Frege and German Philosophical Idealism

In Dieter Schott (ed.), Frege: Freund(e) und Feind(e): Proceedings of the International Conference 2013. Logos. pp. 88-104 (2015)
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The received view has it that analytic philosophy emerged as a rebellion against the German Idealists (above all Hegel) and their British epigones (the British neo-Hegelians). This at least was Russell’s story: the German Idealism failed to achieve solid results in philosophy. Of course, Frege too sought after solid results. He, however, had a different story to tell. Frege never spoke against Hegel, or Fichte. Similarly to the German Idealists, his sworn enemy was the empiricism (in his case, John Stuart Mill). Genealogically, this stance is not difficult to explain. Frege grew up as a philosopher in the context of the German Idealists. He was a member of Karl Snell’s “Sunday Circle” of university teachers in Jena. The group was influenced with Schelling and the German romanticists. The first Anglophone scholar to point out what Frege's thought owes to nineteenth-century Germany philosophy, Hans Sluga, argued that Frege followed the philosophical-logical tradition originating with Leibniz and Kant which Trendelenburg and Lotze developed significantly. About the same time, a philosophical historian writing in German, Gottfried Gabriel, did much to bring this tradition to light, casting Frege as neo-Kantian. Advancing beyond Sluga and Gabriel, the present paper reveals that through the mediation of Trendelenburg and especially of Lotze many elements of German idealism found their way into Frege's logic and philosophy.
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