Frege's Elucidatory Holism

Inquiry 54 (3):226-251 (2011)
Abstract I argue against the two most influential readings of Frege's methodology in the philosophy of logic. Dummett's ?semanticist? reading sees Frege as taking notions associated with semantical content?and in particular, the semantical notion of truth?as primitive and as intelligible independently of their connection to the activity of judgment, inference, and assertion. Against this, the ?pragmaticist? reading proposed by Brandom and Ricketts sees Frege as beginning instead from the independent and intuitive grasp that we allegedly have on the latter activity and only then moving on to explain semantical notions in terms of the nature of such acts. Against both readings, I argue, first, that Frege gives clear indication that he takes semantical and pragmatical notions to be equally primitive, such that he would reject the idea that either sort of notion could function as the base for a non-circular explanation of the other. I argue, secondly, that Frege's own method for conveying the significance of these primitive notions?an activity that Frege calls ?elucidation??is, in fact, explicitly circular in nature. Because of this, I conclude that Frege should be read instead as conceiving of our grasp of the semantical and pragmatical dimensions of logic as far more of a holistic enterprise than either reading suggests
Keywords Frege  philosophy of logic  Dummett  Ricketts
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DOI 10.1080/0020174X.2011.574999
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