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The birth of analytic phlosophy Michael Potter

By tracing the outlines of the moment when analytic philosophy was born, Michael Potter try
to show that it was an attempt to escape from Kants tradition. The first battleground was
thought to be mathematics and the attempt that Frege had to refute Kants account in the case
of arithmetic and, also, Russells extention of this project to the whole of mathematics. Even
that both failed, what was generate from this project is nowadays known as the analytic
method in philosophy.
1. Frege
1.1. Begriffsschrift
Frege (1879) - Begriffsschrift (Conceptual notation)
a formalization of the predicate calculus (quantification)
his aim in trying to formalize logic was to codify the laws not of thought but of truth
Aristotel, Leibniz and others, like Boole or Jevons, tried to formalize part of logic before
Frege. Although theyre works survive, none of them are at the nivel of Freges contribution.
For exemple, it did eventually turn out that Booles idea of treating reasoning as a form of
algebraic manipulation can be generalized to encompass reasoning that involves quatifiers and
the notion that plays the analogous role to that of a Boolean algebra is called a cylindric
algebra. In comparison, what is important in Freges work is thus that it enlarged the scope
of the formal logic decisively.
According to Church and Turing, the reason for what the Freges invention of polyadic
predicate calculus counts as decisive is for that that it is not mechanically decidable which
arguments involving polyadic quatification are logically valid, by contrast with Aristotelian
syllogistic (monadic quantification) which is mechanically decidable. this was a big step in
logic, because by showing that there are problems in logic which cannot be solved
mechanically it demonstrated a disanalogy between logic and elementary arithmetic.
This discovery raised a question about what remains of Kants claim that arithmetic is
synthetic, if the scope of logic is to include what can be deduced by means of polyadic logic?
1.2. Grundlagen
Like Frege, Dedekind was also interested of this questions and tried to show that arithmetic is
independent of space and time, on contrary of Kants claim.
There are three stages involved in establishing this claim:
1) To caracterize the natural numbers in axiomatic terms and show that the familiar
arithmetical properties follow logically from these axioms Dedekinds execution of
this stage may be counted a complete success, because the axioms he identified
(Peanos axioms) do have as logical consequences all of the truths of arithmetic

2) To show that there exists a structure satisfying these axioms problematic (its
needed to assume the axiom of infinity)
3) To abstract from the particular properties of the structure used in the second stage, so
as to identify the natural numbers as a new structure satisfying the axioms.
problematic (appealed to a sort of creative abstraction that has seemed obscure to
many later writers)
Frege, also, said that the arithmetic is independent of space and time and the shape of his
approach was the same as that of Dedekind:
1) He identified an axiomatic base from which the properties of the natural numbers
could be deduced
2) He tried to show logically that there exist objects satisfying these axioms
3) He needed a principled reason to ignore whatever properties the objects chosen in the
second stage may have that do not follow from the axiomatic characterization of them
identified in the first stage
( eg for polyadic quatification:
The following is the translation scheme:
x is a Freshman
x is a student
Kx: x respects every student
x respects every Freshman )
But he executed this stages significantly different:
1) -Freges axiomatic characterization of the natural numbers treated them as finite cardinal
-charazterized cardinal numbers by means of the priciple that the cardinals of two concepts F
and G are equal if and only if there exists a one-to-one correlation of the Fs with the Gs
-this equivalence = Humes principle
2) by showing that are objects who satisfie Humes principle, Frege made use of the notion
of the extension of a concept (a sort of logical object associated with a concept in such a way
that two concept have the same extension just in case they have the same objects falling under
them) eg: number Fs is an extension for concept F
For why the extra properties numbers acquire accidentally as a consequence of the
definition can be ignored, Frege said that some role was played by the context principle ( =
the methodological principle that it is only in the context of a sentence that words mean
According to Dummet, this context principle marks a fundamental shift in the
philosophy, the so-called linguistic turn

Frege rejects the idea of treating the Humes Principle as a contextual definition of numbers
and he treats it only as a contextual constraint (a condition that any definition of natural
numbers must satisfy if it is to be regarded as correct)
A much worse problem for Frege: the explicit definition of numbers that he settled on
defined them in terms of the notion of the extension of a concept. Solving this by started with
explaining how numbers are given to us, to the rather of how extensions of concept are given
to us
For Humes Principle, the contextual specification of the identity conditions for:
a) Numbers: an abstraction principle it asserts the logical equivalence of: 1) an
identity between two terms
2) the holding of an equivalence relation between the relevant concepts
b) the extention of a concept: abstraction principle, too
Frege didnt solve the problem of if the Julius Caesar is a natural number or the extention of a

1.3. Sense and reference

For Frege, Humes Principle (Basic Law V) is in some weak sense logical. He remained
attracted to the tought that the left hand side of an abstraction principle (identity between the
objects the principles seeks to introduce) is somehow a recarving of the content of the relation
of equivalence between concepts which occurs on the right hand side.
The difficulty: the notion of content is which can give substance to this metaphor of
Frege elaborated the theory of Sense and reference in Grundgesetze
The deeper claim: if we are to have a satisfying account of languages ability to
communicate thoughts from speaker to listener we must appeal to yet a fourth element what
Frege calls sense
Sense: 1) abstract (not a mental entity, neither physical)
2) uniform (a whole sentence is a sense, sentence composed out of the senses of the
subsentential expressions that make up the sentence)
Both this aspects are problematic.

2. Moore and Russell
2.1.Objective propozitions

1898 the second strand in the birth of analytic philosophy conversations between Russell
and Moore first Moores publications was articles on The nature of judgment and The
refutation of idealism
The overall step of the revolution: Moore thought that by conceiving of propositions as
objective complex entities he could resist the temptations of idealism
The centre of the project: an identity theory of truth
Moores conception of a proposition is embodied in two central doctrines:
a) The entities of which a proposition is composed (concepts) are themselves the items
the proposition is about; concepts are objective entities

b) There are no internal relations between concepts; what it is for a proposition to be true
is just for the concepts it is composed of to be externally related to each other in a
certain way

2.2. The Principles of Mathematics

The doctrine that there are no internal relations between concepts runs into an obvious
difficulty in the case of identity statements
If there are no internal relations, then it does not express anything at all
Russell Principles of Mathematics (1903) in contrast with Grundlagen of Frege:
Russells purpose: logicism - he wished to generalize to the whole of mathematics
Freges more limited claim that arithmetic is part of logic
Central to this project: Russells adoptation of Moores conception of a proposition as
containing the parts of the world it is about he added the notion of a denoting concept
Denoting concept = to enable a proposition to be about something else that is not itself
part of the proposition
Russell, 1903: A concept denotes when, if it occurs in a proposition, the proposition is
not about the concept but about a term connected in a certain peculiar way with the
concept. Russell seizes on denoting as the central element in his account of

2.3. On denoting

In 1901, Russell discovered the famous paradox which bears his name: he showed that the
denoting concept, the class of all classes which do not belong to themselves, does not denote
He wasnt the first who discovered this paradox, but what he did significantly was the fact
that on the strengh of this discovery he became more interested on to gain a better
understanding of how denoting concepts function.
Russell introduces a further constraint: the relationship between a concept and its denotation
is not linguistic through the phrase
Concepts exist whether or not we choose to devise means to express them in language the
relationship between the concept and its denotation exists independent of language and hence
so does the proposition expressing it
The Russells objection to his earlier theory of denoting applies to denoting concept which
denotes nothing and, also, to those which denotes something.
He replaces his theory of denoting with what was an account according to which the true
structure of the proposition a sentence expresses is to be revealed by translating it into the
predicate calculus with identity
The denoting phrase was replaced with quantified variable


2.4. Logicism

Significant in this method of translation: how the grammatical form of a sentence might
differ from the logical form of the proposition the sentence expresses
incomplete symbols = expessions which have no meaning on their own but which are such
that any sentence in which the expression occurs can be translated into another in which it
does not
Principia mathematica: here he developted a theory in which terms apparently referring to
classes are incomplete symbols which disappear on analysis
The solution to the paradox: any sentence in which the term the class of all classes which do
not belong to themselves occurs would resist rewriting according to the translation rules and
would therefore turn out not to express a proposition at all it does not just drop out all by
itself, because this transfer the focus of attention to the corresponding paradox of properties
(propositional functions)
necessary to stratify propositional functions into types, in two ways:
a) According to the types of the free variables they contain
b) According to the types of the bound variables
Whitehead and Russells aim in Principia Mathematica was an extension of Freges: they
wanted to embed not just arithmetic but the whole of mathematics in logic they did not
Unsolving problems with: the axiom of reducibility
the axiom of infinity
Influential in philosophy: the method of analysis of which it was an instance analytical

2.5. Sense data

Q.: What is the ultimate subject matter of ordinary discours about the physical world?
A.: how Russell dealt with non-reffering expressions
Logically proper name = any proper name which functions as such not just gramatically but
logically for any name which logical analysis does not reveal to be really a disguised
definite description (exception rather than the rule)
We must cannot intelligibly doubt about what is logically proper name the physical realm
are sense data
Objects are constructed out of the sense data Russell, 1924: Whenever possible, substitute
constructions out of known entities for inferences to unknown entities

2.6. Difficulties with the theory

One currious side effect of Russells theory: it forced him to abandon the notion that
modalities of possibility and necessity may be applied to propositions
1) Frege made explaining the communication one of the central tasks of his theory of
meaning that is why he had to insist that the sense of an expression is not simply an
idea in my mind but a distinct, inter-subjectively available entity

2) For Russell it was not really part of the task he was engaged in the communication: on
his view the fact that we communicate at all emerges a strange kind of miracle,
because the sense data experienced by me are not the same as those experienced by
anyone else the only entities the propositions you and I express have in common
are universals
Russells theory is thus at risk of a kind of solipsism and, at first side, it might also be
thought to flirt with idealism
Russell and Moore both conceived of sense data as objective entities to wich we may
bear a relation of aquaintance (Russell) or direct apprehension (Moore)
sensibilia = things that no-one ever has experienced or ever will experience

2.7. The multiple relation theory of judgment

According to Russell and Moore, a proposition is a sort of complex made up out of entities
of various sort sensibilia, ideas, or universals
In the case where the proposition is true, it is identical with the fact whose existence it
asserts; in the case that its false, there is no fact Russell think that the solution of this
problem is to eliminate propositions from the account of what it is to make a judgment
(Russells logical method apparently gave him the means to achieve this)
Problems: it is a quartenary relation just because the proposition being analysed has three
components, other cases would be different
there is no constancy about which elements of the judgment should be of which
kinds the judgement relation has to be very tolerant as to what sorts of arguments it takes
Wittgenstein pointed out this difficulty to Russell in 1913: Every right theory of judgment
must make it impossible for me to judge that this table penholders the book. Russells theory
does not satisfy this requirement what is devastating is that the objection depends not on
detailed features of Russells theory but only on its overall shape

3. Tractatus
3.1. Propositions

Wittgenstein repeatedly urged that is necessary a correct theory of propositions.
Wittgensteins starting point was the realization that there is a fundamental error in Russells
way of conceiving the matter: sentences are not like names, because they are capable of truth
and falsity the bipolarity of propositions (symmetry)
Q.: How is the bipolarity of the proposition achieved?
W. A.: a proposition pictures how the world would have to be for the proposition to be true;
the proposition is true if things are as it pictures them to be
Genuine insight: it is an essential component of what enables a sentence to express
something about the world that the complexity of the proposition the sentence expresses
should track the complexity of the possibilities of arrangements of the world which it
represents W. constraint this by saying how the world is with other ways the world could
have been but isnt
The role of a proposition is to divide all the possible worlds into two classes:

1) If the actual world is in one class, the proposition is true
2) If it is in the other, the proposition is false
Tautology = is a proposition which is true in all possible worlds
Contradiction = is one which is true in none
The notion of possibility is built into the expressive nature of propositions from the
The role of propositions is to express possible configurations of the world; the role of
the objects is to be the hinges around which these possibilities turn
What varies between possible worlds is only how they are combined with one another
to form states of affairs
What makes language expressive is that the substitutional possibilities of the linguistic
elements which it allows for match precisely are identical with the combinatorial
possibilities of the objects these elements represent

3.2. Mathematics

Using the Wittgensteins criterion of logical truth is showing that Russells axiom of
reducibility is not a logical truth worse for mathematics only part of mathematics he kept
was simple arithmetic (7+5=12)
Eguations do not express genuine senseful propositions, but not are they logical truths
(tautologies). Instead, they have the same sort as general claims that certain sorts of symbols
express tautologies
Imp.: W. opposed the idea that mathematics consists of tautologies, but in the Tractatus
showed how similar the equations of mathematics are to tautologies
Difference between them: lies in how they can be applied
Nothing which express that something is a tautology is, according to the Tractatus, itself a

3.3. Saying and showing

Russells solution for incompatility of the twin constraints that the simple entities should be
both indubitable and necessary is to abandon the notion of possibility
W.s solution is to abandon the propositional atitudes
The key element in the holding of a belief is the ascription of sense of a certain symbol, but
this ascription is not a proposition nothing can be a proposition that attempts to express the
expressiveness of a symbol
Is not a proposition with sense something that is true in some possible worlds and
false in others
Tautologies puts all the worlds into one class: it has the general shape to be a proposition with
sense, but its parts cancel one another out and end up saying nothing
Nonsense propositions: it is something which is not of the right shape to have a sense at all.
Eg: the claim which carries the ethical content

In Wittgensteins sistem are only three categories:
W. held that the solution to our philosophical difficulties is their dissolution

3.4. Important nonsense?

Imp.: to see what the scope of W.s argument for nonsense is
Part of what is powerful about Ws inexpressibility argument is its generality; its conclusion
is very restricted: nonsense is a technical term defined in contrast to sense
Is hard to hold resolutely to the view that in the Tractatus all nonsense is gibberish
When W. says that he believed himself to have found the final solution to the problems of
philosophy, he meant what he said: he intended the doctrine of saying and showing to solve
the problem of the relationship between the self and the world the problem to which realism
and idealism represent constrasting solutions he conceives of my self as constituted by the
process of representing the world in which I am engaged
if this is right, then all the big questions of philosophy are not really questions at all and
cannot be answered by the application of logical reasoning (because logical reasoning applies
only to propositions and this qustions do not express propositions)

3.5. Reactions to the Tractatus

There is certainly something very mystical about W.s view of the unsayable
What was took much more seriously at first was W.s dismissal of the logicist
reduction of mathematics to the theory of classes
According to W., mathematical theorems are not themselves tautologies but have the
form of claims that various other symbols are tautologies
If W.s view was to be refuted, therefore, was needed a demonstration that the
theorems of the theory of classes were indeed simply more elaborate tautologies
Ramsey: the theory of classes could be regarded as part of logic because of
propositional function in extension
W.: propositional function = what we obtain if we take a proposition and replace some
symbolic element in it with a variable
The problem with tautologies in mathematics is hold on their applicability; another
problem is regarding on the way of expressing what Godels incompleteness theorems
demonstrate is that arithmetic have a complexity that tautologies do not have this
force us to recognize a distinctively mathematical notion of necessity distinct from the
logical notion of tautology picked out by W.
Retracted: the claim that there is only one kind of necessity, namely logical necessity
W. abandoned the idea that elementary propositions are independent
Problem with identifying the simple entities which logical atomism presupposes

W. recommended in the Tractatus the abandonment as a way of dissolving the dispute
between realism and idealism

4. Analytic philosophy

4.1. What it is not
There is a dispute about what it is, but, nonetheless:
1) Its not about psychological process of thinking
2) Its not about normative constraints
3) Its not continental philosophy

4.2. What it is

1) although there is no general agreement about what is analysed and why it is being
analysed, the analytic method does nonetheless involve analysis
2) the importance of rational argument in philosophy, not just as a tool but also as
something which it is one of our primary tasks reflexively to critique and explain
3) may be seen as the inheritor of the 18
century debate between the rationalist and
empiricist traditions (analytic philosophers hoped that modern logic would close the
gap between these two)
4) the ineluctability distinction between being true and being taken to be true -
5) the content of a judgment is not changed by the mere act of judging it (Russell and

4.3. Why it is

Q.: Why it has arisen?
A.: Two facts:
1) the analytic tradition has achieved a dominance in English-speaking philosophy
department that is astonishing
2) its success: analytic philosophy made enormous progress in the fifty years after his birth,
especially in the philosophy of mathematics, but also in the philosophies of language, mind
and science