Truth and Other Enigmas
Dummett (Michael)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Amazon Customer Reviews

  1. Review 1:
    • As is clear from other reviewers, this is a selection of papers by a brilliant philosopher, most of them difficult for a non-specialist. If you want to start reading Dummett, The Seas of Language might be an easier place to start.
    • Within this book, some papers are easier than others; the final essay is a clear presentation of Dummett's ambitious project, which is to solve metaphysical problems by looking at the nature of language. This project makes sense if Dummett is correct in thinking that the great insight of analytical philosophy was that it is only by understanding the nature of language that we can understand the limits of thought.
    • The papers on backward causation, while difficult, can be read and understood without much previous knowledge of Dummett's works.
    • It was after reading one of these papers, and struggling to make sense of it, that I decided to study Dummett's work in more detail, a decision that I do not regret. Hard work is required, but it’s worth it!
  2. Review 2:
    • It always presents a particular problem when books like Dummett's Truth and Other Enigmas get reviewed by someone who is not involved in the field to which the work belongs. In a sense, the earlier reviewer who so despised Dummett's book is right; the average person who picks it up will find it incomprehensible, narrow in its concerns and full of arcane terminology. Of course, the same would be true of some set of texts in any field of study that are geared towards its most devoted and well-read practitioners. Philosophy texts come in for greater scrutiny on this count because many people expect to be part of any philosophical discussion in a way they would not be part of every discussion about fluid dynamics, cytology or Galois theory.
    • That being said, measuring Dummett's book against the field to which it contributes at the level it is intended, one cannot deny it is a collection of some of the most important works of this half of the century. Dummett is still a difficult read even for those folks, but you'd better have a copy of it if you think about analytic philosophy.

BOOK COMMENT:

Harvard University Press (1 July 1978)



"Dummett (Michael) - Truth and Other Enigmas: Preface"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas


Author’s Introduction
  1. In this volume I have collected all but two of those of my purely philosophical essays and articles, including a few reviews, published before August 1976, that I think remain of interest.
    [...]
  2. It is not because I am wholly satisfied with everything contained in these essays that I have adopted this policy of not attempting to improve them: it is, conversely, because, once the process of emendation had been initiated, it would have been hard to bring it to an end. An essay is not, or should not be, a sequence of detachable propositions, but should have its own unity. While one is writing it, one may hack it about, deleting one passage, rewriting another, transferring a third to a different place; but the whole process is an attempt to give expression to a view of the topic held at the time of writing. Any attempt by the writer, years later, to convert it by similar means into an expression of his present way of looking at the topic will produce only a mutilated object, representing neither his former nor his present view: he must either leave it as it stands, or write a completely new essay on the subject.
  3. On most of the topics discussed in this volume I shall probably, in one place or another, write again; it is not my purpose, in publishing this volume, to set out my present, let alone my final, views on these topics, but simply to collect together some scattered writings which have a certain unity, derived from a fairly constant general outlook on philosophical problems, and which retain, as I think and hope, some interest and value. Thus, while I certainly do not want to be regarded as endorsing everything that will be found in these essays, still less to be accused of inconsistency because a remark in one contradicts one in another, or something I have written elsewhere, I have included only those articles which still seem to me to be at least partly on the right lines and to contain something of genuine value for the discussion of the topics of which they treat.
  4. Probably people differ a great deal in this regard. I know that I repeat myself a lot. Sometimes, when I find in a drawer something that I wrote years ago, I am surprised to discover in it some point that I remember to have made quite recently in a lecture, and which I had no idea had first occurred to me so long before. And yet I always try to avoid giving the same lecture twice, even to different audiences. Even if one's opinions on a topic have not changed — and perhaps mine change too little — a lecture, like an essay, is not just the enunciation, in sequence, of a number of propositions, with attached arguments in favour of them: it is an attempt to get a topic in perspective, by posing the questions in a particular manner and in a particular order, by distributing the emphasis in one way rather than another.
  5. If you have been thinking about a subject between one occasion of discussing it publicly and the next, then, even if what you believe to be the truth of the matter has not altered, your view of how it fits with other things, of what is important and what secondary, in short, of how it is to be approached, will have shifted. And that is how, in re-reading these essays, they have mostly struck me. I have not often thought, 'That is just wrong'; but I have frequently felt that, if I had to write about the topic now, I should pose the question differently, or start from a different point, or put the emphasis in a different place. So I have treated each essay as a completed object, to be either excluded or else included just as it stood.
    ...


COMMENT: This preface is a substantial work of philosophy in its own right.



"Dummett (Michael) - A Defense of McTaggart's Proof of the Unreality of Time"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas

COMMENT: Printout filed in "Various - Papers on Logic & Metaphysics Boxes: Vol 1 (Coursework & A-E)".



"Dummett (Michael) - Bringing About the Past"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas


Philosophers Index Abstract
    Dummett considers the standard argument against the possibility of affecting the past, and finds in it an exact parallel to the standard fatalist argument against the possibility of affecting the future. The fallacy in the fatalist argument is outlined and the same fallacy shown to hold in the argument about the past, so that the notion of acting to affect the past is left with at least logical possibility. (Staff)


COMMENT:



"Dummett (Michael) - Can an Effect Precede Its Cause?"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Can Analytical Philosophy Be Systematic, and Ought It to Be?"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Constructionalism"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Frege on Functions"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Frege's Distinction Between Sense and Reference"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Frege's Philosophy"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - George Boole"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Is Logic Empirical"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Nominalism"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Oxford Philosophy"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas

COMMENT: Attack on Gellner's Words and Things



"Dummett (Michael) - Platonism"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Presupposition"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - Realism"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas


Philosophers Index Abstract
    Realism concerning a given subject-matter is characterised as a semantic doctrine with metaphysical consequences, namely as the adoption, for the relevant class of statements, of a truth-conditional theory of meaning resting upon the classical two-valued semantics. It is argued that any departure from classical semantics may, though will not necessarily, be seen as in conflict with some variety of realism. A sharp distinction is drawn between the rejection of realism and the acceptance of a reductionist thesis; though intimately related, neither entails the other. Realism is to be classified as "naive", "semi-naive" or "sophisticated": the first of these involves an all but unintelligible epistemological component.


COMMENT: Also in "Loux (Michael), Ed. - Metaphysics - Contemporary Readings".



"Dummett (Michael) - The Justification of Deduction"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas


Philosophers Index Abstract
    The author discusses the question of justification at three levels and the question of the relation of theories of meaning to the validation of forms of inference. (Bp, edited)



"Dummett (Michael) - The Philosophical Basis of Intuitionist Logic"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas

COMMENT:



"Dummett (Michael) - The Philosophical Significance of Godel's Theorem"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - The Reality of the Past"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas


Final Paragraph
    The dispute, as we have thus far pursued it, has not led to victory for either side. The anti-realist presented an argument to show that we could not derive, from our training in the use of the past tense, that conception of truth as applied to statements about the past which the realist professes to understand. The realist appealed to our grasp of the truth-value link as providing the means whereby we acquired that conception of truth. The anti-realist's reply to this showed that the realist's argument need not be taken as compelling: but it did not prove it definitely wrong. The realist then countered by claiming that the anti- realist could not consistently acknowledge the existence of the truth-value link. The anti-realist's reply showed, once more, that his position is not in blatant contradiction with it, and that therefore an anti-realist view of statements about the past is at least not to be dismissed out of hand. To show that has been the principal object of this paper. Of course, like every- one else, I feel a strong undertow towards the realist view: but, then, there are certain errors of thought to which the human mind seems naturally prone.


COMMENT: Originally, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 69, (1968 - 1969), pp. 239-258



"Dummett (Michael) - The Significance of Quine's Indeterminacy Thesis"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - The Social Character of Meaning"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas



"Dummett (Michael) - The Structure of Appearance"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas

COMMENT:



"Dummett (Michael) - Truth"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas

COMMENT:



"Dummett (Michael) - Wang's Paradox"

Source: Synthese, Vol. 30, No. 3/4, On the Logic Semantics of Vagueness (Apr. - May, 1975), pp. 301-324

COMMENT: Also in "Keefe (Rosanna) & Smith (Peter) - Vagueness: A Reader".



"Dummett (Michael) - Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Mathematics"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas

COMMENT: Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Frege, Russell & Wittgenstein Boxes: Vol 1 (Coursework & A-L)".



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