to each essay. His replies are constructive, not defensive. Here he is again a role model. He is more interested in truth than in winning debates, more concerned with what is right than with being right. The Editor has done an excellent job in organizing and introducing the essays. He has produced a volume usable for advanced courses as well as one that will interest professional philosophers concerned with the several topics it explores. The book will be particularly valuable in seminars concerned with metaphysics or epistemology or both.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Robert Audi, Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

“Both of Panayot Butchvarov’s major works, The Concept of Knowledge (1970) and Being Qua Being (1979) must be ranked among the most powerful and original works in philosophy published in the past fifty years. … Any philosophical thesis raises new questions and attracts critical commentary, however, and Butchvarov’s metaphysical and epistemological positions are bound to be clarified further by the give and take of philosophical dialectic between him and his critics. The present anthology is the record of just such a dialectic.… Butchvarov’s rather general responses seem designed to encourage the reader of this anthology to engage the issues more deeply than he or she might otherwise do. He seems intent to encourage the exercising of the philosophically indispensable critical method by providing us with pieces of his conceptual scaffolding and permitting us to work out for ourselves where on this lattice the details should be located.” – Robert Muehlmann, Professor of Philosophy, The University of Western Ontario

“Panayot Butchvarov is a fascinating and important philosopher whose work both deserves and repays close study. In a long and distinguished career, he has written books about the most fundamental philosophical issues in a way that is unique, profound, and sensitive to the history of philosophy … Contemporary philosophers should find this book of interest for at least three reasons. First, those who have studied Butchvarov’s work will welcome the opportunity to read criticisms of him written by first-rate philosophers along with his responses to those criticisms. … Second, anyone interested in traditional debates in metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, including those not familiar with Butchvarov’s work, should find the essays and Butchvarov’s responses to them extremely thought provoking. … Finally, this book provides a glimpse of a style of philosophy that is as rare as it is valuable.” – Dr. Paul Studtmann, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Davidson College

Table of Contents

Preface by Robert Audi
1. Ontology
2. Epistemology
3. Dreaming and Direct Realism
4. Metaphilosophy and Metaethics