C. D. Broad, review of Filosofins Historia by Anders Wedberg, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 72 (Jul., 1968), pp. 269-271.

Filosofins Historia (frdn Bolzano till Wittgenstein). By Anders Wedberg. (Stockholm : Bonniers. 1966. Pp. 426. Price paper 57 Sw.kr.).

This is the third, and presumably the last, volume of Professor Wedberg's very interesting and highly original history of philosophy. The first volume, Antiken och medeltiden, appeared in 1958, and the second, Nyare tiden till romantiken, in 1959. It is good news to read that a translation of the whole work into English is under way.

After a short Preface, Wedberg has a pretty elaborate first chapter entitled "The last 150 years" (pp. 13 to 61), in which he gives a conspectus, from his own point of view, of the development of what might be called "analytical philosophy" during this period. The following ten chapters (II to XI) deal in detail with particular authors and their works. They are (in English translation) entitled :

"Completion and new creation; Bernard Bolzano" (pp. 62 to 98);
"Logic and arithmetic; Gottlob Frege" (pp. 99 to 135);
"Logic and empiricism; Bertrand Russell" (pp. 136 to 171);
"Tractatus logico-philosophicus" (pp. 172 to 209);
"Experience and language; Rudolf Carnap and logical empiricism" (pp. 210 to 261);
"Formalisation" (pp. 262 to 302);
"Common-sense and analysis; George Edward Moore" (pp. 303 to 320);
"Linguistic philosophy; The later Wittgenstein and Oxford Philosophy" (pp. 321 to 354);
"Empirical semantics; Arne Naess and the Oslo School" (pp.355 to 365) ; and
" 'Metaphysica est delenda'; Axel Hagerström and the Uppsala School" (pp. 366 to 396).
It should be noted that of these ten chapters the first eight are concerned with writers and with topics already familiar to contemporary non-Scandinavian philosophers. But the ninth and the tenth deal with important philosophical developments which have been fundamentally Scandinavian. The Oslo School has, indeed, been influenced by foreign analytic philosophy, but has not as yet had much influence on it. And the Uppsala School was wholly uninfluenced by Anglo-Saxon analytic philosophy, and has had almost no influence on it, and yet bears in some respects a most striking resemblance to certain developments contemporary with it in England and the U.S.A. The book ends with a very full section (pp. 397 to 418) detailing the literature relevant to each of the eleven preceding chapters, and with an Index of names and subjects (pp. 419 to 426).

It seems to me that it will be of most use to English readers if I confine my further remarks to the following two topics, viz., (A) The Preface and Chapter I, in which Wedberg gives an admirable critical conspectus of the main influences which have acted upon him and of his general views about the authors and their work which he treats in detail in later chapters; and (B) Chapter XI, on Hagerström and the Uppsala School, a topic which is interesting and important but quite unfamiliar to most contemporary philosophers outside Scandinavia. As to the main chapters of the book, I will content myself with saying that they seem to me first-rate, and such as could be written only by a man who combines, as Wedberg does, an immense amount of intelligent and sympathetic but highly critical reading with an expert mastery of modern formal logic.

(A) The Preface and Chapter I. Wedberg was born in 1913, and was a student at Uppsala University during the early 1930s. In the Preface he tells us that he has been personally influenced by the following philosophers at successive periods of his life. First in his student days, by Hagerström and by the latter's pupils Phalen and Oxen-stierna. Then, in the middle 1930s by the " Cambridge School ", i.e., Moore, Russell and myself. Next, by the logical empiricists and by the whole line of thought in modern philosophy which is inspired by, and closely connected with, mathematical logic. And finally, during the 1950s by Arne Naess, and no doubt by his own present Norwegian colleague at Stockholm, Professor Harald Ofstad.

The introductory chapter "The last 150 years" is divided into the following main Sections, viz.:

  1. "Philosophical world-views and natural science" (pp. 13 to 27);
  2. "The problem of consciousness" (pp. 27 to 44); and
  3. "Analytic philosophy" (pp. 44 to 61).

Under the first heading are treated

  1. "Transcendental philosophy and its offshoots" (pp. 13 to 15);
  2. "The idea of immanence, and the criticism of it" (pp. 15 to 16);
  3. "The natural scientific picture of the world during the XIX-th. Century" (pp. 16 to 17);
  4. "The dissolution within natural science of the mechanistic picture of the world" (pp. 18 to 19);
  5. "The empiricist criticisms of science" (pp. 19 to 23);
  6. "Three philosophical reactions" (pp. 24 to 27), viz.,
    1. "The positivistic reaction " (pp. 24 to 26) -- Mach, the earlier and the later Wittgenstein, Carnap, and Quine;
    2. "The sceptical reaction" (p. 26) -- in particular certain, but not by any means all, of Russell's relevant writings; and
    3. "The metaphysical reaction " (pp. 26 to 27) -- partly religious or mystical, e.g., Duhem and Bergson, partly metaphysical, e.g., Russell in his Analysis of Mind and his Analysis of Matter, and (as borderline cases) Alexander and Whitehead.

Under the second heading are treated

  1. "Statement of the problem" (pp. 27 to 29);
  2. "The problem of immanence once more" (pp. 29 to 31);
  3. "Some ideas of Bolzano and of Frege" (pp. 31 to 34);
  4. "Some ideas of Husserl" (pp. 34 to 35);
  5. "Brentano and the traditional act-psychology" (pp. 35 to 41);
  6. "The Hume-Mach tradition" (pp. 41 to 43); and
  7. "Behaviourism" (pp. 43 to 44).

Under the third heading are treated

  1. "Analysis and speculation" (pp. 44 to 46);
  2. "Gottlob Frege" (pp. 47 to 51);
  3. "George Edward Moore" (pp. 51 to 52);
  4. "Bertrand Russell" (pp. 52 to 53);
  5. "Tractatus logico-philosophicus" (p. 53);
  6. "Rudolf Carnap and logical empiricism" (pp. 54 to 56);
  7. "Formalization" (pp. 56 to 58); and
  8. "The later Wittgenstein" (pp. 58 to 61).

On each of the twenty-one topics, enumerated above under the letters of the alphabet in the three main sections, Wedberg attempts to clear up ambiguities, to state alternatives, and to express his own tentative conclusions. Space forbids me to go into detail, and I must confine myself to the following few points which seem specially interesting in reference to his own position.

  1. He thinks that the nineteenth century scientific picture of the world has lived on in many philosophers, after it has long been abandoned by physicists in their professional work. This, he thinks, persists, e.g., in the later Wittgenstein and in the current Oxford School.
  2. He considers that logical empiricism is primarily an attempt, by help of mathematical logic, to give more precise and systematic form to a certain complex of ideas about the natural sciences and their interconnexion. With this attempt he greatly sympathizes. But his present view is that it has so far not led to any even approximately satisfactory result, even on the fundamental question as to what is and what is not "observable".
  3. Of Russell's neutral monism he says: "I do not believe that it will hold water, but it is interesting as a type of philosophy for which I must confess my sympathy in principle".
  4. Each generation of analytic philosophers has tended to think of itself as revolutionary, and as laying the basis for something quite new, viz., a self-critical, scientific philosophy. Wedberg thinks that this has always been a "self-flattering illusion".
  5. Tractatus logico-philosophicus has, in parts, certainly been a stimulus to much thinking which can properly be called "analytic"; but Wedberg considers that the book as a whole consists essentially of metaphysical speculation.
  6. Wedberg considers that analysis, as practised by the later Wittgenstein and by the Oxford School, becomes in principle an empirical study of actual languages, of the same kind as is pursued by students of linguistics. This is not incompatible with the undoubted fact that the later Wittgenstein notes certain features which are not of interest to the professional linguist.

(B) Chapter XI. Finally, I would say a word about the chapter devoted to Hagerström and his pupil Phalen. Hagerström's dates are 1868-1939, and those of Phalen 1884-1931. As to Hagerström, Wedberg considers that the essential features in his mature philosophy are

  1. a naturalistic, materialistic view of the world,
  2. a reasoned rejection of all metaphysics,
  3. a rejection of subjectivism in epistemology, and
  4. the assertion and elaboration of an emotive theory of utterances which ostensibly express judgments of value (whether moral or aesthetic) and/or normative judgments.

As to the views of Hagerström under headings (i), (ii) and (iii), it is of interest to make the following remarks, (a) He and the early Moore arrived, in complete independence of each other, at views then unorthodox and rather remarkably alike, (b) Both he and his pupil Phalen would, however, have been quite unsympathetic to the favourable view of common-sense and everyday language, more or less common to the later Moore and many of the present-day Oxford philosophers. He, and still more explicitly Phalen, held that everyday language contains in solution certain intrinsically incoherent notions, which have led in philosophy to explicit contradictions which it is the main business of the critical historian to expose.

Under heading (iv) it is important to notice that Hagerstrom expounded and developed in great detail an emotive theory of utterances which ostensibly express valuations and/or normative judgments, long before various forms of such a theory became almost de rigueur in U.S.A. and in Great Britain. His views have had very important practical consequences in jurisprudence and in the practical administration of justice in Scandinavian countries.

I will end with the following characteristic remarks of Professor Wedberg. He thinks that Hagerström's reactions were themselves strongly emotionally based, and that his view of himself as a rigid logician was mistaken. "The complex network of abstract reasoning which Hagerström built up is in my view quite uninteresting. But the visions themselves are interesting ".

C. D. Broad