Philosophy | Sem in Topics in History of Philosophy
P710 | 26260 | Weiner


Topic: Frege


Frege is tremendously important for the history of analytic
philosophy -- indeed, the contemporary analytic approach comes, via
the Vienna Circle and Russell, largely from Frege's work.  Frege
also introduced the first logical system adequate for the expression
of contemporary first-order logic.  His writings on language,
mathematics and logic as well as his epistemological views, continue
to have a tremendous influence in virtually all of these fields.
There is, however, currently a battle underway among Frege scholars
for the soul of analytic philosophy.

On the standard interpretation, Frege is a philosophical hero, a
philosopher of astonishing insight and prescience who set a large
part of an agenda that still guides philosophical investigation.
But on the standard interpretation, Frege is also someone who
repeatedly committed astonishing blunders – who made wrong moves
that are easily identifiable by any undergraduate.  The seeds of the
battle over Frege can be found in the reactions to some of Frege’s
more surprising statements.  The standard view is that they should
be regarded as inexplicable mistakes – we should concentrate,
instead, on the indisputably valuable contributions.  But one of the
problems with this view is that the result simply does not fit
Frege’s texts.  The alternative, to take Frege at his word, may
force us to give up the assumption that his worries and projects are
the worries and projects traditionally attributed to him.  But the
result need not lose us a philosophical hero.  For some of the
statements that conflict with contemporary orthodoxy also offer a
different perspective on some of the more vexing problems with
contemporary thought about language.

This course is a historical course – a course in which we will focus
on reading and interpreting the texts of an important historical
figure.  It is also a course in which we will concern ourselves with
issues important to contemporary philosophy – issues concerning
knowledge, truth, logic and language.