William Kneale

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William Calvert Kneale (born June 22, 1906 in Liverpool , † June 24, 1990 in Grassington, Yorkshire, UK) was a British logician , historian of logic and theorist of science . He achieved greater fame through the history of formal logic The Development of Logic (1962), written together with his wife Martha Kneale , which is still considered the standard work in this field today.


Kneale first attended the Liverpool Institute in Liverpool before he was able to study classical philology at Brasenose College , Oxford thanks to a scholarship . After his degrees (1925 & 1927) he spent semesters abroad in Paris and Freiburg, where he a. a. Edmund Husserl heard. After first positions as a lecturer in Aberdeen and Newcastle, he became a Fellow of Exeter College , Oxford in 1932 . Kneale was a close friend of Gilbert Ryle and supported him and the language philosopher John Langshaw Austin in their efforts to reorient philosophy at Oxford. In contrast to the two, Kneale is not seen as a representative of the philosophy of natural language , also known as Oxford Philosophy . In 1938 he married Martha Hurst, who was a lecturer in philosophy and a fellow at Lady Margaret Hall . The two children are statistician George Kneale and philosopher Jane Heal. Martha Hurst Kneale, an expert on ancient philosophy, took over the chapters on the logic of ancient Greece in the joint project The Development of Logic , on which both worked for around ten years. In 1960, Kneale succeeded JL Austin as White's Professor of Moral Philosophy . 1963/4 Kneale became chairman of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science . In 1964 he was chairman of the Kneale Commission, which carried out an extensive reorganization of the study at Oxford. In 1966 he withdrew from the apprenticeship due to illness. From 1971 to 1972 he was Vice President of the British Academy , a member of which he had been elected in 1950. Kneale died in 1990.


Kneale has been concerned with the history of logic since the 1940s ; his first work in this area examined the history of the reception of the co-founder of formal logic, George Boole . His first essay on the subject, Boole and the Revival of Logic , was published in Mind magazine in 1948. As a philosopher of science, Kneale also dealt with probability theory and inductive thinking . He also wrote some papers on philosophical logic , in particular on the theory of truth in natural languages and on the linguistic treatment of logical paradoxes .

Work on Development of Logic took place from 1947 to 1957 in close collaboration with his wife Martha, who wrote the chapters on the logic of ancient Greece. The work represents the most extensive English-language history of logic from the 20th century and can only be compared with NI Styazhkin, Formirovanie matematicheskoj logiki from 1967. Although Kneale and Kneale cover the entire history of logic, they devote a relatively large amount of space to Aristotle and Gottlob Frege . The work can thus be seen as a contributory factor in the rediscovery of Frege's thinking in the late 1960s, as its proponent Michael Dummett , whose colleagues were the Kneales in Oxford.

In addition to the two monographs Development of Logic and Probability and Induction , Kneale wrote over forty articles on metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, epistemology and philosophical logic. The Province of Logic , a fairly short article that appeared in a volume in 1956 aimed at self-portraying contemporary British philosophy, was more influential . In this article Kneale generalized the idea of ​​the rules of inference from a relationship between individual sentences to an abstract inferential relationship between sets of sentences, similar to a Gentzen calculus .


A selection of Kneale's most important publications:

  • Boole and the revival of logic , in: Mind (ns) 57, 149-175, 1948.
  • Probability and Induction , Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1949, reprinted 1952, 1963.
  • Boole and the algebra of logic , in: Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 12: 53-63, 1956.
  • The province of logic , in HD Lewis (editor), Contemporary British Philosophy, Third series (London, Allen & Unwin; New York, Humanities Press), 235-261, 1956.
  • Gottlob Frege and mathematical logic , in AJ Ayer , et al., The Revolution in Philosophy (London, Macmillan), 26-40, 1956.
  • With Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic , Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1962. ²1984, ISBN 0-19-824773-7 , Google Book Page Preview
    • dt: History of logic from the beginnings in ancient Greece to the philosophical developments of logic a. Mathematics according to Gottlob Frege (1848–1925). With selection bibliography and Register. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1978.
  • Russell's paradox and some others , British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 22, 321-328, 1971. Reprinted in: GW Roberts (editor), Bertrand Russell Memorial Volume (London, Allen & Unwin; New York, Humanities Press), 34- 51.


  • Timothy Smiley: William Calvert Kneale, 1906–1990 . In: Proceedings of the British Academy . tape 87 , 1995, pp. 385-397 ( thebritishacademy.ac.uk [PDF]).

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Timothy Smiley, Kneale, William Calvert (1906–1990) , entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press 2004 online edition
  2. Rome Harré, Obituary (for William Kneale), in: British Journal for Philosophy of Science , 42 (1991) 145-146
  3. ^ Thomas Drucker / Irving H. Anellis, 'William Kneale' memorial notice, Modern Logic Volume 3, Number 2 (1993), 158-161. P. 159.
  4. Стяжкин Н. И. Формирование математической логики. - М., 1967
  5. ^ Thomas Drucker / Irving H. Anellis, 'William Kneale' memorial notice, Modern Logic Volume 3, Number 2 (1993), 158-161. P. 160.
  6. ^ Thomas Drucker / Irving H. Anellis, 'William Kneale' memorial notice, Modern Logic Volume 3, Number 2 (1993), 158-161. P. 161.