Announcement: Installation of the Collegium Institute Anscombe Archive at the University of Pennsylvania

April 22, 2019


The University of Pennsylvania Libraries, the Department of Philosophy, and the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society (PRRUCS) are pleased to announce the installation of the Collegium Institute Anscombe Archive at the University of Pennsylvania.

According to Professor Michael Weisberg, Chairperson of the Penn Department of Philosophy, G.E.M. Anscombe (1919-2001) “was, perhaps, the most significant 20th century female analytic philosopher,” a world-renowned thinker whose “work spans many areas of contemporary concern especially in moral philosophy, the theory of free will, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of language.” Professor Weisberg also noted that while Anscombe “is primarily associated with Oxbridge, she and her husband Peter Geach-an accomplished philosopher in his own right-were regular visitors to Penn in the 70s and 80s.” Finally, speaking for himself and many other Penn colleagues, Professor Weisberg expressed being “thrilled” at the “prospect of Anscombe’s archive … coming to Penn.” 

Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, FBA was professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University and a principal literary executor of Ludwig Wittgenstein.  Before Cambridge she — together with celebrated philosophers Philipa Foot, Iris Murdoch, and Mary Midgley — was a core member of what recent scholars have called “A Female School of Analytic Philosophy”, which transformed moral philosophy in wartime Oxford, culminating with Anscombe’s most famous essay, “Modern Moral Philosophy”, wherein she coined the term “consequentialism.”  Her opposition to consequentialist ethics was manifested in her public defiance of Oxford University’s decision to award President Harry S. Truman an honorary degree in 1956, since he had authorized the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   

In America, Anscombe was appointed an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania (1968-1980).  She was also a prominent Catholic public intellectual, and the Anscombe Archive was acquired by the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture (CI) in Philadelphia.  CI is an integral partner of PRRUCS, particularly its Perry Scholars for Science, Spirituality, and Service Project.

Last year, through the support and generosity of Mr. James N. Perry (C’82), a former member of the Penn School of Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers, Dr. Matthew O’Brien of the Collegium Institute, and Mr. Vincenzo La Ruffa (C’02), and through a collaboration between the Penn Department of Philosophy and PRRUCS, the Collegium Institute Anscombe Archive was transferred to the Penn Library’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, where it will be housed and studied through June 2022. This study will build upon an invaluable preliminary cataloging of the Anscombe Archive, which was undertaken by Dr. Luke Gormally, who along with his wife, Dr. Mary Geach, the daughter of Anscombe, stewarded the Archive from Anscombe’s death in 2001 until its acquisition by the Collegium Institute.

The Anscombe Archive consists of over six hundred catalogued items (including unpublished manuscripts in various stages of revision, philosophical offprints with substantial marginalia, personal correspondence with major philosophical figures, and journals) in twenty-one archival boxes. It is a treasure trove of information for scholars seeking to deepen their understanding of Anscombe and her contributions to many different areas of philosophy.  Among the most exciting and intimate objects are a journal of remembrances of Wittgenstein, as well as the over eighty letter and postcard exchanges between Anscombe and Sir Anthony Kenny, former president of the British Academy and Royal Institute of Philosophy, on ultimate philosophical and theological questions.  These eighty exchanges were the spark for the international Philosophy by Postcard Project, of which the Collegium Institute is the American partner.

The Collegium Institute Anscombe Archive at the University of Pennsylvania is expected to become a nexus for new academic networks and learning opportunities on campus, including four annual conferences based on Anscombe’s work, other special events and seminars, and the appointment of undergraduate, graduate, and faculty fellowships.  Beginning their terms this fall will be two new PRRUCS Fellows, Dr. Janice Chik and Dr. John Peter DiIulio, who were recently appointed as the John and Daria Barry Foundation Fellow and the James N. Perry Scholar of Philosophy, Politics, and Society, respectively, and who will be devoted largely to scholarship on the archive.
On April 26-28, 2019, the Philosophy Department and PRRUCS will host the first Anscombe Archive Conference on Mind & Action, which will feature the premier display of the archive in the Henry Charles Lea Library (6th Floor Van Pelt Library) on Friday at one o’clock pm. Immediately before the academic conference, the Collegium Institute also will host a public engagement lecture and reception on April 25th at noon in which Professor Jennifer Frey of the University of South Carolina will deliver a lecture titled, “Living the Truth: On the Relevance of Elizabeth Anscombe’s Thought Today.”