Dale Jacquette’s biography of Frege, again

In a posting here almost a year ago, I was rather scathing about Dale Jacquette’s book  Frege: A Philosophical Biography (surprisingly, to my mind, published by CUP in 2019). But I frankly admitted to having read only a hundred pages or so before giving up on the book. Was I being unfair, then? Did I miss much by not reading on? Or did the book continue in the same hopelessly amateurish and confused way?

It seems the latter. Here’s a review by Wolfgang Kienzler (a shorter version appeared in History and Philosophy of Logic in January this year). Kienzler was evidently no more impressed than I was.

(A nice example of Gricean implicature, from this review: “The author seems to enjoy using as many German words and expressions as possible across his text, and it must be admitted that almost all of them are spelled correctly.” Ouch.)

5 thoughts on “Dale Jacquette’s biography of Frege, again”

  1. I suspect “the obvious reason that to date there exists no readable and reliable biography of Frege in any language” is indeed the reason this book was published. And given that there is no such superior alternative, how bad is Jacquette’s book? So bad that no one should read it?

    You had a longer post on Jacquette’s Frege, also about a year ago, that makes it seem the answer is “yes, that bad”.

    Anyway, apart from biographies, are there any good books on Frege?

    I confess to having only quite limited interest in Frege, but I would be tempted by a fairly short, reasonably priced book that discussed things that are not of merely historical interest. Some possibilities.

    Michael Dummett, Frege: Philosophy of Mathematics (not the much too long Phil of Lang)
    Anthony Kenny, Frege an Introduction to the Founder of Modern Analytic Philosophy
    Michael Beaney, Frege: Making Sense
    Joan Weiner, Frege Explained
    who also has a Frege (Past Masters Series)
    and a Frege in Perspective which seems out of print.
    Awodey and Reck, Frege’s Lectures on Logic: Carnap’s Jena Notes, 1910-1914
    Harold W Noonan, Frege (Key Contemporary Thinkers
    Potter and Ricketts (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Frege

    (I have read none of these and have just picked books that are available and reasonably priced.)

    1. The Jena Notes are sort-of-interesting historically, but only if you’ve already read a lot of Frege!

      Kenny’s and Noonan’s are both well regarded as reliable introductory undergraduate student texts, without special interpretative axes to grind.

      Weiner’s *Frege Explained* is an expanded version of her earlier Past Masters book, and is short and very clear as another student introduction. Her *Frege in Perspective* is more substantial, and has original takes on some issues of Frege interpretation, but not the place to start.

      Beaney is focused on Frege’s conception of sense, its emergence and role.

      The Cambridge Companion is a very patchy collection of articles.

      Of this list, then, Dummett’s is of course the deepest and most philosophically interesting book, though it is narrowly focused of Frege’s philosophy of mathematics.

  2. NORMAN BIRKETT

    I’m curious how people regard Scott Soames’s treatment of Frege in vol. 1 of his _Analytic Tradition in Philosophy_. Have you seen it or read any reviews that struck you as compelling?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top