The subject of one of my diatribes got very worked up about my post alluding to her (without naming her) a couple of years ago, and wrote a detailed reply that is — justifiably — rude in response. It only came to my attention just now, hence this belated acknowledgement. Looking at my own post from this distance, I admit that I should not have speculated about her motives for claiming that Frege had “plagiarized” the Stoics. That was a mistake, and looks way ruder than I meant it to be. I should have figured out a more graceful transition from the example of her paper to the main point of the post.
(She also calls my post defamatory, though, and that seems disproportionate. The worst thing I accuse her of is — possibly — seeking attention, and she herself seems to think, in her reply to my post, that one possible motivation for pursuing an academic career is to seek attention. My post doesn’t link to her paper or even mention her name; the point of the post wasn’t her paper so much as my perennial gripe that philosophy, like so many of the traditional humanistic disciplines, is succumbing to the economics of attention. I thought her paper was an obvious example of that, but even if I was wrong, I doubt whether my opinion could count as defamatory, even in the more informal sense she probably had in mind.)
There remains a substantive difference, however, which her reply to my post serves to highlight. She says there “I do not accuse Frege of plagiarism. . . I just show that he plagiarized the Stoics. The title [“Frege plagiarized the Stoics”] is descriptive . . .” That claim, as I will now briefly argue, falls apart.
Why would a respected historian of ancient philosophy, formerly a professor at Yale and now at All Souls, resort to claiming that Frege had “plagiarized” the Stoics? When you look at the paper more closely, you realize a number of things: (1) We’re not talking about Frege the inventor of modern predicate logic (the author of the Begriffsschrift and Grundgesetze), nor even about Frege the philosopher of logic, logicism, and arithmetic (the author of The Foundations of Arithmetic); we’re talking only about Frege the supposed “philosopher of language,” the later Frege who wrote “On Sense and Reference” and related papers. (2) Even in the case of this Frege, a case is made only that he was influenced by the Stoics, not that he “plagiarized” them (as the author herself recognizes perfectly well, e.g. on pp. 202-4). (3) Most of her case rests on evidence of Frege’s borrowing from the Stoics that had previously been documented in some detail in a 2009 HPL paper by Gabriel, Hülser, and Schlotter, which she dismissively makes fun of in the beginning of her paper and claims to have refuted. (4) Her supposed refutation of that paper concerns none of the details of the Stoics’ influence on Frege, but consists merely in showing — ostensibly — that Frege’s use of Stoic motifs derives not from Frege’s friendship with the scholar of ancient Stoicism Rudolf Hirzel (Frege’s tenant of an apartment in his house in Jena), but from Frege’s own reading of Prantl’s history of logic. Her case here remains (as she admits) circumstantial and far from clear-cut.
My main philosophical interest all along has been in the philosophy of social science, and I’ve found Carnap interesting as a refreshingly different perspective on that subject (which wasn’t his subject) from the currently most popular ones, which I have to admit I mostly find pretty dreary — especially the endless wallowing in “social ontology,” or “social ontologies.” (So you can see how one might find Carnap’s rejection of ontology refreshing.)
I haven’t had much time to work out my ideas on social science over the past couple of years (since my paper with Sheilagh Ogilvie on evidence in social and economic history, and a related review article), but I’m getting back to them, and was recently invited to post something about them (particularly as they apply to language) on the site History and Philosophy of the Language Sciences. This post is just a small corner of a much larger conception, but may be of interest to some readers of this blog as it focusses on philosophy of language, and the nature of meaning, from an empirical point of view. I think the connections to Carnap will be obvious.