In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS 123 Hans Sluga, GottlobFrege. Arguments of the Philosophers series. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 198o. Pp. xi + ~o3. $35.oo. Does analytic philosophy rest on a mistake? In his book Gottlob Frege, Hans Sluga argues that it does. The mistake is a radical form of ahistoricism, the unexamined presumption that questions of conceptual structure and foundation can be understood independently of their histories. This neglect of history by the analytic tradition extends even to the question of its own roots. (p. 2). The consequences are that it fails to grasp the actual historical meaning of what it investigates and that it has no appreciation of its own historical situation. Frege's work is of great relevance at several levels in this argument: it is, first, a primary source of the myth of the independent existence of conceptual, and hence philosophical, questions. Fregean thoughts exist out of space and time and can be neither causes nor effects. It is thus not only possible but necessary for philosophy to ignore the historical situation if it is to work with these timeless objects (pp. 56, 64). This doctrin~ is internalized in contemporary analytic philosophy. Not only is Frege's work the source of the analytic mistake, but the considerable analytical literature on Frege--Michael Dummett's Frege: The Philosophyof Language' is Sluga's favorite instance---exemplifies that mistake as well, since it is marked by failures and refusals to consider his thought in its historical context. There is the unfounded presumption of a conceptual a priori--the intersubjectively invariant structure of the forms of thought--and the consequent illusion that consists in taking the task of interpretation to be that of freeing that structure from its subjective, historical clothing (p. 3). So Frege is the progenitor of the very ahistoricism that so misunderstands him. Sluga's book undertakes the historical and critical correction of this dogmatic illusion. Frege is to be situated with respect to the ideological forces of nineteenthcentury Germany. The influences of these forces on him are to be charted. It is apparently only ideological forces that come into consideration; the material and social conditions of Frege's life are virtually ignored. Sluga's problematic is thus perhaps not quite free from those Fregean influences he finds so invidious in analytic thought. Sluga presumes throughout that Frege's work is conceptually continuous, first with that of his predecessors and contemporaries, and second within itself; internal shifts are responses to difficulties or resolutions of contradictions. These difficulties are not always apparent, and behind the spare elegance of the Fregean texts is a complete and continuous system of thought, working itself out, to which these texts provide our primary access. This project does not, in Sluga's capable hands, rest at an abstract level. In particular, and this is but one example, the origins and transformations of the context principle--that a word has meaning only in the context of a I. (London: Duckworth, 1973). See the reviews of it by George Wilson, in journal of the Historyof Philosophy 16 (1978'):457-66; by Eiche-Henner Kluge, in Dialogue16 0977): 519-33; and by Sluga, in Inquiry 18:471--98. I2 4 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY sentence--are carefully mapped in an effort to recover its "original meaning by examining the historical origins of the statement, the role it plays in Frege's theorizing , and the significance attributed to its denial by Frege's contemporaries" (p. 181). Sluga's indictment of analytic philosophy is clearly put, the quality of his book gives it authority, and it deserves to be considered in greater depth and breadth than is possible here. The general ground of the challenge is the Kantian distinction between the analysis and the criticism of concepts. Though it may reveal the structure of concepts, mere analysis can never give their critical justification. It is a crucial question here whether this critical justification of concepts is appropriately conceived, as Sluga would have it, in historical terms. Clearly, if that is the correct understanding of philosophy, then the analytic tradition is not alone in its error: Aquinas and Brentano are as wrong on Aristotle as are Church and Carnap on Frege. And historicism...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 123-124
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.