Michael Potter: The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879–1930: From Frege to Ramsey

The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879–1930: From Frege to Ramsey Couverture du livre The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879–1930: From Frege to Ramsey
Michael Potter
Paperback £31.99

Reviewed by: Piotr Stalmaszczyk (University of Lodz, Poland)

Michael Potter is Professor of Logic at Cambridge University, his studies in the history of analytic philosophy and the philosophical foundations of mathematics include an overview of philosophies of arithmetic from Kant to Carnap – Reason’s Nearest Kin (2000), a critical introduction to set theory – Set Theory and Its Philosophy (2004), and a study of Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic (2008). His most recent book, The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, 1879-1930, is a comprehensive introduction to the work of four philosophers, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Frank Ramsey, in the half century, from 1879 (the year in which Frege’s Begriffsschrift was published), till Ramsey’s death in 1930.

Analytic philosophy is one of the most important sources for modern philosophy of logic and mathematics, for philosophy of language, and for philosophy of mind. According to some philosophers and historians of philosophy, it is not only one of the most important developments in twentieth-century philosophy, but the most important one, at least in the English-speaking world (cf. Beaney 2007: 1). Michael Dummett has famously defined it in the following way:

“A succinct definition would be: analytical philosophy is post-Fregean philosophy. Frege’s fundamental achievement was to alter our perspective in philosophy, to replace epistemology, as the starting point of the subject, by what he called ‘logic’. What Frege called ‘logic’ (…) embraced precisely what is now called ‘philosophy of language’.” (Dummett 1978: 441).

Though the above definition is far from being uncontroversial, there is a general consensus that the achievements of Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein were crucial for the early developments of analytic philosophy; with the work of Ramsey featuring less prominently in historical overviews. Several general and more detailed studies have already investigated the origins of this movement in considerable detail (it will suffice to mention the works by Michael Beaney, Michael Dummett, Hans-Johan Glock, Scott Soames, and Stephen Schwartz). However, there is still a need for studies analyzing, reanalyzing and contextualizing the achievements of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Ramsey. This is precisely what Potter does; additionally, the author’s ambition is to trace the changes within the philosophers’ thought (the ‘genetic approach’).

The choice of the four philosophers in Potter’s monograph is connected with their unquestionable and durable relevance to current philosophy: Frege’s notions of sense and reference are central to modern semantics, Russell’s theory of descriptions may be regarded as a “paradigm of philosophy”, philosophy of language continues to be influenced by Wittgenstein’s picture theory, and Ramsey’s argument against the particular/universal distinction retains its validity (2). Assuming that analytic philosophy originated in 1879 with the publication of Frege’s Begriffsschrift and the birth of quantifier-variable logic, it might be claimed that further work by Frege, and also by Russell, (early) Wittgenstein, and Ramsey, flowed directly from this new logic. Throughout his study, Potter hopes to convey “a sense of the exhilarating progress they made, and of the extent to which modern analytic philosophy is in their debt” (3).

The detailed organization of this book is similar to the approach  characteristic of the author’s former studies. The book is divided into four parts, further divided into numerous chapters (21 devoted to Frege, 24 to Russell, 18 to Wittgenstein, and 10 to Ramsey), and each chapter is followed by concise suggestions for further reading. The book concludes with an extensive bibliography and a detailed index. Each part starts with a short biographical sketch (in the case of Russell and Wittgenstein, concentrating on the relevant time span), in which Potter contextualizes the life of the respective philosopher. Further contextualization, which takes into consideration appropriate ideas and developments, is provided in the more thematic chapters. Thus conceived, the parts offer a detailed chronological and thematic guide to the work and legacy of the individual philosophers.

Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) is generally associated with developments in modern predicate logic and analyses of sense and reference crucial for contemporary philosophy of language. He devised a symbolic language for logic, provided the seminal analysis of the meaning of an expression, offered a semantic analysis of identity statements, and formulated the context principle; he is also credited with putting forward the assumptions that lead to formulation of the compositionality principle and introducing the notion of presupposition (of the assertion). In the part on Frege (5-144), Potter provides an overview of logic before 1879, from the Stoics, through Aristotelian logic, transcendental logic, empiricism and idealism, to Boole’s early example of modern axiomatic logic. Potter observes that The Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847) is the only plausible competitor as the harbinger of modern logic; however, even though Boole “had devised an algebraic calculus of considerable sophistication for solving problems in categorical and hypothetical logic, it fell short of unifying the Aristotelian and Stoic traditions” (19).

Potter devotes five chapters exclusively to the Begriffsschrift (the German title is rendered by the author as ‘Concept-Script: A formula language, modelled on that of arithmetic, for pure thought’), one of “the most remarkable books in the history of human thought” (21). The five chapters are concerned with foundations of logic, propositional logic, quantification, identity, and the ancestral. In order to fully appreciate Frege’s achievements it is necessary to understand the aim of his concept-script, the significance of his notation, usage of particular symbols, and, especially, the revolutionary introduction of a notation of quantifier and variable to express generalizations, all explained by Potter. In the short presentation of Frege’s account of function and argument, Potter observes that three features are worth stressing: the fact that in the decomposition of sentences a function is obtained by removing part of an expression, not part of its content; the possibility of replacing grammatical predicates; and, most importantly, Frege aimed to “decompose, and hence discern function-argument structure in already existing sentences, not to explain how the sentences acquired their meanings in the first place” (29).

In the remaining chapters in this part, Potter discusses in detail other studies and ideas of Frege: the Grundlagen (in 4 chapters), sense and reference (3 chapters), the Grundgesetze (2 chapters). Potter also tackles the development of early philosophy of logic, the Frege-Hilbert correspondence, the importance of Frege’s late writings. The discussed issues include the crucial components of Fregean semantics and philosophy of mathematics: the context principle, the concept and object distinction, the status of numbers, names and descriptions, different conceptions of sense, the reference of a sentence, (un)saturated senses, and more. Paul Pietroski remarked once that Frege “bequeathed to us some tools – originally designed for the study of logic and arithmetic – that can be used in constructing theories of meaning for natural languages” (Pietroski, 2005: 29–30). The discussion provided by Potter demonstrates the relevance of these tools for a number of current disciplines – he mentions the Fregean legacy in logic, philosophy of language (especially formal semantics and pragmatics), and mathematics. A possible addition to this list would be philosophy of mind, where Frege’s legacy is seen in, for example, contemporary discussion on different approaches to reference.

In one of his earlier studies, Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic, Potter compared his analysis of Wittgenstein’s text to the work of a historical detective (Potter 2008: 3). Also, in The Rise of Analytic Philosophy, Potter offers analyses exemplary of a detective’s work; additionally, an important feature of his analyses is connected with discussing those ideas that were NOT followed by the individual philosophers; for example, he observes that although Frege introduced rules and basic laws of propositional logic, he did not discuss the question whether every logical truth expressible using only negation and the material conditional is provable in this system of truth-functional logic (35). Below, I mention the book Russell might have written (had he not met Wittgenstein); and, at yet another instance, Potter comments on the ‘one place we might expect to find Ramsey’s influence, given the closeness of their interactions in 1929, is in Wittgenstein’s later work, but in fact this influence is notably muted’ (468). Another example of Potter’s approach can be found in chapter 69, where he discusses Ramsey’s idea of universals, with the aim, among others, to unravel the (missing) influence on Wittgenstein’s departure from Frege’s views (the binary distinction between saturated and unsaturated entities).

Part II (145-312) is devoted to the achievements in the philosophy of Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) during the appropriate period. In the sections tracing the early influences upon the philosopher, Potter focuses on Bradleyan idealism, and McTaggart’s reading of Hegel. He also discusses Russell’s early work on geometry (An Essay on the Foundations of Geometry, 1897), moves next to Russell’s education in mathematics, and then the influence of, and further collaboration with, Alfred N. Whitehead. He also discusses G. E. Moore and his switch from absolute idealism to platonic realism, and the influence of the Italian mathematician, Giuseppe Peano. Important sections are devoted to Russell’s early, middle, and late logicism, his changing views on judgment, his studies of denoting, truth and theories of truth, types, the relationship between acquaintance and knowledge, the status and different understanding of facts, and approaches to monism. The list of topics important for Russell’s philosophy reads like an index of key topics in 20th century philosophy of language, with considerable implications outside this discipline.

The discussion demonstrates the importance of careful reading of texts, but even more so of direct contact – for Russell, meeting Peano, and the young Wittgenstein, was one of the turning points in his thinking about mathematics and philosophy of mathematics: ‘In May 1913 Russell began writing a book on the relationship between acquaintance and knowledge. He never completed it, partly as a consequence of Wittgenstein’s criticism” (365). One might only speculate about the developments in Russell’s philosophy had he not met Wittgenstein.

Russell’s (and Frege’s) influence and legacy in philosophy of language is indisputable. Potter offers an interesting comment on two crucial texts: ‘Much as Frege chose to write ‘On sense and reference’ as if it was about the philosophy of language, even though his real concern was primarily with logic, so also Russell presented ‘On denoting’ as if his concerns were with analyzing George IV’s curiosity about the authorship of Waverley rather than with solving the logical paradoxes’ (309). This resulted in both influence and controversies within analytic philosophy, and challenges offered by ordinary language philosophy, notably by Strawson. Potter notes that ‘ordinary language philosophy withered after Austin’s death (…) but its demise did not mark a return to Russellian analysis’ (312), which is a consequence of the linguistic turn in philosophy dominated by Rorty, Dummett, and Davidson. It might be added that the influence of ordinary language philosophy has been rediscovered in contemporary linguistics, especially pragmatics.

Though not directly connected with the topic of the book, it is interesting to observe that Russell ‘was the only one of the four philosophers discussed in this book to receive major public honours in his lifetime (the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Order of Merit)’ (149).

It would probably be difficult to find two philosophers so different in personality and way of life as Russell and Wittgenstein. Their philosophical concepts also differ, though they strongly influenced one another. Part III (313-415) is devoted to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (1889-1951) early work. The first sections of this part provide insight into the development of Wittgenstein’s ideas, especially those connected with ‘facts’, ‘pictures’, and ‘propositions’. Potter offers here some ‘archeological’ research into the history of ideas and discusses the Bodleianus, the version (kept now in the Bodleian Library, hence the name) preceding even the typescript known as the Prototractatus. This first version of the Tractatus was concerned with theses 1-6: ‘what stands out straightway is that the outline ends not with the injunction to silence of the final published version but with a technical claim (..) about the expressive power of a certain notation. (…) The central claim of the 1916 Tractatus is thus that the world may be pictured logically by means of propositions obtained from elementary propositions by recursive application of the N-operator’ (319).

In the following chapters, Potter elucidates the changes Wittgenstein made to the final version, with fascinating discussion of the purported ‘solipsism’ (chapter 54), i.e. thesis 5.6. (‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’); this discussion is continued in the chapter on ‘the metaphysical subject’. Other chapters focus on ordinary language, on ethics, and on the mystical element in the Tractatus (chapter 62). This chapter also includes a useful – though brief – note on the possible reading of the Tractatus, which would distinguish, pace James Conant and Cora Diamond, the outer part and the inner part: the outer part (the ‘frame’) would consist of senseful instructions for reading the inner nonsensical part. As succinctly observed by Potter: ‘it is not altogether clear, however, which sentences belong to which part’ (405).

The final chapter of this part discusses the legacy of the Tractatus, and concentrates on issues such as elementary propositions, the picture theory, and briefly comments on the relation to, and legacy in, Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Potter stresses that ‘the popular conception of two Wittgensteins was always too simplistic’ (409). He concludes his discussion by observing that Wittgenstein was right ‘to dismiss as incoherent the persistent attempts of philosophers to conceive of our representation of the world as undertaken from one viewpoint among many’ (415).

The last part of the book (417-471) is devoted to Frank Ramsey (1903-1930), a British philosopher, mathematician, and economist; the least known of the four philosophers discussed by Potter, due chiefly to his premature death at the age of 27. It has to be noted, however, that recent years have seen growing interest in his work and legacy, cf. the chapters in Lillehammer and Mellor, eds. (2005), and the most recent comprehensive monograph by Misak (2020). Ramsey’s contribution to philosophy is centered predominantly around the topics of truth, knowledge, belief, and universals. Potter also discusses his work on the foundations of mathematics, and traces the possible influence of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus on Ramsey’s conception of truth. The chapters on truth and knowledge demonstrate the potential of Ramsey’s ideas for contemporary discussions not only in semantics, but also in pragmatism, and philosophy of mind. A similar observation is to be made in connection with the chapters on the foundations of mathematics; however, in the final chapter, Potter comments also on the unfortunate misunderstandings and problems with the appropriate reception of Ramsey’s work.

The four philosophers discussed in Potter’s book all contributed to the rise of analytic philosophy, their legacy is still important today in a wide variety of disciplines, including philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of mathematics, logic, and linguistics (especially pragmatics and semantics). Michael Potter’s study constitutes a comprehensive guide to their achievements and legacy. The book should be of considerable interest to anyone studying the roots of contemporary philosophy, and especially philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. It would be most interesting to see a comparable study tracing the parallel developments of analytic philosophy and pragmatism and phenomenology (for some preliminary studies on analytic philosophy and phenomenology, see the contributions in Beaney 2007). Such a study might contribute to the development of ‘ideochronology’, dealing with the chronological relationship between philosophical ideas (modelled after glottochronology, which deals with the chronological relationship between languages).

Readers of Potter’s earlier books will recognize his ‘detective’s approach’ in this most recent volume. Potter meticulously traces the sources of ideas, discusses mutual influences, and carefully analyzes changes and shifts in theories, which makes his study almost a log-book for analytic philosophy.


Beaney, Michael. 2007. « The analytic turn in early twentieth-century philosophy. » In: Beaney (Ed.), The Analytic Turn. Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. New York & London: Routledge, 1-30.

Beaney, Michael (Ed.) 2007. The Analytic Turn. Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy and Phenomenology. New York & London: Routledge.

Dummett, Michael. 1978. Truth and Other Enigmas. London: Duckworth.

Lillehammer, Hallvard and D. H. Mellor (Eds.). 2005. Ramsey’s Legacy. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Misak, Cheryl. 2020. Frank Ramsey. A Sheer Excess of Powers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pietroski, Paul M. 2005. Events and Semantic Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Potter, Michael. 2000. Reason’s Nearest Kin. Philosophies of Arithmetic from Kant to Carnap. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Potter, Michael. 2008. Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Giuliano Bacigalupo, Hélène Leblanc (Eds.): Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy

Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy Couverture du livre Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy
History of Analytic Philosophy
Giuliano Bacigalupo, Hélène Leblanc (Eds.)
Palgrave Macmillan
Hardback $99.99
XVII, 237

Reviewed by: R.A. Goodrich (ARC Centre for History of Emotions – University of Melbourne & ADI Philosophy & History of Ideas – Deakin University)

This nine-chapter anthology edited and introduced by Giuliano Bacigalupo and Hélène Leblanc is one of the recent volumes within the History of Analytic Philosophy series. The series aims not only to open debate and research into its nominated field of philosophy, but also to engage those thinkers nowadays regarded as “founders” of the analytic movement. These include Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein—as well as those influencing and succeeding them—who shaped contemporary concerns as much rooted, for example, in the logico-linguistic as in the psycho-phenomenological terrain. To that extent, the three main parts of Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy respectively step readers into language broadly and narrowly conceived; competing conceptions of space and time; and theoretical approaches to existence and philosophy. Whilst so doing, contributors (re)position Marty against both his contemporaries such as Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl as well as current philosophers such as Graham Nerlich and Alberto Voltolini (who contributes the penultimate chapter of the anthology).

Readers will therefore find that this volume is not merely an exegesis of one of the less familiar figures associated with Brentano’s intellectual circles, it is also an act of retrieval in an historical or diachronic sense. It consequently shares a duality of aims traceable in recent anthologies centred upon Marty, including, for instance, those edited since the ’nineties by Kevin Mulligan, Robin Rollinger, Laurent Cesalli with Hamid Taieb, and Guillaume Fréchette also with Hamid Taieb. Therefore, this review essay faces two tasks. Firstly, it will critically probe the actual way in which Marty is presented in light of contemporary debates with particular reference to the logico-linguistic realm which at least half the chapters engage. Secondly, it will examine more closely how this philosophical anthology more generally operates historically despite the editors’ overt declaration that “this volume is not a reconstruction of Marty’s theories for historical purposes” as distinct from an effort to resurrect his thinking “via the lenses of a contemporary perspective” (3).


Because Marty has tended to be recruited as a precursor of Paul Grice by Frank Liedtke (1990), Laurent Cesalli (2013) and Guy Longworth (2017) amongst others, let us begin by concentrating upon two opening chapters. In Chapter Two, François Recanati counters this tendency by proposing a marked contrast in their respective conceptions of communicative acts. Grice (1957: 213-223; cf. 1980: 290-297) claims that two distinctive kinds of meaning operate within our acts of communication. For example, if Laura says, “Those dark clouds mean that it will rain,” then the meaning of “dark clouds” functions as a “natural” sign of an impending change of weather. In other words, in cases like “dark clouds” where “rain” can be inferred or predicted from the fact that they are present, Laura is giving expression to “natural” meaning. By contrast, if her older sibling Lucantonio keeps pointing to the wispy grey sky overhead, repeatedly exclaiming “You’ll see, it will rain,” his pointing can be taken to mean “it will rain.” However, it does not as a matter of fact actually follow that it will rain since Lucantonio may well, for example, be teasing or mocking others accompanying him. Here, the meaning communicated is not “natural”: it is not a case of what follows from what. Rather, what Lucantonio means by pointing and playfully declaring “it will rain” reveals a communicative intention of leading his listeners to recognize his intention of teasing or mocking them. Meaning here, now tied to the speaker’s intention of inducing a particular psychological effect amongst his listeners by their recognition of his intention, is regarded by Grice as “non-natural” meaning.

Recanati reminds readers that Grice (1969: 93ff.), even when subsequently elaborating his analysis of a speaker’s intention and a listener’s response, did not waver from upholding “non-natural” meaning as independent of “natural” meaning nor did he explicitly resort to rationalising the difference purely in terms of, say, conventions or rules governing acts of spoken communication. Instead, to cite Recanati, “Communicative intentions have a nested structure and […] potentially involve an infinite sequence of sub-intentions pertaining to the recognition by the hearer of a previous sub-intention” (14).  So, for Recanati, “to make the speaker’s communicative intention fully ‘overt’,” Grice needs to allow the communicative intention to be “reflexive” (14). This perhaps explains why Grice concedes that the listener’s recognition is grounded “at least partly on the basis of” the speaker’s utterance (1969: 94, 96).

Turning to Marty (1908: 283ff.), there appears to be no evidence for treating “natural” and “non-natural” meaning in strictly binary terms. Recanati contends that Marty construes the two kinds of meaning as “continuous” (15).  Indeed, he continues, human behaviour itself can be “a natural sign of ‘internal psychological processes’” (15 (citing Marty)), especially in instances such as involuntary tears of sorrow, grief or anguish and screams of pain, horror or fear. Yet, if Laura’s tears merely expressed her sorrow, that alone is insufficient a criterion for being a communicative act. From Marty’s perspective, for Laura to engage an act of communication, her principal intention should be directed at her listeners, inducing in them “a matching attitude towards the object of the expressed thought” (15) where expressing her own psychological response is but a means to that end. That said, when Laura’s tears on the death of her beloved nonna enable her listeners to align themselves with her anguish, grief, or sorrow, then for Marty unlike Grice an instance of “natural” meaning need not exclude an instance of “non-natural” meaning.

Pursuing the difference between Marty and Grice further, Recanati finds the former assigns “only one semiotic relation” which characterises “natural” meaning whereas “non-natural” meaning comprises “three distinct semiotic relations at work” (17). The three relationships are said to be the expressive meaning of the utterance; the wider or communicative meaning of the utterance; and the narrower or denotational meaning of the utterance. Collectively, as some readers might surmise, Marty’s threefold depiction seems to form an antecedent of that of Karl Bühler (1918: 1; cf. 12-13) initially in his review of theories of sentences and subsequently in his seminal Sprachtheorie (1934: 34ff.) on three basic semantic functions of language. For Recanati, the threefold relational features underpin how Marty “views linguistic communication as continuous with natural meaning” without incorporating the “nested/reflexive structure” Grice assigns to communicative intentions (19 & 18). The line of demarcation between Marty and Grice is that the latter ultimately adheres to the view that “a natural sign ceases to be a natural sign as soon as the hearer recognizes that it is produced deliberately” (20).  Recanati re-enforces what is at stake by briefly alluding to the highly frequent use we make of experientially- or situationally-bound utterances when interacting with others, best known as the deictic field or indexical dimension of language. Consider, for example, when Laura and Lucantonio are momentarily separated in a crowd and lose sight of each other. Lucantonio shouts, “I am here” to the relief of Laura (whether or not she deictically replies, “Now I see you”). Here, as Bühler (1934: 93ff.) in Part Two of Sprachtheorie also maintains, both “natural” and “non-natural” meaning are at play within the deictic field. Lucantonio’s communicative intention to advise or re-assure Laura that he is in her vicinity exemplifies the “non-natural” and, for Laura, his very act of shouting embodies a “natural” sign indicating his location to her.

In Chapter Three, Mark Textor continues investigating Marty and Grice on communicative intentionality and meaning, but adds the contrasting position of Marty’s teacher Brentano. According to Textor, what Brentano, unlike Marty and Grice, brings to the debate over the nature of meaning is that it primarily centres upon the speaker’s utterance “independently of whether utterances are made in order to influence the thought [or response] of others” (35).  This, we are told, can be best demonstrated by counter-examples of “non-natural” meaning without communicative intentions found in assertoric judgements. Let us revisit the situation where Lucantonio, when first looking at the cirrostratus clouds overhead, states “I claim that it is going to rain.” If Laura afterwards reports, “He claimed that it was going to rain,” all she has conveyed is what was communicated by his initially uttered claim, not any effect it had upon her. Again, if Lucantonio afterwards conceded that, despite his subsequent teasing and mocking manner, the very presence of cirrostratus clouds first became associated with the assertion “It is going to rain,” then this can be done without implying his utterance was necessarily true. Nor was the assertion self-referential in the way that Marty (1908: 495) and Grice (1969: 112-113) exemplify, including addressing one’s imagined future self or pretending to address someone else.

By Textor’s account, in so far as statements of claims or contentions instantiate judgements and evaluations more broadly, they reveal the speaker’s attitudes. Such attitudes contain the speaker’s (rational) commitment that his or her assertions or assumptions are correct. That is to say, the “non-natural” communicative meaning of utterances here is definable without reference to any listeners. Textor formulates his point as follows: “If I assume that p, I am committed to the correctness of my assuming and the state of affairs that p is worthy of this attitude” (54). Textor’s solution, for some readers, might still leave gaps in their understanding of Marty’s more controversial commitments “about how things are” (42). What are the consequences of Marty’s somewhat paradoxical handling of claims or judgements about entities or events that do not exist? Perhaps, it is here that they should consider the interpretive strategies of other contributors. For example, Ingvar Johansson in Chapter Five argues that the later Marty does not identify “non-real” with “non-existing” or “subsisting” with another mode of existing unlike “real” ordinary objects (100). Furthermore, Alberto Voltolini in Chapter Eight takes Marty to be analysing the “non-real » as “grounded” upon the “real” (184).

If nothing else, the respective attempts by Recanati and Textor to draw Marty into latter-day arguments surrounding Grice warn readers against searching for simple one-to-one correlations between an intellectual precursor and his putative successor. That each often appears to express comparable solutions is not tantamount to concluding that each is responding to an identical set of problems.


The second section of this review essay will focus upon Kevin Mulligan’s lengthy Chapter Nine in Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy. By so doing, it will give us the opportunity to examine, albeit briefly, how Marty (when leaving aside his approach to communicative acts discussed above) construes language as threatening to undermine philosophical enquiry. At the same time, Mulligan himself traces the way in which Marty’s strategies when dealing with modality, logic, and intentionality anticipate those influentially deployed by Wittgenstein.

Modality pervades much of our attitude towards and thinking about our actions, ideas and world, ranging from certainties, doubts and necessities to obligations, possibilities, and willingness. Marty (1908: 354) seizes upon the erroneous way we construe not some, but “all possibilities” which “are, of course, merely something non-real,” something “treated as things, which have effects and are effected.” How does it come about that we treat possibilities, and for that matter impossibilities, as if they were “real” in the sense of being “causally efficacious” as Mulligan succinctly notes (199 (cf. e.g., Johansson 100; Mac Cumhaill 123, 129; Sattig 170, n. 6; and Voltolini 183-184))? Marty’s reply unequivocally identifies the problem in largely linguistic terms:

All our names have as their inner linguistic form either the presentation of a substance or of an accident, thus of something real. But we always designate the non-real, too, indeed even what is completely fictitious, with the help of a substantive (such as […] possibility, impossibility, etc.) […] or with the help of an adjective which is attributed to a real or apparent subject as a predicate or attribute… (1908: 354-355)

We are, in brief, misled by our use of nouns and adjectives into thinking of possibilities either as substances or as if they were properties inhering in substances. Because “language uses expressions for what is real also for what is non-real,” we face “more disastrous” epistemological consequences such as when “a physicist takes for the truth what is, in his [or her] field, merely a picture and an attempted illustration” (1908: 356). Whilst we find many analogous examples in Wittgenstein (1945) of how possibilities become conflated with actual states of affairs when our “forms of expression […] send us in pursuit of chimeras” (§94; cf. §194), Marty appeals to “inner linguistic forms” which Mulligan immediately understands to be “a conceptual presentation which has a certain function, that of directing an interlocutor’s attention to what the speaker has in mind” (199).

What has been ignored at this juncture in Chapter Nine, especially from a more linguistic point of view, is how and why Marty should have appealed to the contestable notion of “inner linguistic form”; a notion explicated through debates against which Marty reacted by Werner Leopold (1929) & (1951) and through earlier iterations of Noam Chomsky’s transformational generative theory of language as first broached by Sige-Yuki Kuroda (1972: 8ff.). On the information given, it is not entirely obvious how such inner forms, which Marty finds in metaphors particularly and language development generally, can be connected with linguistic signs of, say, the “non-real” and the “fictitious” yet have no role in their meaning.

Next, Mulligan deftly portrays the manner in which the kinds of difficulties besetting modality in effect ricochet throughout the way consciousness is all too often erroneously depicted irrespective of whether emphasis is laid upon cognitive, conative, or emotional factors. We need only witness here how Marty summarises his analysis of earlier thinkers from Aristoteles onwards:

One wanted to get to the bottom of the secret of consciousness and in so doing took more or less seriously a linguistic picture used in the description of the peculiar process. The more abstract locution […] of what is thought in the thinker (and likewise what is felt in one who feels) […] is, in my opinion, only justified as a fiction of pictorial, inner, linguistic form, […] but leads to a falsification as soon as it is taken more seriously. (1908: 397)

Similarly, Wittgenstein (1945), when considering how easily one enters “that dead end in philosophizing where one believes that the difficulty of the problem consists in our having to describe phenomena that evade our grasp” (§436), continues:

expectation is unsatisfied, because it is an expectation of something; a belief, an opinion, is unsatisfied, because it is an opinion that something is the case, something real, something outside the process of believing. (§438)

In what sense can one call wishes, expectations, beliefs, etc. “unsatisfied”? What is our prototype of non-satisfaction? Is it a hollow space? And would one call that “unsatisfied”? Wouldn’t this be a metaphor too? (§439)

Mulligan then turns to how Marty and Wittgenstein oppose the view of logic as a framework or scaffold and its implications for how propositions are construed. Marty, citing Husserl in passing, questions “the picture” of an “ideal framework which every language fills up and clothes differently” (1908: 59). Instead, he suggests, “The tissue of the elementary meaning-categories” of propositional forms within logic “stands to real language and their makers more like a pattern which they try to trace” and “not as a frame which would stand before the consciousness of all in the same way and which they would merely fill out in different ways” (1908: 59). Wittgenstein examines “the question of the essence of language, of propositions, of thought” and finds that his attempts to comprehend the nature of language, especially “its function, its structure” that “already lies open to view, that becomes surveyable through a process of ordering,” is not the target of such a question (1945: §92). Instead, he remarks:


The essence is hidden from us’: this is the form our problem now assumes. We ask: “What is language?”, “What is a proposition?” And the answer to these questions is to be given once for all, and independently of any future experience. (1945: §92)

Such a misunderstanding immediately leads to “the sublimation of our whole account of logic” with the “tendency to assume a pure intermediary between the propositional sign and the facts. Or even to purify, to sublimate the sign itself” (1945: §94). Logic, the “essence” of thinking, “presents an order: the a priori order of the world; that is, the order of possibilities, which the world and thinking must have in common,” the quest for which is aligned with a superordinate “order existing between the concepts of proposition, word, inference, truth, experience, and so forth” (1945: §97).

As Mulligan realises, the rejection by Marty and Wittgenstein of logic as a framework or scaffold applies to “conceptions of propositions as ideal entities, as intermediaries […] as immanent or private objects” (208). Equally, propositions do not “represent states of affairs or the world in a sui generis and irreducible way” by virtue of a “special sort of unity” (208). He does acknowledge that Marty only implicitly construed natural language to be pervaded by a “family of structures more or less akin to one another,” with terms forming “a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and criss-crossing” popularly characterised nowadays as “family resemblances” (Wittgenstein 1945: §108, §66 & §67). However, Mulligan believes Marty’s theory of language was more explicitly developed by Karl Bühler (1934: 247ff.) especially when Bühler analysed the processes of merging or fusion where “partial, overlapping similarities hold” within the symbolic field of language under the concept of the “synchytic” (210).

For Mulligan, the above-mentioned distortions afflicting philosophical enquiry lead both Marty and Wittgenstein to make “the critique of language necessary” (212). Marty overtly identifies the habitual role language can and does play:

the presentation of thing and property always and everywhere forces itself on us, if not as a consequence of an innate necessity, then thanks to the power of a strong and general linguistic habit. (1908: 355)

Wittgenstein, too, is convinced that linguistic habits are deeply engrained when commenting how “problems arising through a misinterpretation of our forms of language […] are as deeply rooted in us as the forms of our language” (1945: §111). In addition, Mulligan draws our attention to the “affective and conative” dimension of misleading images and metaphors in philosophy (214). Marty, for instance, writes of the potency of urges:

An instinctive urge leads us, at first, to take whatever appears in a sensory fashion to be real, i.e. to ascribe “external” reality to it; to the colours, sounds, places and changes of place which are present for us in sensation or hallucination

to the point where

We therefore transfer what in them is intuitive and forces itself upon us as real, in an instinctive belief, into the mind. (1908: 396)

Wittgenstein, too, is mindful of how wrestling with “the workings of our language” occurs “despite an urge to misunderstand them” (1945: §109).

Both thinkers noticeably vacillate over what precisely they define as misleading within language per se (its symbols or similes? its analogies or metaphors?). However, what is not in doubt, as Mulligan observes, is that both agree that philosophy’s “first task is to identify the misleading pictures” which impair if not corrupt philosophical enquiries which take their “first orientation from them” (217). Hence, it is hardly surprisingly when, in the course of asking how philosophical problems about mental processes and states arise, Wittgenstein (1945: §308) should insist that the “first step is the one that altogether escapes notice.”


Having pinpointed crucial views given significant weighting within Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy to Marty’s approach to communication and language, in the limited space remaining let us briefly question how, in practice, this anthology construes its task of illuminating the history of analytic philosophy.

First of all, when is analytic philosophy clearly identifiable? Indeed, are we safe in saying that its origins can be unequivocally traced to a set of Anglo-Germanic thinkers? Jan Claes and Benjamin Schneider in their logico-linguistic analysis (59ff.) have little hesitation drawing upon the multi-volume 1837 Wissenschaftslehre by Bernard Bolzano whereas Voltolini when delving into kinds of being and first- and second-order properties of existence (175ff.) alludes to the 1884 monograph Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik by Gottlob Frege. Again, Johansson, when tracing the antecedents of Marty’s conception of space as a container (99ff.) contrasts the superficially similar metaphors of spatiality in Immanuel Kant as well as Isaac Newton without specifying their respective texts. If nothing else, such examples suggest the shifting, albeit implicit, commencement dates and associated canonical texts in what have been and can continue to be taken as analytic antecedents.

Secondly, was analytic philosophy ever a unified, self-aware intellectual movement? After all, the first attested use of the attributions “logico-analytic philosopher” and “analytic philosopher” was first coined a century later by John Wisdom (1931) when exploring Jeremy Bentham’s posthumously published Notes on Logic (circa 1831) and its technique of paraphrasis and analysis of propositional meaning. Even a cursory glance at Clare Mac Cumhaill (121ff.) or Thomas Sattig (153ff.), both juxtaposing Marty and contemporary debates in the field of spatio-temporal apprehension, reveals the tendency to refer to clusters of modern thinkers and their arguments considered relevant to the contentions being raised rather than owing to their analytic credentials.

Thirdly, are we, in view of the foregoing, witnessing convergences upon a specific problem rather than a convergence of specific problems in the unfolding of analytic philosophical debates? Does this, on the one hand, suggest that philosophical movements are open-ended by nature to the point where critical exchanges amongst self-nominated “schools” or “movements,” such as the analytic, the phenomenological, and the pragmatic, gradually became commonplace? On the other hand, need being open-ended preclude the occurrence of distinctive phases (as distinct from problems) of the kind the Bacigalupo and Leblanc volume seems to make manifest when threading logico-linguistic discussions through so many of its chapters?

To that extent, have the detailed explorations here of Anton Marty’s assumptions about language helped to demonstrate two crucial features? The first, more specifically, in many of the debates and problems engaging Marty in the decade preceding the twentieth-century’s first world war the anthology has, perhaps unwittingly, exposed the centrality of the confrontation between “ideal” formal language associated with logic and “ordinary” natural language associated with everyday discourse as what marks analytic philosophy of the period. To return to Werner Leopold, he intuitively senses the foregoing tension between theories of “ideal” and “ordinary” language—a topic most recently addressed by Hans-Johann Glock (2017: 214-220; cf. 2008: 39ff., 52ff., 115-116 & 153ff.), Kelly Jolley (2017: 229-238), and Scott Soames (2017: 34-40)—when he finds Marty’s “theoretical mind” employing “an a-priori approach going from meaning to form” whilst admonishing “philosophers’ overemphasis on logic” (1951: 368). In fact, Leopold proclaims to his audience of linguists: “Marty is a philosopher who does not use language for the purposes of philosophy, but applies philosophical thinking in the service of linguistics” (1951: 370).

The second feature, more generally, was initially voiced by Moritz Schlick, founder of what became the Wiener Kreis:

Every philosophical movement is defined by the principles that it regards as fundamental and to which it constantly recurs in its arguments. But in the course of historical development, the principles are apt not to remain unaltered, whether it be that they acquire new formulations, or come to be extended or restricted, or that even their meaning gradually undergoes noticeable modifications. (1932: 259)

If “some terminological dispute of the old from the new” occurs amongst “the various adherents of a ‘movement’” and results “in hopeless misunderstandings and obscurities,” then these only dissipate, Schlick (1932: 259) claims, when “the various principles” at “cross-purposes” are “separated from each other and tested individually for meaning and truth on their own account […].” Not unlike Bacigalupo and Leblanc rejecting the task of reconstructing Marty’s theories “for historical purposes” (3), Schlick believes “cross-purposes” are “best” handled by disregarding “entirely the contexts in which [disputed principles] have historically arisen” (1932: 259). Or, for those of us who prefer to talk in terms of analytic philosophy as a “tradition,” perhaps we ought to heed the widely disseminated view of Alasdair MacIntyre that any tradition, presumably including intellectual traditions, can be characterised as an

argument extended through time in which certain fundamental agreements are defined and redefined in terms of two kinds of conflict: those with critics and enemies external to the tradition […] and those internal, interpretive debates through which the meaning and rationale of the fundamental agreements come to be expressed and by whose progress a tradition is constituted. (1988: 12; cf. 354ff.)

Furthermore, as Glock (2008; 212ff.) elaborates, the tradition ascribed to analytic philosophy is one “held together both by ties of mutual influence and by family resemblances.” Clearly, Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy ultimately sides with “internal, interpretive debates.”


Bühler, K.L. 1918. “Kritische Musterung der neuen Theorien des Satzes.” Indogermanisches Jahrbuch 6: 1-20.

Bühler, K.L. 1934. Theory of Language: The Representational Function of Language. Edited by Achim Eschbach; translated by D.F. Goodwin. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co., 1990 [abbreviated as Sprachtheorie in the review essay above].

Cesalli, Laurent. 2013. “Anton Marty’s Intentionalist Theory of Meaning.” In Themes from Brentano. Edited by Denis Fisette & Guillaume Fréchette, 139-164. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi.

Glock, H.-J. 2008. What is Analytic Philosophy? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Glock, H.-J. 2017. “P.F. Strawson: Ordinary Language Philosophy and Descriptive Metaphysics.” In Analytic Philosophy: An Interpretive History. Edited by Aaron Preston, 214-228. New York: Routledge.

Grice, H.P. 1957. “Meaning.” In Studies in the Way of Words, 213-223. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Grice, H.P. 1969. “Utterer’s Meaning and Intentions.” In Studies in the Way of Words, 88-116. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Grice, H.P. 1980. “Meaning Revisited.” In Studies in the Way of Words, 283-303. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

Jolley, K.D. 2017. “Austin Athwart the Tradition.” In Analytic Philosophy: An Interpretive History. Edited by Aaron Preston, 229-238. New York: Routledge.

Kuroda, S.-Y. 1972. “Anton Marty and the Transformational Theory of Grammar.” Foundations of Language 9 (1): 1-37.

Liedtke, Frank. 1990. “Meaning and Expression: Marty and Grice on Intentional Semantics.” In Mind, Meaning and Metaphysics: The Philosophy and Theory of Language of Anton Marty. Edited by Kevin Mulligan, 29-49. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Leopold, W.F. 1929. “Inner Form.” Language 5 (4): 254-260.

Leopold, W.F. 1951. “Reviews.” Language 27 (3): 367-370.

Longworth, Guy. 2017. “Grice and Marty on Expression.” In Mind and Language – On the Philosophy of Anton Marty. Edited by Guillaume Fréchette & Hamid Taieb, 263-284. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

MacIntyre, A.C. 1988. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.

Marty, Anton. 1908. Untersuchungen zur Grundlegung der allgemeinen Grammatik und Sprachphilosophie. Erster Band. Halle an der Saale: Verlag von Max Niemeyer [accessible at: https://archive.org/details/untersuchungenzu01martuoft/page/n4 ; translations adapted from the anthology under review].

Schlick, Moritz. 1932. “Positivism and Realism.” In Philosophical Papers: Volume II (1925-1936). Edited by H.L. Mulder & B.F.B. van de Velde-Schlick; translated by P.L. Heath, 259-284. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1979.

Soames, Scott. 2017. “The Changing Role of Language in Analytic Philosophy.” In Analytic Philosophy: An Interpretive History. Edited by Aaron Preston, 34-51. New York: Routledge.

Wisdom, John. 1931. Interpretation and Analysis in Relation to Bentham’s Theory of Definition. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1945. Philosophical Investigations, 4th rev. edn. Edited by P.M.S. Hacker & Joachim Schulte; translated by G.E.M. Anscombe, P.M.S. Hacker & Joachim Schulte. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Christoph Limbeck-Lilienau, Friedrich Stadler (Eds.): The Philosophy of Perception, De Gruyter, 2019

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Giuliano Bacigalupo, Hélène Leblanc (Eds.): Anton Marty and Contemporary Philosophy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019

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Komarine Romdenh-Romluc (Ed.): Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty, Routledge, 2017

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