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Gottlob Frege: The machine in the ghost

Frege's mind was the most powerful motor in modern philosophy. But as a human being, he was a narrow man who left little mark

By Ray Monk   October 2017

Ray Monk on Gottlob frege. Photo: Prospect composite

By common consent, the three founders of the modern analytic tradition of philosophy are, in chronological order, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The biggest project in my professional life has been to write biographies of the second and third of these men. But of the three, it is Frege who is—100 years on from his retirement—held in the greatest esteem by the philosophers of today.

His essay “On Sense and Reference” (1892) offered a philosophical account of linguistic meaning that broke new ground in sophistication and rigour, and it…

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