Michael Dummett

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Sir Michael Dummett
Michael Dummett September 2004.jpg
Sir Michael Dummett in 2004
Born(1925-06-27)27 June 1925
Died27 December 2011(2011-12-27) (aged 86)
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
(1947–50; [1] B.A., 1950)
Spouse(s) Agnes Margaret Ann Chesney (1951–2011)
Awards Rolf Schock Prizes in Logic and Philosophy (1995)
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic
Institutions All Souls College, Oxford
New College, Oxford
Main interests
Philosophy of mathematics
Philosophy of logic
Philosophy of language
Metaphysics
History of analytic philosophy
Notable ideas
Metaphysical debates are properly understood as debates about logical laws, [2] semantic anti-realist defence of mathematical intuitionism, Gödel–Dummett logic, criticism of truth-value link realism and evidence-transcendent truth conditions, [2] logical harmony

Sir Michael Anthony Eardley Dummett, FBA ( /ˈdʌmɪt/ ; 27 June 1925 – 27 December 2011) was an English academic described as "among the most significant British philosophers of the last century and a leading campaigner for racial tolerance and equality." [5] He was, until 1992, Wykeham Professor of Logic at the University of Oxford. He wrote on the history of analytic philosophy, notably as an interpreter of Frege, and made original contributions particularly in the philosophies of mathematics, logic, language and metaphysics. He was known for his work on truth and meaning and their implications to debates between realism and anti-realism, a term he helped to popularize. He devised the Quota Borda system of proportional voting, based on the Borda count. In mathematical logic, he developed an intermediate logic, already studied by Kurt Gödel: the Gödel–Dummett logic.

Fellow of the British Academy award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences

Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Academy to leading academics for their distinction in the humanities and social sciences. There are three kinds of fellowship:

  1. Fellows, for scholars resident in the United Kingdom
  2. Corresponding Fellows, for scholars not resident in the UK
  3. Honorary Fellows, an honorary academic title

The University of Oxford has three statutory professorships named after William of Wykeham, who founded New College.

University of Oxford university in Oxford, United Kingdom

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation after the University of Bologna. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two ‘ancient universities’ are frequently jointly called ’Oxbridge’. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Contents

Education and army service

Dummett was the son of George Herbert Dummett (1880–1970), a silk merchant, and Mabel Iris née Eardley-Wilmot (1893–1980). [6] He studied at Sandroyd School and was a First Scholar at Winchester College, later winning a Major Scholarship to study History at Christ Church, Oxford in 1943. He was called up that year and served, initially as a private in the Royal Artillery before joining the Intelligence Corps in India and Malaya. He was also awarded a fellowship to All Souls College, Oxford. [7]

Sandroyd School

Sandroyd School is an independent co-educational preparatory school for both day and boarding pupils located on the Wiltshire/Dorset border, near the village of Tollard Royal in Wiltshire. The school is located in the centre of Rushmore Park and is surrounded by playing fields, woods and parkland. Sandroyd School was originally established by the Reverend Louis Herbert Wellesley Wesley as a small private coaching establishment for boys hoping to enter Eton College.

Winchester College school in Winchester, Hampshire, England

Winchester College is an independent boarding school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years. It is the oldest of the original seven English public schools defined by the Clarendon Commission and regulated by the Public Schools Act 1868.

Christ Church, Oxford Constituent college of the University of Oxford in England

Christ Church is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ Church is a joint foundation of the college and the cathedral of the Oxford diocese, which serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.

Academic career

In 1979, Dummett became Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford, a post he held until retiring in 1992. During his term as Wykeham Professor, he held a Fellowship at New College, Oxford. He has also held teaching posts at Birmingham University, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, Princeton University, and Harvard University. He won the Rolf Schock prize in 1995, [8] and was knighted in 1999. He was the 2010 winner of the Lauener Prize for an Outstanding Œuvre in Analytical Philosophy. [9]

New College, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom

New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1379 by William of Wykeham, the full name of the college is St Mary's College of Winchester in Oxford. The name "New College", however, soon came to be used following its completion in 1386 to distinguish it from the older existing college of St. Mary, now known as Oriel College.

Stanford University Private research university in Stanford, California

Leland Stanford Junior University is a private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is known for its academic strength, wealth, selectivity, proximity to Silicon Valley, and ranking as one of the world's top universities.

Princeton University University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.

During his career at Oxford, Dummett supervised many philosophers who went on to distinguished careers, including Peter Carruthers, Adrian Moore, Ian Rumfitt, and Crispin Wright.

Peter Carruthers (philosopher) American philosopher

Peter Carruthers is a British-American philosopher and cognitive scientist working primarily in the area of philosophy of mind, though he has also made contributions to philosophy of language and ethics. He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park, associate member of Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program and member of the Committee for Philosophy and the Sciences.

A. W. Moore (philosopher)

Adrian William Moore is a British philosopher and broadcaster. He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford. His main areas of interest are Kant, Wittgenstein, history of philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of logic and language, ethics and philosophy of religion.

Ian Rumfitt is a British philosopher currently serving as a senior research fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.

Philosophical work

His work on the German philosopher Frege has been acclaimed. His first book Frege: Philosophy of Language (1973), written over many years, is now regarded as a classic. The book was instrumental in the rediscovery of Frege's work, and influenced a generation of British philosophers.

Gottlob Frege mathematician, logician, philosopher

Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analytic philosophy, concentrating on the philosophy of language, logic, and mathematics. Though largely ignored during his lifetime, Giuseppe Peano (1858–1932) and Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) introduced his work to later generations of philosophers.

<i>Frege: Philosophy of Language</i> book by Michael Dummett

Frege: Philosophy of Language is a book about Gottlob Frege by the British philosopher Michael Dummett.

In his 1963 paper "Realism", [10] he popularised a controversial approach to understanding the historical dispute between realist and other non-realist philosophy such as idealism, nominalism, Irrealism. He characterized all of the latter as anti-realist and argued that the fundamental disagreement between realist and anti-realist was over the nature of truth. For Dummett, realism is best understood as semantic realism, i.e., as the view accepting that every declarative sentence of one's language is bivalent (determinately true or false) and evidence-transcendent (independent of our means of coming to know which), [11] [2] while anti-realism rejects this view in favour of a concept of knowable (or assertible) truth. [12] Historically, these debates had been understood as disagreements about whether a certain type of entity objectively exists or not. Thus we may speak of (anti-)realism with respect to other minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories, the material world, or even thought. The novelty of Dummett's approach consisted in seeing these disputes as at base, analogous to the dispute between intuitionism and Platonism in the philosophy of mathematics.

In metaphysics, realism about a given object is the view that this object exists in reality independently of our conceptual scheme. In philosophical terms, these objects are ontologically independent of someone's conceptual scheme, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc.

In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

Nominalism is a philosophical view which comes at least in two varieties. In one of them it is the rejection of abstract objects, in the other it is the rejection of universals.

Franzane Abella commented that Dummett was really interested not in understanding problems via classical logic but via intutionistic logic, and Abella stated that "such mathematical entities are more likely to be an ontological myth for Dummett... because truth cannot be unidentified via intuition, and of course it will fall on the notion of logical opaqueness, which statements are not likely to be understood easily in the first place." [13] Franzane Abella further added that "Dummett has an astounding influence when he brought forward the deep-order justificationist semantics; this influenced the theory of meaning and the classification of understanding via practices, whether the statement can be refuted or not based on its meaning." Abella summed up by saying that Dummett refuted the theory brought forward by realism about the cognisance of meaning. For example, the psychological change in our conceptions of meaning of any statements should be properly grasped, because if not, there exists an alteration and confusion of meaning, and of course a failure in grasping truth-values.

Dummett espoused semantic anti-realism, a position suggesting that truth cannot serve as the central notion in the theory of meaning and must be replaced by verifiability. [14] Semantic anti-realism is sometimes related to semantic inferentialism. [15]

Activism

Dummett was politically active, through his work as a campaigner against racism. He let his philosophical career stall in order to influence civil rights for minorities during what he saw as a crucial period of reform in the late 1960s. He also worked on the theory of voting, which led to his introduction of the Quota Borda system.

Dummett drew heavily on his work in this area in writing his book On Immigration and Refugees, an account of what justice demands of states in relationship to movement between states. Dummett, in that book, argues that the vast majority of opposition to immigration has been founded in racism and says that this has especially been so in the UK.

He has written of his shock on finding anti-Semitic and fascist opinions in the diaries of Frege, to whose work he had devoted such a high proportion of his professional career. [16]

In 1955–1956, while staying in Berkeley, California, Dummett and his wife joined NAACP. In June 1956 he met with Martin Luther King, who visited San Francisco, and heard from him of Alistair Cooke providing the British public with what King defined as "biased and hostile reports" of the Civil Rights Movement and specifically of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Dummett travelled to Montgomery and wrote his own account. However, The Guardian refused to publish Dummett's article and his refutation of Cook's version of the Montgomery events, even in a shortened account as a Letter to the Editor; the BBC , too, also refused to publish it. [17]

Elections and voting

Dummett and Robin Farquharson published influential articles on the theory of voting, in particular conjecturing that deterministic voting rules with more than three issues faced endemic strategic voting. [18] The Dummett–Farquharson conjecture was proved by Allan Gibbard, [19] a philosopher and former student of Kenneth J. Arrow and John Rawls, and by the economist Mark A. Satterthwaite. [20]

After the establishment of the Farquarson–Dummett conjecture by Gibbard and Sattherthwaite, Dummett contributed three proofs of the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem in his monograph on voting. He also wrote a shorter overview of the theory of voting for the educated public.

Card games and tarot

Dummett was a scholar in the field of card-game history, with numerous books and articles to his credit. He was a founding member of the International Playing-Card Society, in whose journal The Playing-Card he regularly published opinions, research and reviews of current literature on the subject; he was also a founder of the Accademia del Tarocchino Bolognese in Bologna. His historical work on the use of the tarot pack in card games — "(t)he fortune telling and occult part of it has never been my principal interest..." [21] The Game of Tarot: From Ferrara to Salt Lake City, attempted to establish that the invention of Tarot could be set in 15th-century Italy. He laid the foundation for most of the subsequent research on the game of tarot, including exhaustive accounts of the rules of all hitherto known forms of the game.[ citation needed ]

Dummett's analysis of the historical evidence suggested that fortune-telling and occult interpretations were unknown before the 18th century. During most of their recorded history, he wrote, Tarot cards were used to play an extremely popular trick-taking game which is still enjoyed in much of Europe. Dummett showed that the middle of the 18th century saw a great development in the game of Tarot, including a modernized deck with French suit-signs, and without the medieval allegories that interest occultists, along with a growth in Tarot's popularity. "The hundred years between about 1730 and 1830 were the heyday of the game of Tarot; it was played not only in northern Italy, eastern France, Switzerland, Germany and Austro-Hungary, but also in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and even Russia. Not only was it, in these areas, a famous game with many devotees: it was also, during that period, more truly an international game than it had ever been before or than it has ever been since...." [22]

In 1987, Dummett collaborated with Giordano Berti and Andrea Vitali on the project of a great Tarot exhibition at Castello Estense in Ferrara. On that occasion he wrote some texts for the catalogue of the exhibition. [23]

Conversion to Roman Catholicism

In 1944, Dummett was received into the Roman Catholic Church. He remained a practising Catholic thereafter. Throughout his career, Dummett published a number of articles on various issues then facing the Catholic Church, mainly in the English Dominican journal New Blackfriars. Dummett published an essay in the bulletin of the Adoremus Society on the subject of liturgy, and a philosophical essay defending the intelligibility of the Catholic Church's teaching on the Eucharist. [24]

In October 1987, one of his contributions to New Blackfriars sparked controversy, when he seemingly attacked currents of Catholic theology which appeared to him to diverge from orthodox Catholicism and to "imply that, from the very earliest times, the Catholic Church, claiming to have a mission from God to safeguard divinely revealed truth, has taught and insisted on the acceptance of falsehoods." Dummett argued that "the divergence which now obtains between what the Catholic Church purports to believe and what large or important sections of it in fact believe ought, in my view, to be tolerated no longer: not if there is to be a rationale for belonging to that Church; not if there is to be any hope of reunion with the other half of Christendom; not if the Catholic Church is not to be a laughing-stock in the eyes of the world." A debate in the journal over these remarks continued for months, attracting contributions from the theologian Nicholas Lash and the historian Eamon Duffy, among others. [25]

Later years and family

Dummett retired in 1992 and was knighted in 1999 for "services to philosophy and to racial justice". He received the Lakatos Award in the philosophy of science in 1994.

Dummett died in 2011, aged 86. He was survived by his wife Ann, whom he had married in 1951 (and who died in 2012), and by three sons and two daughters. A son and daughter predeceased their parents. [26]

Works

Notable articles and exhibition catalogues include "Tarot Triumphant: Tracing the Tarot" in FMR, (Franco Maria Ricci International), January/February 1985; Pattern Sheets published by the International Playing Card Society; with Giordano Berti and Andrea Vitali, the catalogue Tarocchi: Gioco e magia alla Corte degli Estensi (Bologna, Nuova Alfa Editorale, 1987).

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. Stuart Brown (ed.), Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Philosophers, Vol. 1, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2005, p. 237.
  2. 1 2 3 Dummett, Michael – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  3. 1 2 3 Michael Dummett, The Interpretation of Frege's Philosophy, Duckworth, 1981, p. xv.
  4. Michael Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy, Bloombury, 2014, p. xiii; Anat Biletzki, Anat Matarp (eds.), The Story of Analytic Philosophy: Plot and Heroes, Routledge, 2002, p. 57: "It was Gilbert Ryle who, [Dummett] says, opened his eyes to this fact in his lectures on Bolzano, Brentano, Meinong, and Husserl."
  5. "Obituary for Professor Sir Michael Dummett". London: Telegraph. 28 December 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  6. ISAACSON, DANIEL; RUMFITT, IAN. "Michael Anthony Eardley Dummett" (PDF). The British Academy. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  7. Daniel Isaacson. "In Memoriam: Michael Dummett (1925–2011)" . Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. philosophy.su.se.
  9. Lauener Prize for an Outstanding Oeuvre in Analytical Philosophy.
  10. Originally a lecture to the Philosophical Society at Oxford in 1963, first published in 1978 in his book Truth and Other Enigmas. See Truth and Other Enigmas, p. ix.
  11. Logicism and Neologicism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  12. Truth (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  13. "Dummettian Truth" (PDF).
  14. Panu Raatikainen, "The Semantic Realism/Anti-Realism Dispute and Knowledge of Meanings", The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication5(1): 1–13. 2010.
  15. R. Ramanujam and Sundar Sarukkai (eds), Logic and Its Applications, Springer, 2009, p. 260.
  16. Dummett, Michael, "Preface to the first edition" in Frege: Philosophy of Language, Second Edition (Harvard University Press, 1981), p. xii.
  17. Michael Dummett, "Montgomery (and A. Cooke)". With an Introduction by Robert Bernasconi. Critical Philosophy of Race, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2015, pp. 1-19
  18. Dummett, Michael (2005). "The work and life of Robin Farquharson". Social Choice and Welfare. 25 (2): 475–483. doi:10.1007/s00355-005-0014-x.
  19. Gibbard, Allan (1973). "Manipulation of Voting Schemes: A General Result". Econometrica . 41 (4): 587–601. doi:10.2307/1914083. JSTOR   1914083.
  20. Satterthwaite, Mark A. (1975). "Strategy-proofness and Arrow's Conditions: Existence and Correspondence Theorems for Voting Procedures and Social Welfare Functions". Journal of Economic Theory . 10 (2): 187–217. CiteSeerX   10.1.1.471.9842 . doi:10.1016/0022-0531(75)90050-2.
  21. Rudolf Farra and Maurice Salles (October 2006). "An Interview with Michael Dummett: From analytical philosophy to voting analysis and beyond" (PDF). Social Choice and Welfare. 27 (2): 347–364. doi:10.1007/s00355-006-0128-9.
  22. Dummett, Michael (2004). A History of Games Played With the Tarot Pack: The Game of Triumphs, Vol. 1.
  23. Dummett, Michael (1987). "Sulle origini dei Tarocchi popolari" and "Tarocchi popolari e Tarocchi fantastici", in Le carte di Corte. I Tarocchi. Gioco e magia alla Corte degli Estensi, Nuova Alfa editoriale, Bologna 1987, pp.78–88.
  24. "The Intelligibility of Eucharistic Doctrine" in William J. Abraham and Steven W. Holzer, eds., The Rationality of Religious Belief: Essays in Honour of Basil Mitchell, Clarendon Press, 1987.
  25. 1987 New Blackfriars68(809, 811).
  26. Sir Michael Dummett obituary in The Scotsman Online.
  27. Burge, Tyler (July 1984). "Review: The Interpretation of Frege's Philosophy by Michael Dummett". The Philosophical Review . 93 (3): 454–458. doi:10.2307/2184550. JSTOR   2184550.
  28. Eggenberger, Peter (September 1980). "Review: Elements of Intuitionism by Michael Dummett". The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science . 31 (3): 299–301. doi:10.1093/bjps/31.3.299. JSTOR   686924.
  29. Schirn, Matthias (December 1981). "Review: Truth and Other Enigmas by Michael Dummett". The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 32 (4): 419–425. doi:10.1093/bjps/32.4.419. JSTOR   687314.
  30. Shieh, Sanford (May 2008). "Review: Truth and the Past by Michael Dummett". History and Theory . 47 (2): 270–278. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2303.2008.00451.x. JSTOR   25478749.

Further reading