Richard Sørli: Logically Alien Thought: Frege (and Kant)

Frege defends a factualist conception of logical laws. He argues that the laws of logic are descriptive, since they tell us something about how the world is. According to some of Frege’s interpreters – among them, James Conant and Hilary Putnam – Frege inherits the Kantian view of logic, which holds that accord with the laws of logic is constitutive of the possibility of thought. From the Kantian view, it follows that sense cannot be made of the idea of disagreeing with a principle of logic: illogical thought is not, properly speaking, thought at all. In this paper I focus on Conant’s reading of Frege. According to Conant, Frege’s commitment to the Kantian view of logic reveals itself in Frege’s attack on psychologism in the Preface to Grundgesetze der Arithmetik. If Conant is right in ascribing the Kantian view of logic to Frege, then there is a conflict in Frege’s conception of logic. The reason for this is that it is difficult to see how logical laws can have the status of being substantive truths about the world unless their falsity can be entertained. The aim of this paper is twofold: In the first part, I explain what the Kantian view of logic amounts to and argues that it is reasonable to ascribe the Kantian view to Kant himself. In the second part, I argue that Frege’s polemic against «die psychologischen Logiker» in Grundgesetze does not commit Frege to the Kantian view of logic and therefore that Conant’s reading of Frege is a misreading.

Keywords: Frege, Kant, Logic, the status of logical laws, psychologism