Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein


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Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein were founders (although not by any means the sole founders) of the analytic tradition in philosophy; but they did not found the philosophy of language, which has roots stretching back much further. Their principal contribution, indeed, could be regarded as being in the opposite direction: it is not so much that they applied philosophical methods to the study of language as that they applied linguistic methods to the study of certain problems in philosophy. In the course of this work they did develop ideas which shed light on language and how it functions. However, even this must be heavily qualified, since their main contributions were much more to the philosophy of logic (the study of the inferential role of sentences) than to the philosophy of language (the study of how language means what it does). In the summary that follows we shall focus on the morals that can be drawn from their contribution for modern work in the philosophy of language.