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March 05, 2012

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Strawson didn't get an obituary either. Someone could argue that Marcus is more deserving, but it could be argued the other way too. It is hard to assess the importance of Marcus's early work on modal logic compared to that of others, such as Carnap, but the assessment given in this letter seems to me overly generous. The Moral Dilemmas paper is outstanding, but there are many equally outstanding papers by other philosophers. Marcus had to contend with some extra difficulties as a pioneering woman in philosophy, but how much more obituary-worthy does that make her? Considering what a tiny number of analytic philosophers the New York Times sees fit to honor with obituaries, Marcus's omission isn't "appalling" or "scandalous". Neither is Strawson's. Even the policy of publishing so few such obituaries is not outrageous. Maybe we should encourage the Times to change it, and Marcus would be a good start, but they haven't done anything shameful. (And yes, of course, the authors of the letter are right that they have published obituaries for many less important philosophers, but is that really something to hold against them?)

(And yes, of course, the authors of the letter are right that they have published obituaries for many less important philosophers, but is that really something to hold against them?)

No, the thing to hold against them is that they published obituaries for many less important philosophers and not for Marcus.

Although a bit late, I think the fact that Marcus' was a women whose major contributions were in modal logic, perhaps the area of logic having the most influence on philosophy in the 3rd quarter of the last century, an influence still felt, and that symbolic logic, much more than philosophy, sees a paucity of women, makes her early presence and insightful contributions in this array pioneering and particularly news-worthy.

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