Gareth Evans (12 May 1946 – 10 August 1980)


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As an undergraduate from 1964 to 1967, Gareth Evans, a British philosopher of language and mind, studied for the PPE degree (philosophy, politics and economics) at University College, Oxford, where his philosophy tutor was Peter Strawson. He was then a Senior Scholar at Christ Church, Oxford (1967–68) and a Kennedy Scholar visiting Harvard and Berkeley (1968–69). In 1968, less than a year after completing his degree, Evans was elected to a Fellowship at University College. He took up the position in 1969, succeeding Strawson who had become Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford. During the 1970s, Evans and his University College colleague John McDowell played leading roles in developing a distinctive conception of truth-theoretic semantics, drawing on the work of Strawson, Michael Dummett, and especially Donald Davidson. Their co-edited collection, Truth and Meaning: Essays in Semantics, appeared in 1976. While philosophy of language enjoyed a central position in Oxford philosophy of that period, Evans did not share the view (regarded by Dummett as constitutive of analytic philosophy) that philosophy of language is foundational and so takes priority over philosophy of mind in the order of philosophical explanation. He attached particular importance to the mentalistic notion of understanding, and his work on the theory of reference was set within a theory of thought and especially thought about particular objects. Evans’s published work ranged over philosophy of language, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of psychology. In 1979 he was elected to the Wilde Readership in Mental Philosophy at Oxford. He died in August 1980, at the age of thirtyfour. His book, The Varieties of Reference (1982), incomplete at the time of his death, was edited and brought to publication by McDowell. A collection of thirteen of his papers and two shorter notes appeared in 1985 and a further note was published in 2004..
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