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Review of Brian McGuinness (ed.), Language, Logic and Formalization of Knowledge [Gaeta, Bibliotheca, 1998]

Varzi, Achille C.

This volume collects the text of a lecture by Michael Dummett, held in Siena, Italy in September 1997, followed by eleven papers from a symposium on "Language, Logic and Formalization of Knowledge: 100 years after Frege and Peano", held immediately thereafter. It is a volume of proceedings and suffers from certain usual limits of such books. Overall, however, the volume contains more than enough interesting material. Dummett’s lecture (‘Meaning and Justification’) is a short but crisp presentation of his views on the theory of meaning. The first part reviews Dummett’s criticisms of truth-conditional theories and outlines the motivations for a justificationist account: to understand a sentence is not to know that something must be the case in order for an utterance of that sentence to be true; it is to know how to use the sentence, how to recognize evidence for it, how to act on the truth of it. Dummett’s lecture is designed as a proem to the symposium, so the emphasis is on Frege’s version of truth-conditionalism rather than on Davidson’s. And Dummett insists on one thesis in particular, namely, that what blocked Frege from coming up with a justificationist theory of meaning of the right sort was “his unshakable commitment to the principle of bivalence as governing a scientific language”.



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December 3, 2014