Saturday, October 19, 2013

Papineau on Ramsey

David Papineau's review of a book about Frank Ramsey has been getting attention and praise. But it isn't all good. Papineau says the following about Wittgenstein:
Ramsey’s death coincided with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s return to Cambridge after his reclusive years in the Austrian Alps. The cult surrounding Wittgenstein quickly caught fire, and for the next fifty years dominated philosophy throughout the English-speaking world.
Philosophy throughout the English-speaking world was dominated by a cult for fifty years? Bollocks. Surely not. And then:
Wittgenstein’s first book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, added a powerful dose of mysticism to his analysis of language, and this gnostic strain became even more pronounced in the neo-idealism of his later philosophy. Ramsey, by contrast, saw the world through the lens of mathematics and fundamental physics. For Wittgenstein, science was an enemy that threatened to coarsen the human spirit.
Wide of the mark again.

It must be possible to praise Ramsey without trying to do so at someone else's expense. And it doesn't help to make Ramsey seem under-appreciated if he is praised by way of false claims about Wittgenstein. Having made this appeal for our all getting along and being nice it is inappropriate of me to include the following video of someone spectacularly messing up twice. It's not a fair comment on Papineau, but it is funny.

No comments:

Post a Comment