Dummett, Michael Anthony Eardley (1925–2011)


For Michael Dummett, the core of philosophy lies in the theory of meaning. His exploration of meaning begins with the model proposed by Gottlob Frege, of whose work Dummett is a prime expositor. A central feature of that model is that the sense (content) of a sentence is given by a condition for its truth, displayed as deriving from its constituent structure. If sense so explicated is to explain linguistic practice, knowledge of these truth-conditions must be attributed to language users by identifying features of use in which it is manifested. Analysis of truth suggests we seek such manifestation in patterns of assertion. But scrutiny of those patterns shows that there is no distinction between use which manifests knowledge of classical truth-conditions, and use which manifests knowledge of a weaker kind of truth - for example, one which holds whenever we possess a potential warrant for a statement.

Such considerations motivate reconstruing sense as given by conditions for this weaker kind of truth. But rejigging Fregean semantics in line with such a conception is highly nontrivial. Mathematical intuitionism, properly construed, gives us models for doing so with mathematical language; Dummett’s programme is to extend such work to everyday discourses. Since he further argues that realism consists in defending the classical semantics for a discourse, this programme amounts to probing the viability of antirealism about such things as the material world, other minds and past events.

Citing this article:
Taylor, Barry. 'Dummett, Michael Anthony Eardley (1925–2011)'. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2004: Accessed (April 27, 2015). https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/dummett-michael-anthony-eardley-1925-2011/v-1/
Copyright © 1998-2015 Routledge.