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I am looking into my old notes from a lecture I attended on Frege's Grundlagen, where the professor at some point jokingly said that philosophy started in 1884, with the publication of Grundlagen. I do not know what he must have meant with this. Is it so because Frege demonstrated that semantic questions are distinct from metaphysical ones?

I would highly appreciate your help.

Thanks in advance!

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  • Maybe philosophy of mathematics... Jan 2, 2023 at 8:23
  • Also the contribution to modern philosophy of language was fundamental. Jan 2, 2023 at 11:46
  • May be analytic philosophy. Analytic philosophy began by Frege
    – Arian
    Jan 2, 2023 at 13:20
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    Hegel would have been awfully surprised to hear that, except he'd been dead for 53 years... Jan 2, 2023 at 16:46
  • 1
    Oops, make that 153 years... Jan 2, 2023 at 17:21

2 Answers 2

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I presume analytic philosophy is implied and Frege's 1884 book The Foundations of Arithmetic (Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik) is mentioned in more of a rhetorical manner, as a synecdoche of Frege's broader body of foundational studies than as marking a definite historical moment (otherwise, it would be too restricted), perhaps alluding to W. V. Quine's frequently cited statement in the preface of his Methods of Logic

Logic is an old subject, and since 1879 it has been a great one.

1879 being the year Frege's Begriffsschrift was published.

Michael Dummett's book Origins of Analytical Philosophy, an exhibition of philosophical genealogy indeed, can be deemed quite pertinent to the question. I suppose several quotes from the book could lay out the important inroads into the subject.

On page 4, Dummett tells what he sees as the essence of analytical tradition:

What distinguishes analytical philosophy, in its diverse manifestations, from other schools is the belief, first, that a philosophical account of thought can be attained through a philosophical account of language, and, secondly, that a comprehensive account can only be so attained.

Dummett identifies three key features in Frege's thought that are among the main thrusts of analytical tradition:

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The discernment of constituent senses as parts of a thought is parasitic upon the apprehension of the structure of the sentence expressing it. Frege claimed that the structure of a thought must be reflected in the structure of a sentence expressing it, and indeed that seems essential to the notion of expressing a thought, rather than merely encoding it. [pp. 7-8]

Frege held that it is the thought that is primarily said to be true or false, the sentence being called true or false only in a derivative sense; and, since for Frege the reference of the sentence is its truth-value, this means that it is the sense of the sentence that primarily has the reference, and the sentence only derivatively. He laid little emphasis on the generalisation of this principle to all expressions, but he did acknowledge it as correct: hence, for example, it is the sense of a proper name that primarily refers to the object, rather than the proper name itself. [p. 9]

For Frege, an expression simply has a sense: one who uses it does not need to bear its sense in mind throughout the process of employing it. The sense, considered in itself, is objective, and hence capable of being grasped by different minds. As is commonly observed, the objectivity of senses is not enough to guarantee the objectivity of communication: for this we need in addition a condition Frege hardly mentions, namely that it be objective what sense is attached to each expression. [p. 10]

As is usual in philosophy, Dummett's consideration of the subject is not exempt from criticisms. However, I believe, they would find significant place in some guise in any explanation of Frege's founding role in the rise of analytical tradition of philosophy.

In this connection, let me note my overall view briefly on taking analytical tradition as "the philosophy": No doubt it is natural to have various investigative frameworks. However, it is a dire misstep to make them incommunicable to each other. In the final stage, there is good philosophy or bad philosophy, not such antagonistic divergences as Eastern/Western and continental/analytic philosophy.

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The dominant movement in philosophy is the Analytic movement, which seeks to focus on deriving everything one can from logic and mathematics, while minimizing theorizing and postulated entities. Analyticity embraces empiricism, but as a secondary and supporting activity. Reasoning needs careful language, and precise use of terms, and analyticity led to a massive increase in linguicism as a central concern within philosophy. Analyticity was a reaction to philosophy making lots of grand claims, and postulating phenomena and forces that were not clearly evidenced or reasoned. The inspirer of the movement was Bertrand Russell, who himself was inspired by Frege.

I suspect your philosophy prof is an analytic philosopher, and thinks the analytic reaction was the start of "real" philosophy.

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