Constance Jones, Christine Ladd-Franklin, and Victoria Welby: Grandmothers of Analytic Philosophy in Mind, 1888-1911

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Female authors made vital contributions to the development of formal and philosophical logic and the philosophy of language in the 1890s-1900s. Although these women remain largely neglected by historians of analytic, a fresh look at their works reveals them to have been ahead of their time, proposing ideas which did not fully come into their own until the middle period of analytic philosophy. Christine Ladd-Franklin was a formal logician who invented a novel calculus with a NAND-operator and held sophisticated philosophical views on logical consequence and domains of discourse. E. E. C. (Constance) Jones was a philosophical logician, Mistress of Girton, a well-known figure in her day, cited admiringly by J.N. Keynes and G.F. Stout amongst others. Jones formulated the sense-reference distinction two years before Frege. She defended a then novel view of logic as a science of the inferential relations between propositions, rebutted psychologism about logic, and engaged in several published debates with Russell and Moore, including in Mind. Ladd-Franklin and Jones were pioneers of women’s education, too, inspiring and teaching later generations of female logicians. Victoria Welby, a self-taught philosopher of language who, having raised her children, finally found the time to set herself up as a gentlewoman-scholar, was well-read in the newly emerging sciences of evolutionary biology and psychology and argued that the study of language must be brought into dialogue with them. When Russell first disavowed the idea that ‘symbols were always, so to speak, transparent’, he admitted that he had first seen a rebuttal of that idea in ‘Lady Welby’s work on the subject, but failed to take it seriously’ (Russell 1926: 118). Almost a hundred years after Russell’s admission, the time has come to find room for these remarkable women and their contributions in the canon of analytic philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Early Years of Mind
Subtitle of host publicationMaking Contemporary Philosophy and Psychology
EditorsLukas Verburgt
PublisherOxford: Oxford University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


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