Michael Dummett's book Truth and the Past?
June 5, 2004 11:53 AM   Subscribe

PhilosophyFilter--I have a question about the work of Michael Dummett, specifically his book Truth and the Past. [more inside]
posted by Prospero to Religion & Philosophy (3 answers total)
Michael Dummett’s book Truth and the Past looks really interesting, but its deceptive slimness (122 pages), its high price ($24.50), and its title make me suspect that it’s not for the faint of heart. So I want to know what books I’d have to read in order to have enough background to read Dummett’s book.

For the sake of comprehensiveness and for the archival purposes of the thread, we’ll lay down some basic assumptions:

--Assume that I have little or no knowledge of recent philosophy, but that I have a vague though reasonable understanding of major philosophical concepts of previous centuries.

--Assume that I can read any work of philosophy, no matter how difficult its concepts, as long as its ideas are self-contained, or it refers only to other twentieth-century works that I have already read, or refers to the previously mentioned major philosophical concepts of which I have a vague though reasonable understanding.

--Assume that time is not a factor: that is, if reading the book requires that I read sixty others first, and it takes me ten years to do so, then that’s fine.

--Primary texts are preferable to secondary texts, though if a secondary text will, in your opinion, help me along, list it along with the primary text it’s glossing.

--Personal stylistic preference: I don’t mind analytical philosophy, but the less it looks like pure math on the page, the better it is for me.

The aggregate answer from all the replies in the thread might be something like this: “Well, in order to read Truth and the Past, first you’d have to read Dummett’s book [insert name of book]. But you’re not going to get much out of that unless you’ve read Frege first, and probably [insert some other author]. So before you tackle any Dummett at all you should look at [book] and [book], but come to think of it, you should probably look at [insert book] before you start on the Frege.”
posted by Prospero at 11:58 AM on June 5, 2004

Although I cannot help answer your question about what to read as preparation, I would point out that the Amazon page linked does give a pretty reasonable clue as to why the book has a short page count: it is a collection of three lectures he delivered at Columbia University.
posted by billsaysthis at 12:10 PM on June 5, 2004

Read Simon Blackburn's Spreading The Word. This fine introduction to philosophy of language (it's at about beginning grad student level) should give you enough background to tackle more esoteric material like Dummett's books.
posted by crunchburger at 4:04 PM on June 5, 2004

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