Crispin Wright

Crispin Wright (born 1942) is a British philosopher, who has written on neo-Fregean philosophy of mathematics, Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and on issues related to truth, realism, cognitivism, skepticism, knowledge, and objectivity.

He was born in Surrey and was educated at Birkenhead School (1950–61) and at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in Moral Sciences in 1964 and taking a PhD in 1968. He took an Oxford BPhil in 1969 and was elected Prize Fellow and then Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, where he worked until 1978. He then moved to the University of St. Andrews, where he was appointed Professor of Logic and Metaphysics and then the first Bishop Wardlaw University Professorship in 1997. As of fall 2008, he is professor at New York University (NYU). He has also taught at the University of Michigan, Oxford University, Columbia University, and Princeton University. Crispin Wright is founder and director of Arché, which he left in September 2009 to take up leadership of the new Northern Institute of Philosophy (NIP) at the University of Aberdeen.

In the philosophy of mathematics, he is best known for his book Frege's Conception of Numbers as Objects (1983), where he argues that Frege's logicist project could be revived by removing the Principle of Unrestricted Comprehension (sometimes referred to as Basic Law V) from the formal system. Arithmetic is then derivable in second-order logic from Hume's principle. He gives informal arguments that (i) Hume's principle plus second-order logic is consistent, and (ii) from it one can produce the Dedekind–Peano axioms. Both results were proven informally by Gottlob Frege (Frege's Theorem), and would later be more rigorously proven by George Boolos and Richard Heck. Wright is one of the major proponents of neo-logicism, alongside his frequent collaborator Bob Hale. He has also written Wittgenstein and the Foundations of Mathematics (1980).

In general metaphysics, his most important work is Truth and Objectivity (Harvard University Press, 1992). He argues in this book that there need be no single, discourse-invariant thing in which truth consists, making an analogy with identity. There need only be some principles regarding how the truth predicate can be applied to a sentence, some 'platitudes' about true sentences. Wright also argues that in some contexts, probably including moral contexts, superassertibility will effectively function as a truth predicate. He defines a predicate as superassertible if and only if it is "assertible" in some state of information and then remains so no matter how that state of information is enlarged upon or improved. Assertiveness is warrant by whatever standards inform the discourse in question.

Many of his most important papers in philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophical logic, meta-ethics, and the interpretation of Wittgenstein have been collected in two volumes published by Harvard University Press.

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