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Michael Dummett, 25 July 1991

The Oxford Guide to Card Games 
by David Parlett.
Oxford, 361 pp., £15, October 1990, 0 19 214165 1
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... Excitement was aroused by the announcement, last September, of a double discovery: the actual rules, on a cuneiform tablet, of a board game thought to date from 3300 BC, of which only some surviving boards had previously been known, and a living individual from a Jewish community in Cochin who had herself played that very game before she migrated to Israel, and could recall the rules in accordance with which she had then played it ...


Michael Dummett, 24 January 1985

Chess: The History of a Game 
by Richard Eales.
Batsford, 240 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 7134 4607 2
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... The history of a game, like that of an art form such as ballet, has an external and an internal aspect, which in neither case can be kept sharply separated. Under the external aspect, we must, for each period, ask such questions as these. In what countries was it played? Among which social groups? Did they play at home, or in cafés, clubs or gaming houses? Was it played only at the local level, or were there organised regional, national or international competitions? Was there an authority to lay down the rules? Was the game played for high stakes, for moderate ones or for none? Did the players regard it as a serious pursuit or a light recreation? Did they play rapidly or with deliberation, talking as they played or in intent silence? Was it generally regarded with respect, despised as a frivolous waste of time, condemned as degrading or treated with indifference? These are the questions that principally interest Eales, and he conveys a good deal of interesting information in answering them ...

Blood and logic

Michael Dummett, 6 January 1994

Politics, Logic and Love: The Life of Jean van Heijenoort 
by Anita Burdman Feferman.
A.K. Peters, 415 pp., £19.95, November 1993, 0 86720 286 6
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... Jean van Heijenoort was a mathematical logician who had once been Trotsky’s secretary, and if only those who have already heard of him read this book, a great many people will miss a fascinating story. The community of those interested in mathematical logic is one of which the public is very little aware. The name of van Heijenoort is known to everyone within it, not for any great discovery he made, but because of what is probably his most lasting contribution: the large and immensely useful source book, From Frege to Gödel, which he published in 1967 ...

Linguistics demythologised

Michael Dummett, 19 August 1982

The Language Myth 
by Roy Harris.
Duckworth, 212 pp., £18, August 1981, 0 7156 1528 9
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... This book, a follow-up to the same author’s The Language Makers, published in 1980, is a wholesale onslaught on ‘orthodox modern linguistics’. It is, and is meant to be, provocative and stimulating, and will prompt fruitful debate in an area still made murky by difficult conceptual problems, but surely rightly seen as critical in our present state of knowledge of ourselves and of the world ...

Power and Prejudice

Michael Dummett, 7 October 1982

Now you do know 
by John Downing.
War on Want Campaigns, 80 pp., £1, December 1980, 0 905990 10 2
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... This short book was originally presented as a report to the international consultation held in the Netherlands by the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism in June 1980. It is a portrait of the society we live in, as it presents itself to its black citizens; and it is a horrifying portrait. Though its author, who teaches at Thames Polytechnic, has hopefully entitled it Now you do know, he expresses in his Preface pessimism about whether many white people in Britain will read it, or will believe it if they do ...

Objections to Chomsky

Michael Dummett, 3 September 1981

Rules and Representations 
by Noam Chomsky.
Blackwell, 299 pp., £7.50, August 1980, 0 631 12641 4
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... The first few pages of this book declare a general attitude, wholly admirable in combining the firmest commitment to rationality with intellectual humility, that contrasts not only with the widespread irrationalism of our day but with the equally repellent scientism usually opposed to it. The book is divided into two parts, the first a revision of a lecture course given in 1978 and again in 1979, and the second consisting of two single lectures, both previously published ...

Frege and Analytical Philosophy

Michael Dummett, 18 September 1980

Philosophical and Mathematical Correspondence 
by Gottlob Frege, translated by Hans Kaal, edited by Brian McGuinness.
Blackwell, 214 pp., £15, March 1980, 9780631196204
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Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege 
edited by Peter Geach and Max Black.
Blackwell, 228 pp., £12, July 1980, 0 631 12901 4
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Frege’s Theory of Judgement 
by David Bell.
Oxford, 163 pp., £8.50, July 1979, 0 19 827423 8
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Gottlob Frege 
by Hans Sluga.
Routledge, 203 pp., £12.95, July 1980, 0 7100 0474 5
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... analysis of the kind offered by analytic philosophers from Frege through Tarski and Carnap to Dummett can recover the actual historical meaning’ of a philosophical statement: ‘that requires historical analysis of the kind provided in this study ... Only then can the limits of the “objective” unhistorical kind of meaning analysis conducted by ...

Tarot Triumph

Edmund Leach, 4 September 1980

The Game of Tarot: from Ferrara to Salt Lake City 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £45, August 1980, 0 7156 1014 7
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Twelve Tarot Games 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 242 pp., £5.95, August 1980, 0 7156 1488 6
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... pursuits to write imitation Agatha Christie detective stories, so when I first learned that Michael Dummett, widely regarded as the most formidable philosopher of his generation, was about to publish a book about Tarot cards, I rather naturally assumed that it must be an exercise of this same recreational sort. In a certain very off-centre ...

Frege and his Rivals

Adam Morton, 19 August 1982

Frege: Philosophy of Language 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 708 pp., £28, May 1981, 0 7156 1568 8
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The Interpretation of Frege’s Philosophy 
by Michael Dummett.
Duckworth, 621 pp., £35, September 1981, 0 7156 1540 8
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Frege: An Introduction to his Philosophy 
by Gregory Currie.
Harvester, 212 pp., £20, June 1982, 0 85527 826 9
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... is harder in philosophy to tell when the attack is on a writer’s motives rather than his work. Michael Dummett, in these two books on Frege (and there is more to come), evaluates the views of a fair number of other writers, many of whose errors he considers to border on the perverse, and in so doing finds himself on the boundary between comment and ...

Islam and Reform

Akeel Bilgrami, 28 June 1990

A Satanic Affair: Salman Rushdie and the Rage of Islam 
by Malise Ruthven.
Chatto, 184 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 7011 3591 3
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... and thoughtful of these criticisms: a recent letter to the Independent from the philosopher Michael Dummett. Few English men or women have given so much of their time and energy to defending the rights of Muslims and other immigrants in Britain than Ann and Michael Dummett. Here ...

Only Sentences

Ray Monk, 31 October 1996

Wittgenstein’s Place in 20th-Century Analytic Philosophy 
by P.M.S. Hacker.
Blackwell, 368 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 631 20098 3
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Wittgenstein: Mind and Will, Vol. IV of an Analytical Commentary on the ‘Philosophical Investigations’ 
by P.M.S. Hacker.
Blackwell, 742 pp., £90, August 1996, 0 631 18739 1
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... questions has become: what is analytical philosophy? An influential answer has been provided by Michael Dummett, until recently the Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford and the author of several important books on Frege and the philosophy of language. Significantly, Dummett’s most recent books have been concerned ...

Ayer, Anscombe and Empiricism

Alasdair MacIntyre, 17 April 1980

Perception and Identity: Essays presented to A.J. Ayer with his replies to them 
edited by G.E. MacDonald.
Macmillan, 358 pp., £15, December 1979, 0 333 27182 3
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Intention and Intentionality: Essays in Honour of G.E.M. Anscombe 
edited by Cora Diamond and Jenny Teichmann.
Harvester, 205 pp., £16.95, December 1979, 0 85527 985 0
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... how can it also be really composed of green grass and round tables? Five of the 12 essayists – Michael Dummett, P.F. Strawson, David Pears, D.M. Armstrong and Charles Taylor – are concerned with these or with closely related questions. Collectively – taken together with those earlier writings of Ayer on which these essays are a commentary and with ...

Is it ‘Mornington Crescent’?

Alex Oliver: H W Fowler, 27 June 2002

The Warden of English: The Life of H.W. Fowler 
by Jenny McMorris.
Oxford, 242 pp., £19.99, June 2001, 0 19 866254 8
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... as popular as ever among the common complainers (Fowler’s ‘grammatical parrots’). And even Michael Dummett (Grammar & Style) has come out as being vehemently against splitting, arguing that the ambiguities it sometimes causes show that it is ‘intrinsically unnatural’. Dummett also plays a remarkable German ...

Pink Elephants

Alex Oliver, 2 November 2000

Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism 
by Robert Brandom.
Harvard, 230 pp., £21.95, June 2000, 0 674 00158 3
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... business. Life is short and it’s publish or perish; so a lot is written and little is read. Michael Dummett, one of the very few contemporary philosophers who, like Brandom, have dared to write books of more than seven hundred pages, has even declared that the merit of a publication ‘must be great enough to outweigh the disservice done by its ...

Nuclear Argument

Keith Kyle, 18 April 1985

Objections to Nuclear Defence: Philosophers on Deterrence 
edited by Nigel Blake and Kay Pole.
Routledge, 187 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 7102 0249 0
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Reagan and the World: Imperial Policy in the New Cold War 
by Jeff McMahan.
Pluto, 214 pp., £3.95, August 1984, 0 86104 602 1
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A future that will work 
by David Owen.
Viking, 192 pp., £12.95, August 1984, 0 670 80564 5
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The Most Dangerous Decade: World Militarism and the New Non-Aligned Peace Movement 
by Ken Coates.
Spokesman, 211 pp., £15, July 1984, 9780851244051
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... of each other and some seem to differ little from political polemics, but with Anthony Kenny, Michael Dummett, Roger Ruston and Bernard Williams among the contributors there is much that is worth considering. All four of these philosophers reject the notion that it is meaningful to have the bomb without having the hypothetical intention to use ...

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