In this elegant book, Claire Ortiz Hill offers a sophisticated rethinking of the foundations of twentieth-century analytic philosophy. She carefully uncovers the flaws of the central analytic tenet that philosophical discourse is reducible to identities. Closely examining the writings of the analytic philosophers Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, and Willard Quine, she shows that the extensionalistic treatment of identity initiated by Frege and followed by the others has served as a hidden constraint on subsequent work in the mainstream of analytic philosophy. The result has been a flawed treatment of a range of philosophical problems, including necessity, objecthood, meaning, the ontology of mathematics, and Russell's paradox. Hill shows that heroic attempts by philosophers to free philosophical discourse from "intensions"-meanings, concepts, attributes-must fail.
Hill's conclusions have implications not only for logicians but for all those inquiring into the "ultimate furniture of the universe." She illustrates her arguments with well-chosen examples from a variety of sources-astronomy, the Kennedy assassination, organ transplantation-and shows how lack of clarity in regard to the abstract issue of identity has consequences in such concrete areas as medical ethics and the abortion debate, and how clarity in this issue can bring a better understanding to other problems of analytic philosophy.
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