[FOM] Re: FOM currents

Dean Buckner Dean.Buckner at btopenworld.com
Sat Oct 11 11:49:48 EDT 2003

Reply to Friedman, Tait, Davis

> .. is the freedom to continue irresistable [sic]?

Certainly not, given there's nothing in this latest tirade except, to
consider working with Mayberry, the true subject matter of "logic", and an
exhortation to read Godel, plus plenty of abuse.

(i) On "working with Mayberry", I first met John Mayberry 30 years ago when
I was his student, and I learnt much from him over the next ten years.  You
could say I grew up with the contents of the book he finally published in
2000, and to which I frequently refer.

(ii) On the name "Logic", Martin Davis also comments on my allegation that
"mathematical logicians have stolen the word logic as used by such as Mill
(and why didn't he add Hegel)?"

Heaven forbid Hegel, though he did write a book called "Logic".  My argument
was first that much of the subject matter now dealt with in "philosophy of
language" and "philosophical logic" (I do NOT mean "philosophy of logic") -
I mean the core concepts of reference, identity, existence, truth,
predication, implication & so forth - was the subject matter of the
discipline called (before Godel) "Logic".  That is a fact.

As to a "campaign" to change the name back, well, in England we just call
one tradition "philosophical logic" and the other "mathematical logic", so
none is really needed, no one is confused.  It's worth adding that the older
tradition dominates here in England, and we regard mathematical logic as
particularly American.  Someone is bound to question this, so can I cite
Jeff Pelletier's excellent "A Brief History of Natural Deduction".  He
writes "British philosophy schools, and those heavily influenced by them,
tended instead to study "philosophy of logic" [sic] as presented by Strawson
(1952). ".

The tradition is very much alive, so why does Tait write that it is dying?
*Individuals* by Strawson, is a key text of philosophical logic, OK it was
written in 1952, but then we had Gareth Evans, whose work is internationally
respected, and then there is the current generation.  Arthur Prior, from New
Zealand, then lecturer at Oxford, is also a key figure in this tradition,
also Peter Geach.

I believe Mayberry's book itself is influenced by the same tradition.  At
least, he got plenty of exposure to the Prior/Geach stuff from CJF Williams
being a regular attendee at Christopher's weekly seminars for many years,
and there is much in his book to suggest that (I may be wrong).

So what is presented here in FOM is very much a US-centric view of "logic".
And of course Americans are famous for their detailed understanding &
respect for other cultures & intellectual traditions.

(iii) On Godel.  As noted, Godel is a peripheral figure in the British
tradition.  For example he gets 1 column in my (British) encyclopedia,
whereas Strawson gets 2, Wittgenstein gets 7.  In CJF Williams' book "Being
Identity and Truth", which as the name suggests covers the core concepts of
philosophical logic, there are references that include the following
logicians, in order of citations:

Aristotle (10, passim), Russell (10, passim), Wittgenstein (8, passim),
Geach (7), Prior (5, passim), Frege (5), Quine (5), Leibniz (3), Strawson
(2), Lewis (2), Kneale (1), Ockham (1), Goedel (0)

The reason for the omission is I suspect Godel's treatment of truth, which
is alien to the British tradition.  Also I notice that Prior's history of
Logic, which includes Strawson, Wittgenstein, Russell, Lukasiewicz, Frege,
Mill, Aristotle, is remarkably silent about Godel.

Ditto for Fred Sommers' book, which is another classic in this tradition
(Sommers *is* American, btw).   Admittedly it is called *The Logic of
Natural Language*, but he still manages to reference Quine, Russell,
Wittgenstein, Dummett, Kneale, Prior, Putnam, blah blah.  Even our own FOM
"regular" Prof. Slater gets a mention.  But nothing on Godel, I see.

Only when I turn to Dummett's monumental work on Frege do I at last find a
reference to "the greatest logician of the 20C".  He gets 4.  But then
Wittgenstein gets about 100, Zermelo 8, Quine 150, Prior 4, Kripke 30, Geach
40 and so on.

Note I AM NOT using this to suggest Godel is not actually the greatest
logician, or that if we repeated this exercise 50 years later, there would
not be a very different result, just as logic books of about 80 years or
more ago would have been silent about Frege.  I'm just using these facts to
question the view of Godel as the greatest *logician* of 20C as being
"generally held".  It's not, at least not in England.

Perhaps this implies we are provincial, and of course everything is
provincial to America.  I think it has more to do with an entire German
tradition transplanted to the U.S. at a certain well-known period in
history, whereas in England we have our own native tradition.

(iv) On Tait's comments.  Of course I meant 19C foundations.  And I'm
grateful to Tait's work for realising that Frege is not absoutely central to
the foundations.  Frege's work is revered in the British school & he is
treated like a saint & a martyr, and the greatest logician since Aristotle
&c &c.  The true benefit of FOM is it allows you to travel abroad so to
speak, outside the narrow confines of one tradition and culture, though (as
noted earlier) some of the locals can be extremely hostile.

Tait writes
>That [philosophy of language] school has very largely been one of
off-the-top-of->the-head theorizing, based on no expertise of any kind other
than a way with >words

That is also true.  But are we going to say the same of Geach, Strawson,
Sainsbury, Evans, to name a few?  The analytic (Oxford) tradition is still
THE dominant school of philosophy in England, and it is a great school, with
a proud history.


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