A Poor Concept Script

Hartley Slater


The formal structure of Frege’s ‘concept script’ has been widely adopted in logic text books since his time, even though its rather elaborate symbols have been abandoned for more convenient ones. But there are major difficulties with its formalisation of pronouns, predicates, and propositions, which infect the whole of the tradition which has followed Frege. It is shown first in this paper that these difficulties are what has led to many of the most notable paradoxes associated with this tradition; the paper then goes on to indicate the lines on which formal logic—and also the lambda calculus and set theory—needs to be restructured, to remove the difficulties.
Throughout the study of what have come to be known as first-, second-, and higher-order languages, what has been primarily overlooked is that these languages are abstractions. Many well known paradoxes, we shall see, arose because of the elementary level of simplification which has been involved in the abstract languages studied. Straightforward resolutions of the paradoxes immediately appear merely through attention to languages of greater sophistication, notably natural language, of course. The basic problem has been exclusive attention to a theory in place of what it is a theory of, leading to a focus on mathematical manipulation, which ‘brackets off ’ any natural language reading.

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