[FOM] Re: FOM currents

Neil Tennant neilt at mercutio.cohums.ohio-state.edu
Tue Oct 14 16:11:02 EDT 2003

On Sat, 11 Oct 2003, Dean Buckner wrote:

> 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.  

As a UK citizen, and logician trained in Britain, I do not agree with this
sociological claim. Have you surveyed the British logic community with an
appropriate questionnaire, to back this strange claim? Do you think they
will be unaware of the contributions of the likes of their compatriots
Russell, Turing, Gandy, Dummett, Crossley, Bell, Slomson, Hodges, Smiley,
Shoesmith ...?

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). ".

This quotation does not support your claim. 

> 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.

Indeed; while Goedel was taken in at the Princeton Institute for Advanced
Studies, the authorities at the University of Cambridge were refusing a
chair in architecture to Mies van der Rohe. And we all know the upper
class English belief that you will get the natives (out in darkest
wherever) to understand you if you just shout (in English) a little more

> (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.  

This reflects poorly on the editors of your (British) encyclopaedia.

> The reason for the omission is I suspect Godel's treatment of truth, which
> is alien to the British tradition.  

Please explain. Do the British not accept such principles as "p is true
iff p"? What principles in Godel's treatment of truth would important
representatives of "the British tradition" not accept? And what exactly is
"the British tradition"? British philosophy has representatives of all the
main schools, ranging from extreme anti-realism to extreme realism; from
ordinary-language philosophy to scientific philosophy; from nominalism to
platonism; etc. Who makes up "the" British tradition, in your view?

> 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 ..

Austro-German, actually. You need to be sensitive to such cultural 

Neil Tennant

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