Friday, January 23, 2009

Sullivan on MacBeth on Frege's Logic

In the long tradition of negative book reviews, Peter Sullivan launches a fairly sustained attack on Macbeth's book on Frege's logic. Some highlights or lowlights, depending on your taste for such things:
In the short term, this book will probably make quite a stir; one hopes that in the longer term, it will be seen to have done no lasting damage to Frege studies. It is an extraordinary work, whose central contentions are remarkable chiefly for their perversity.
Because she so undervalues the achievement of Begriffsschrift, Macbeth is content to have no account at all of what Frege might have been thinking when he wrote it.
In this book, in her accounts both of the development of Frege’s own thought and of its relation to the tradition it founded, Macbeth does the history of logic backwards. She portrays Frege as reacting against a background of doctrine that the works of Carnap, Tarski, Quine et alii have somehow already magically set in place; and she portrays him as reacting against that background for reasons which he has yet to discover. This does not make for a plausible story.


Richard Zach said...

The link to the review doesn't work.

Chris Pincock said...

Sorry -- the perils of posting before coffee. It should be fixed now!