Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gottlob Frege

Frege's advisors were mathematicians Ernst Schering and Rudolf Clebsch, but does he have any descendants? I know of a biological descendant (thanks to Catherine Manoukian, via Philip Kremer), but no philosophical ones. Wittgenstein and Carnap are the two closest cases, but for each of them there are more official parents. Is there anyone I'm missing?


Anonymous Aidan said...

I agree that there is a more official parent for Wittgenstein than Frege, but it's not just 100% clear it should be Russell. TLP was his doctoral thesis, and of course Russell was the person he developed many of the ideas in the book with.

But Wittgenstein's official supervisor at Cambridge was Frank Ramsey, and Russell (with Moore) was famously one of his examiners for the phd.

TLP had been in press for around 7 years by the time it was submitted, so there is no question of who was the bigger influence on the work. But if you want to let official status as supervisor trump biggest influence, it's Ramsey not Russell.

8/13/2005 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Was there really a time when Ramsey would have been an official advisor for Wittgenstein? (Were there even such things at Cambridge at the time?) Certainly in Wittgenstein's first period at Cambridge, before WWI, Ramsey could not have been an advisor since he would have been barely a teenager and not even at Cambridge. My understanding was that when Wittgenstein returned to Cambridge he essentially submitted the TLP and moved to teaching. He certainly had many important discussions w/ Ramsey before returning to Cambridge and afterwards up until Ramsey's early death, but it seems quite unlikely to me that there was a significant period of time when 1) Wittgenstein was at cambridge and 2) Ramsey could be called his advisor. Is there a particular time you're thinking of?

8/13/2005 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Aidan said...

It's during the time between him returning to Cambridge and submitting TLP. But anyway, let me back myself up as much as I can. First off, there is the acknowledgement in the preface of the Investigations:

'For since beginning to occupy myself with philosophy again, sixteen years ago, I have been forced to recognise many grave mistakes in what I wrote in that first book [TLP]. I was helped to realize these mistakes - to a degree which I myself am hardly able to estimate - by the criticism which my ideas encountered from Frank Ramsey, with whom I discussed them in innumberable conversations during the last two years of his life.' (Ramsey died 1930)

That's no more than suggestive, but Monk says explicitly that Ramsey played the role of PhD supervisor:

'During his first two terms at Cambridge [1929], Wittgenstein's official status was that of an 'Advanced Student' reading for a Ph.D., with Ramsey, seventeen years his junior, as supervisor.' (Monk, pp. 258-9.)

For background on the submission of TLP, and the viva I referred to above, see pp. 270-2.

The claim is also made in this online biography of Ramsey (though of course, nobody wants to put much weight on that - for all we know, the source was Monk): (See second paragraph)

I recognise that none of this is remotely conclusive, but there does seem to be an issue.

8/14/2005 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Josh Dever said...

I had remembered the Russell-Moore examination bit from the Monk biography, but not the detail about Ramsey being the advisor. That looks determinative, and I've updated the tree accordingly. Now the question shifts to Ramsey's ancestry. As far as I know, his only degree was an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Cambridge.

8/15/2005 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you were probably joking, but just to dismiss this common meme: Elodie Fregé is not a descendant of Frege as far as I know...

10/17/2005 09:40:00 AM  
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