In 1976, Michael Dummett delivered the William James Lectures at Harvard University. These lectures are usually published by Harvard University Press shortly after they are given, but professional commitments kept Dummett from making the necessary revisions until the late 1980’s, and the lectures were not published until 1991. The effects of the delay were not, however, entirely negative. It gave Dummett time to revise and expand the lectures so that the resulting book, The Logical Basis of Metaphysics, can fairly be seen as the definitive expression of his position on a number of the logical, semantic, and metaphysical issues that have been the focus of his career. Although the book may be the definitive statement of his views on these issues, Dummett does not regard it as providing a definitive solution to them. He says the book is merely his attempt to establish a base camp for future assaults on the metaphysical peaks still looming in the distance; he does not claim to take the expedition any further than the foothills of metaphysical truth.
The Logical Basis of Metaphysics begins with the observation that the nonprofessional expects philosophers to answer deep questions about the nature of the world. Such questions, concerning, for example, whether the will is free, whether the soul is immortal, or whether God exists, have traditionally been at the center of philosophical thinking. However, from the nonprofessional’s...
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