28th December 2011
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Sir Michael Dummett has died at the age of 86 on 27 December 2011. He was one of the most renowned philosophers of his generation. He sometimes characterized late-twentieth century analytical philosophy as Post-Fregean philosophy, and although he wrote voluminously about Frege and acknowledged the obvious influence, Dummett’s own philosophy diverged considerably from Frege’s unapologetic realism in regard to abstract objects.
Dummett wrote Elements of Intuitionism, which is a classic textbook on basic intuitionistic logic and mathematics, and then went on to apply his generally constructivistic and specifically intuitionistic views to wider vistas of philosophy in The Logical Basis of Metaphysics. These works might be informally characterized as “Frege meets Brouwer.”
Although Dummett’s work came after the great heyday of mid-century linguistic philosophy, his work embodied the “linguistic turn” even when writing about logic, mathematics, and metaphysics. Dummett emphasized the central role of language and of meaning in philosophical theories, and here, too, Frege was a touchstone and a crucial influence. His first major publication was Frege: Philosophy of Language.
Putting this linguistic turn into practice, in The Logical Basis of Metaphysics he wrote:
“…we must attain a clear conception of what a meaning-theory can be expected to do. Such a conception will form a base camp for an assault on the metaphysical peaks: I have no greater ambition in this book than to set up a base camp.”