NDPR Review: Cambridge Companion to Frege

NDPR has published a review — written by Jeremy Heis (U.C. Irvine) — of the new Cambridge Companion to Frege, edited by Michael Potter (Cambridge University) and Tom Ricketts (University of Pittsburgh). To access the full review, please click here.

Here is how it begins:

The long-awaited publication of The Cambridge Companion to Frege is a major event in Frege scholarship. Filling over 600 pages, the 14 essays are closely argued, ambitious, and often philosophically highly novel. In terms of its philosophical penetration and comprehensive coverage, The Cambridge Companion to Frege compares to Michael Dummett’s classic Frege: Philosophy of Language. Every serious reader of Frege should read it.

According to the publisher’s blurbs, Cambridge Companions are intended to be able to serve as introductory reference works for non-specialists and students — even upper-level undergraduates. As any consumer of Companions knows, though, different volumes in the series range considerably in the comparative weight afforded to accessibility to students versus interest for specialists. Non-specialists and teachers looking to recommend books for students should know that the editors of this volume clearly intended to put much more weight on the latter.

Many of the essays are animated by a specific vision of Frege scholarship. Frege is often approached by contemporary philosophers as the inventor (or discoverer) of technical or philosophical tools — polyadic logic, naïve set theory, Fregean abstraction, Frege Arithmetic, “Frege’s Puzzle,” the compositionality of meaning, the intensionality of propositional attitude ascriptions, modes of presentation — that can be lifted out of Frege’s works and put into our collective philosophical toolbox. This way of appropriating Frege’s works, though certainly defensible and useful in its own right, tends to obscure the deep systematicity of his work and, according to many authors in this collection, overlooks the ways that Frege’s philosophy differs fundamentally from the analytic philosophy of language, logic, and mathematics that was written after his death. To counteract this, the editors gave the authors in this collection the freedom to develop systematic and wide-ranging interpretations of Frege’s thought in its own terms.

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