The Monologue of Frege, delivered through Ouija board to the next door neighbour of celebrated logician Hintikka in 1962
Although dead, I can see the way logic developed, it was misguided. Being dead, I’ve been handed a new set of problems, I have my own problems, the misguidedness of FOL, in a strict sense, is not one of them. I know logic, I knew it then but also now, again now, now I know it differently, in death I have become closer to it. By dying one reaches truthful conclusions, death is the reaching of truthful conclusions, it is like logic in this way. But it also leads to more logic (there are inquiries it doesn’t conclude, questions it doesn’t answer).
It is only by a great deal of work that I have managed to make the misguidedness of FOL a concern for myself. There’s no chronology in all this blackness, everything has to be worked out from scratch, you don’t have any mental processes to fall back, you can’t just remember, it takes a lot of work to get oneself into any position. I have not been able to draw on any of the resources or zeal that animated my concern with logic in life – there’s no way of telling if this was even my zeal, if it was me that was Frege at all, it probably wasn’t. That is beside the point, the mishandling of the Begriffschift by those who inherited it, adopted its innovations, doesn’t leave me indifferent, my indignation works on behalf of Frege, it is Frege’s indignation, or it could just as well be. Frege’s is a great indignation, rightly so: FOL is a betrayal. I am the indignant, dead Frege.
Logic was mathematized enough! The Begriffschift was carefully designed to overhang the precipice, it had built-in restraint, looking down, dignified, surveying the dicey swills of plurality that stretched out below. But they sunk it! In the mire! Set theory is a load of saucy rubbish anyway; ironically enough it is the mathematicians who’ve realized this while the logicians continue to sink lower and lower. Logic must rely on its own resources. Living Logic, Logic as used and practised by the living, represents humanities hope for the perfectibility of language. Its resources, many neglected, many undiscovered, are rhetorical, a stock of symbols and gestures unflinchingly coherent, to be carefully extricated from their homes within the living tissue of humanities communicative fervour. The tools of mathematical discovery do not belong in the hands of logicians. The Logic of the living is concerned with how truthful things can be said not with how they can be discovered, the difference is slight but crucial. Logic is not intrepid.
The indignant, dead Frege, in the realm of reference: the un-used symbols buzz around me, unnoticed, jilted, Miss Havishams.
The generations march on. It is in the interest of each generation to make it more difficult for the next to distinguish between development and degeneration – growing, tending to, this indistinguishability is the only ‘achievement’ conceivable in the language of FOL. The very idea of starting again, impossible anyway, strikes logicians as the height of rudeness and ingratitude; it is the rudeness not the impossibility of this goal that puts them off even considering it. The reason people don’t try and climb back into the safety of their mother’s wombs, away from whatever troubles and indignities the world continually dumps upon them, isn’t because of its impossibility but its impropriety. A lot has been done in the pursuit of impossible goals, but very little in the pursuit of rude ones.
My only hope lies in the scattered vestiges of an authentically logical ambition that lie semi-dormant within FOL, often put to horrible uses. Negation has a particularly large role to play (there’s no two ways around it, things have degenerated too far). In my flights of fancy I imagine logical negation accruing the power to remove entire symbols, permanently; a certain move by a solitary logician, not necessarily entirely aware of the import of what he’s doing, and poof! the place of an entire symbol within the system becomes untenable for every user of the system whether distant in space or in time. A great, cleansing fire. Triggering, legislating migrations of symbols from system to system, looking for refuge. The re-shaping of the whole. The excited buzzing of the un-used symbols, their time coming close, jostling for position. Shouts of ‘Begriffschift!’