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Modality and Logic in Early Analytic Philosophy
Sanford Shieh, Wesleyan University

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Necessity Lost: Modality and Logic in Early Analytic Philosophy, volume 1 (Book)
Title: Necessity Lost: Modality and Logic in Early Analytic Philosophy, volume 1
Author: Sanford Shieh
Abstract: A long tradition, going back to Aristotle, conceives of logic in terms of necessity and possibility: a deductive argument is correct if the truth of its conclusion follows necessarily from the truth of its premises or, put differently, if it is not possible for the conclusion to be false when the premises are true. A relatively unknown feature of the analytic tradition in philosophy is that, at its very inception, this venerable conception of the relation between logic and modality was put into question. The founders of analytic philosophy, Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, held that there are no genuine distinctions among the necessary, the possible and the actual. In this first of a two-volume book, I investigate the grounds and consequences of this anti-modal position. The grounds lie in doctrines on truth, thought, and knowledge, as well as on the relation between mind and reality, that are central to the philosophies of Frege and Russell, and are of enduring philosophical interest. The main consequence is that logic is fundamental, and, to be coherent, modal concepts would be reconstructed in logical terms. This rejection of modality in early analytic philosophy remains of contemporary significance. The coherence of modal concepts is rarely questioned nowadays, because it is assumed that suspicion of modality derives from logical positivism, which has not survived philosophical scrutiny. The anti-modal arguments of Frege and Russell, however, have nothing to do with positivism, and remain a challenge to the contemporary acceptance of modal notions.
Year: 2019
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Access Model: Subscription only to Oxford Scholarship Online; other purchase of print copy from Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978–0–19–92286
Copy sent to NEH?: No