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568 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 24:4 OCTOBER 1986 weighted his historical approach in favor of that which is currendy in fashion. To that extent I should hold that it tends to falsify his picture of the past, though perhaps lending it an interest which, for many, it would not otherwise have. MAURICIgMANDELBAUM DartmouthCollege G. P. Baker and P. M. S. Hacker, Frege:LogicalExcavations. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell.) Pp. ix + 4o6. $39.95The book is a logical excavation in the sense that the authors claim to have dug through accumulated interpretations of several generations in order to lay bare the roots of Frege's thought in the nineteenth-century intellectual climate which, according to the authors, is totally alien to ours. The main target of their criticisms therefore is that contemporary Frege interpretation which regards him as the founder of modern mathematical logic, analytical philosophy, theory of meaning and truth-conditional semantics of natural language. But the authors do not spare Frege himself. They take him to task for his naive Platonism (61, 36o); his superficial Cartesian view of the mental phenomena (39, 6o); his psychologistic theory of assertion (and so also of judgment and inference) (lo, 359-6O), and his theory that concepts are functions and that thoughts refer to truth values. In brief, the authors are, in this book, "concerned with a nineteenth-century mathematical logician, not with a late twentieth century philosopher of language" (~7)In arguing that many neo-Fregeans ascribe to Frege their favorite and more recent philosophical theories which are not borne out by Frege's own writings, the authors have done an important service. But they themselves often tend to err by evaluating Frege's thoughts in the light of recent fashionable ideas, and seem to assume unquestioningly that since some of Frege's thoughts were rooted in nineteenth -century intellectual climate, they therefore are not viable today. There is an unwarranted historicist assumption underlying such a criticism. It may very well be, for example, that the conception of thinking as a mental process should not be rejected just because mentalism has fallen into bad repute. Conventions and practices may be looked upon as providing access to the mental processes underlying them. Frege's fault, then, would lie not in the mentalism that the authors rightly find in him, but in an impoverished and psychologistic conception of the mental. They are right in claiming that Frege simply could not confront representative idealism (54). The reason, I think, is---as Hans Sluga has emphasized--that Frege saw in psychologism an ally of naturalism, and that in rejecting psychologism he kept open a place for some form of idealism. Yet his own Cartesian conception of the mental did not allow him to formulate a version of non-psychologistic idealism. The Cartesianism and the Platonism remain unreconciled: in the words of our authors, what we have is "a platonist core with a Cartesian penumbra" (59)" In this reviewer's opinion, the two most debatable claims made by the authors are: that Frege has not given a theory of meaning in the contemporary sense, and that his BOOK REVIEWS 569 contribution to modern mathematical logic is overrated. Of these two, I will comment, however briefly, only on the first. I agree that it is wrong to ascribe to Frege a semantics of natural language and it is no more tenable to ascribe to him a truth-conditional theory of meaning. I also agree that the or/g/ns of the sense-reference distinction lie in Frege's attempt to remedy technical weakness of the Begriffsschrift and to complete the logicist program. But this account of the genesis of that distinction does not imply that the distinction, as expounded in the famed essay of 189~ and in "The Thought," does not, or cannot, form the foundation of a philosophical theory of meaning. The distinction was not introduced, to be sure, to account for our understanding of an identity statement without knowing its truth values. But once the distinction was available, it provided an account of what it is that we grasp in understanding, and so far Dummett's interpretation is not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 568-569
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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