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"Philosophy of language is the foundation for all the rest of philosophy"
December 29, 2011 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Eminent analytic philosopher, logician, anti-racist activist, Tarot scholar, and Catholic Sir Michael Dummett has died at 86.
posted by bodywithoutorgans (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by daniel_charms at 8:20 AM on December 29, 2011


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posted by Navelgazer at 8:35 AM on December 29, 2011


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posted by Jahaza at 8:39 AM on December 29, 2011


Tears for the passing of an 86-year-old philosopher? I hope he wouldn't approve.
posted by No Robots at 8:44 AM on December 29, 2011


Not tears, just silence (which, incidentally, has no truth value).
posted by daniel_charms at 8:47 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by joe lisboa at 8:53 AM on December 29, 2011


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posted by klausness at 8:56 AM on December 29, 2011


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I'd recommend looking at some of his work regarding this if you have a few hours and brain cells to burn.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:12 AM on December 29, 2011


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posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:23 AM on December 29, 2011


The publisher I work for once published a book on systematic philosophy and its relationship to analytic. That book was, in a sense, an answer to Dummett's famous question: Could analytic philosophy have a systematic approach? This page from our old Web site has the introduction to that book and engages with Dummett's 1975 lecture on the topic. As was typical with Dummett, his answer is qualified with a discourse on the dual meanings of the word systematic.

If you're at all curious about systematic philosophy, have a look at the table of contents for this book on this page. That kind of demonstrates the challenge of that approach.

Somehow, a period doesn't seem appropriate. Something more conditional might be better. Maybe a colon makes more sense, and or an interpunct.


posted by Toekneesan at 9:23 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by Lutoslawski at 9:59 AM on December 29, 2011


"People frequently remark that they see no point in observing grammatical rules, so long as they convey their meaning. This is like saying that there is nothing wrong with using a razor blade to cut string, so long as the string is cut...

I don't get it. What's wrong with using a razor blade to cut string?
posted by thelonius at 10:09 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Somehow, a period doesn't seem appropriate. Something more conditional might be better. Maybe a colon makes more sense, and or an interpunct.


posted by saturday_morning at 10:09 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


:(

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posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on December 29, 2011


> What's wrong with using a razor blade to cut string?

The string might be taut and you could have some kind of mishap with an open blade slipping or bouncing. Or, there might not be an adequate surface handy to cut it on. Best to get a nice pair of logic scissors.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:28 AM on December 29, 2011


Ah, for the chopping. Of course.
posted by thelonius at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2011


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posted by jquinby at 10:44 AM on December 29, 2011


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posted by low_horrible_immoral at 11:23 AM on December 29, 2011


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posted by el_lupino at 1:11 PM on December 29, 2011


What's wrong with using a razor blade to cut string?

It dulls the razor. By speaking imprecisely, you diminish the community's ability to communicate precisely.

I agree.
posted by phrontist at 1:14 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I disagree. By speaking imprecisely, you diminish the community's ability to understand you precisely - but only temporarily. On the other hand, you increase your own ability to express yourself precisely. If what you're saying is not complete garbage/noise, the rest of us will learn to understand you, increasing our ability to communicate precisely.
posted by daniel_charms at 2:17 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Prescriptivism and descriptivism are both correct, but will always be at war with each other.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:44 PM on December 29, 2011


I find it pretty cool that, as well as being a world-class philosopher, Dummett was also the world's leading authority on Tarot cards. Famously, he demolished all the theories about the esoteric symbolism of the Tarot pack by showing that it had originated purely as a card game with no occult significance whatsoever. This annoyed a lot of people (including William Empson and Frances Yates) but no one has ever convincingly disproved it.

Here is Dummett on the importance of playing games:

Intellectuals, scholars and other serious-minded people are prone to consider playing games a trivial occupation on which no one would expend any genuine effort .. Hence, when they contemplate an artefact as beautiful and intricate as the Tarot pack, they cannot bring themselves to believe it to have been invented for play: it must have been intended for some serious purpose such as predicting future events. I think their estimate wrong, both in itself and historically. Attempting by non-rational means to divine what is to happen is one of the most absurd of human activities. Devising and playing games, on the other hand, is a manifestation of ingenuity and of delight in order, an art form as worthy of respect as that of the dance.
posted by verstegan at 2:45 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


have a look at the table of contents for this book on this page.

6.3.3 Extratheoretical metasystematics

i don't even what?
posted by lazaruslong at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


By speaking imprecisely, you diminish the community's ability to understand you precisely - but only temporarily.

Take the example of the double negative in English, which expresses either a positive statement or emphasis to a negative statement. By using one when the other is considered standard, you create ambiguity for the language community you are a part of.

Grammatical standards are good. This isn't to say it's easy to pick standards, because it isn't, given the many uses of language-behavior.
posted by phrontist at 5:20 PM on December 29, 2011


*emphasis of a negative statement

(see, practicing what I preach!)

posted by phrontist at 5:21 PM on December 29, 2011


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posted by egypturnash at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2011


...Tarot scholar, and Catholic

Oops.
posted by Twang at 1:44 AM on December 30, 2011


Remembering Michael Dummett
posted by homunculus at 3:21 PM on January 4, 2012


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