Michael A. E. Dummett

Michael Dummett was born in 1925.

He attended Sandroyd School and Winchester College, and served in the armed forces from 1943 to 1947. Although he was educated within the traditions of the Anglican Church at Winchester, by the age of 13 he regarded himself as an atheist.

In 1944 however, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, and he remains a practising Catholic. After his military service, he studied at Christ Church College, Oxford, graduating with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1950 and then attained a fellowship at All Souls College. An All Souls fellowship is perhaps the ultimate academic prize open to Oxford graduates, providing an ideal opportunity to engage in research without any of the pressure that comes from having to teach, or to produce a doctoral thesis within a set period of time.

From 1950 to 1951, Dummett was also Assistant Lecturer in Philosophy in Birmingham University. In Oxford, he was Reader in Philosophy of Mathematics, from 1962 until 1974.

His first philosophical article was a book review, published in ‘Mind’ in 1953. He has published many more articles since, most of which have been collected into three volumes. Several of the articles published in the 1950s and 1960s are considered by some to be classics, but, at this time, some members of the philosophical community worried that his published output would never match his true potential.

His first book, Frege: Philosophy of Language, was a long time in coming, partly because of his perfectionism, and partly because, from 1965 to 1968, he and his wife Ann chose to devote much of their time and energy to the fight against racism. The book was eventually published in 1973 and it was a watershed in the study of Frege. Even so, the first edition was deficient in containing hardly any references to the text of Frege’s work, a fault that was remedied in the second edition, published in 1981, concurrently with The Interpretation of Frege’s Philosophy, a book whose title is self-explanatory.

Between the first and second editions of Frege: Philosophy of Language, Dummett also published Elements of Intuitionism in 1977 (a second edition was published in 2000), and his first collection of papers, Truth and Other Enigmas in 1978. In 1979, he accepted the position of Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford, which he held until his retirement in 1992. Although Dummett has been connected with Oxford for the whole of his professional career, he has also taught and studied outside England. He has held various visiting positions at Berkeley, Ghana, Stanford, Minnesota, Princeton, Rockefeller, Munster, Bologna and Harvard. The William JamesLectures that he delivered at Harvard in 1976 were published in 1991 as The Logical Basis of Metaphysics, his most detailed study of the debates between realists and anti-realists. In the same year, he published his second collection of papers, Frege and Other Philosophers, and Frege: Philosophy of Mathematics, his long-awaited sequel to Frege: Philosophy of Language. His third collection of papers, The Seas of Language, was published in 1993.

The lectures he delivered at Bologna in 1987, entitled Origins of Analytical Philosophy, were published in 1988 in the journal Lingua e Stile. A translation into German was made by Joachim Schulte, and this was published along with Schulte’s interview with Dummett in 1988, as Ursprünge der analytischen Philosophie. The book was subsequently published in Italian in 1990, in French in 1991, and in English in 1993. Since then he has continued to publish not only on philosophy, but also on topics such as immigration, voting systems and the history of card games, all of them subjects on which he is an authority. He received a Knighthood in 1999.

Michael Dummett is one of the most influential British philosophers of his generation. His philosophical reputation is based partly on his studies of the history of analytical philosophy, and partly on his own contributions to philosophy. Of the historical work, it is his commentaries on Gottlob Frege that are of outstanding importance. His most discussed contribution to contemporary philosophical debate is his presentation of the case that could be made for anti-realism.

His work on realism and anti-realism involves all of the following fields: philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language and metaphysics.

Major Works of Michael Dummett

– Frege: Philosophy of Language (1973)
– Elements of Intuitionism (1977)
– Truth and Other Enigmas (1978)
– Catholicism and the World Order: Some Reflections on the 1978 Reith Lectures (1979)
– The Game of Tarot: from Ferrara to Salt Lake City, with Sylvia Mann (1980)
– Twelve Tarot Games (1980)
– Immigration: Where the Debate Goes Wrong (1981)
– The Interpretation of Frege’s Philosophy (1981)
– Voting Procedures (1984)
– The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Cards (1986)
– Frege and Other Philosophers (1991)
– Frege: Philosophy of Mathematics (1991)
– The Logical Basis of Metaphysics (1991)
– Grammar and Style for Examination Candidates and Others (1993)
– Origins of Analytical Philosophy (1993)
– The Seas of Language (1993)

One thought on “Michael A. E. Dummett

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