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Cantor on Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic: Cantor's 1885 Review of Frege's Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik

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In 1885, Georg Cantor published his review of Gottlob Frege's Grundlagen der Arithmetik. In this essay, we provide its first English translation together with an introductory note. We also provide a translation of a note by Ernst Zermelo on Cantor's review, and a new translation of Frege's brief response to Cantor. In recent years, it has become philosophical folklore that Cantor's 1885 review of Frege's Grundlagen already contained a warning to Frege. This warning is said to concern the defectiveness of Frege's notion of extension. The exact scope of such speculations varies and sometimes extends as far as crediting Cantor with an early hunch of the paradoxical nature of Frege's notion of extension. William Tait goes even further and deems Frege 'reckless' for having missed Cantor's explicit warning regarding the notion of extension. As such, Cantor's purported inkling would have predated the discovery of the Russell-Zermelo paradox by almost two decades. In our introductory essay, we discuss this alleged implicit (or even explicit) warning, separating two issues: first, whether the most natural reading of Cantor's criticism provides an indication that the notion of extension is defective; second, whether there are other ways of understanding Cantor that support such an interpretation and can serve as a precisification of Cantor's presumed warning.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK 2: Department of Philosophy, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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