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Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared

Michael Dummett (1925 – 2011) was a British philosopher of mathematics, logic, language. Some changes add to the expressive power of language, while others diminish it: we should resist the latter and encourage the former.

Michael Dummett philosopher

Michael Dummett

Quotations from Michael Dummett

Philosophy can take us no further than enabling us to command a clear view of the concepts by means of which we think about the world, and, by so doing, to attain a firmer grasp of the way we represent the world in our thought. It is for this reason and in this sense that philosophy is about the world.

Philosophy attempts, not to discover new truths about the world, but to gain a clear view of what we already know and believe about it. That depends upon attaining a more explicit grasp of the structure of our thoughts; and that in turn on discovering how to give a systematic account of the working of language, the medium in which we express our thoughts.

Intuition is not a special source of ineffable insight: it is the womb of articulated understanding.

In philosophy we must always resist the temptation of hitting on an answer to the question how we can define such-and-such a notion, an answer which supplies a smooth and elegant definition which entirely ignores the purpose which we originally wanted the notion for.

A game may be as integral to a culture, as true an object of aesthetic appreciation, as admirable a product of human creativity as a folk art or a style of music; and, as such, it is quite as worthy of study.

Whether or not a theory of meaning is a theory of understanding, it must yield one, if it is to satisfy us. What is the point of asking what body of knowledge is such that, if one had it, one would be able to speak the language? The simple answer would be: because we can then conclude that that is what the speakers know. … Rather, it is a matter of what we presuppose on the part of the speaker when we try to extract from the theory an account of the abilities he has to acquire to become a speaker.  BooksGoogle p. 281-2

Not all linguistic change should be resisted. Some changes add to the expressive power of language, while others diminish it: we should resist the latter and encourage the former. BooksGoogle p. 266

Psychologism cannot, on his view [Frege-Kant] account for the objective validity of arguments; if my thinking processes differ from yours, or human ones from Martian ones, then validity for me may fail to coincide with validity for you, validity for human beings with validity for Martians; there would be no standard by which one could be deemed right as opposed to the other. In the same way, psychologism destroys objective truth: the truth of  a thought can no longer be distinguished from its being recognized as true. (Dummett 1981, 64)


Sources for Michael Dummett quotes; WikiQuote, GoodReadsStrange Wondrous, BooksGoogle


COMMENTS on Michael Dummett

A game may be as integral to a culture, as true an object of aesthetic appreciation, as admirable a product of human creativity as a folk art or a style of music; and, as such, it is quite as worthy of study. Some cultures may only have a few hundred members and the total information residing within that culture will be limited by their ability to remember and use that data. Also, a tiny culture wouldn’t, without access to external higher tech cultures, have a written language, or books or other permanent media. Their culture would thus be based on local interpersonal relationships. Ever since the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica, it becomes obvious that English culture is too vast for an individual to have more than a tiny understanding of most of it, and now a century after those books were published it is vastly bigger, as can be viewed in the internet and Wikipedia. Studying a tiny culture might have value for a personal study, but for most people studying their present English-based culture will give more information that is useful to their lives.

Not all linguistic change should be resisted. Some changes add to the expressive power of language, while others diminish it: we should resist the latter and encourage the former. It is impossible to know where a new idea will go; thus if a change is based on a useful new conception of a reality that idea should be encouraged, but if the change is based on a simple error of perception it should be resisted, because there are an infinity of errors and most errors will lead to nothing useful. However, there are a relatively small number of functional ideas available that will help us to live our lives more successfully and help the Universe to fulfill its ultimate potentials, and those should be pursued.

Philosophy can take us no further than enabling us to command a clear view of the concepts by means of which we think about the world, and, by so doing, to attain a firmer grasp of the way we represent the world in our thought. Anything, including philosophy, that can give us a clearer perception and thus conception of the world around us, will lead us along the proper paths to the fulfillment of our ultimate destiny.

 

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