Philosophy | Seminar: Topics in History of Philosophy
P710 | 26601 | 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
It is also a course in which we will concern ourselves with issues
important to contemporary philosophy – issues concerning knowledge,
truth, logic and language.