In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Michael Dummett

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Monographs by Dummett
  • Collected Papers by Dummett
  • Selected Papers by Dummett
  • Edited Volumes by Dummett
  • Collections of Critical Essays
  • Dummett and Frege
  • Dummett and Wittgenstein
  • Analytical Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Mathematics

Philosophy Michael Dummett
Bernhard Weiss
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0294


Born in 1925, Professor Sir Michael Dummett spent most of his career working at the University of Oxford, becoming the Wykeham Professor of Logic there in 1979, a post that he held until his retirement in 1992. He was knighted in 1999 and died in 2011. His work in philosophy is marked by his voluminous study of Frege, a study that runs to five books and spans 20 years. Through his detailed engagement with Frege’s works, Dummett develops a number of his own contributions to the subject. He finds in Frege’s writings a distinctive view of the nature of analytical philosophy, which he embraces as the proper method for philosophy; a conception of the relation between a theory of understanding and that of reference; and a set of commitments that Dummett sees as being distinctively realist. With the publication of “Truth” in 1959, Dummett drew the attention of academic philosophers by advancing a conception of debates about realism as semantic disputes, that is, disputes about the relation of language to the world. The conception was refined and amplified through numerous works over the next forty years. Conceiving of the various realism debates as having an essential underlying commonality allowed Dummett to evince a general opposition to realism, which he calls anti-realism, and which, though owing much to the Fregean conception of the relation of the theory of understanding to that of reference, imports Wittgensteinian lessons to impose constraints on an adequate theory of understanding. Though this article concentrates exclusively on Dummett’s work in philosophy, Dummett also made contributions to social choice theory, the history of card games, writing style, and religion.

General Overviews

There are four books that might be thought of as overviews of Dummett’s philosophy. Green 2001 and Weiss 2002 aim to provide accessible introductions and take the philosophy of language as central, and while Green’s approach tends toward the historical, Weiss takes its overarching theme to be Dummett’s characterization of and challenge to realism. Gunson 1998 focuses more specifically on the detail of a Dummettian theory of meaning. But Matar 1997 is quite different. The author adopts what she sees as fundamentals of Dummett’s philosophical outlook and attempts to present a coherent philosophy from that perspective.

  • Green, Karen. Dummett: Philosophy of Language. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2001.

    The book locates Dummett’s philosophy of language in its historical roots beginning with Frege, moving on to Wittgenstein and Quine, and bringing in the intuitionists. The book is an extended examination of Dummett’s attempt to tackle metaphysical issues through the philosophy of language. Although the discussion can be difficult, the book provides insight not only in to Dummett’s work but into that of his influences too.

  • Gunson, Darryl. Michael Dummett and the Theory of Meaning. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

    Gunson adopts a Davidsonian starting point and develops Dummett’s thought in the theory of meaning as a reaction to Davidson’s truth conditional account. Though he doesn’t engage with the details of assertibility conditional accounts of meaning, he examines the main themes guiding construction of such accounts, for instance, the clash between full-bloodedness and modesty; and the characterization of implicit knowledge.

  • Matar, Anat. From Dummett’s Philosophical Perspective. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110808568

    Dummett is apt to present his work on anti-realism as calling for a philosophical research program requiring development of appropriate theories of meaning for different regions of language. Matar argues that a truer reflection of his basic philosophical outlook calls for adoption of a view, which she labels linguistic Kantianism.

  • Weiss, Bernhard. Michael Dummett. Chesham, UK: Acumen, 2002.

    Beginning with Dummett’s views about the nature of a theory of meaning, Weiss then considers his characterization of realism. With these elements in place, he presents Dummett’s challenge to realism, turning finally to the development of the anti-realist position. Though critical in parts, it is a sympathetic reading of Dummett’s thought.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.