Crispin Wright

Crispin Wright
Born 21 December 1942
Surrey, England
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic
Neo-logicism (Scottish School)[1]
Institutions All Souls College, Oxford
Main interests
Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of language
Philosophy of mathematics
Frege · Wittgenstein
Notable ideas
Rule-following considerations[2]
Truth pluralism[3]
Epistemic entitlement[4]
Anti-realist semantics for empirical language[5]

Crispin James Garth Wright (/rt/; born 21 December 1942) is a British philosopher, who has written on neo-Fregean (neo-logicist) philosophy of mathematics, Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and on issues related to truth, realism, cognitivism, skepticism, knowledge, and objectivity. He is Professor of Philosophy at New York University and Professor of Philosophical Research at the University of Stirling, and taught previously at the University of St Andrews, University of Aberdeen, Princeton University and University of Michigan.[6]

Life and career

He was born in Surrey and was educated at Birkenhead School (1950–61) and at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in Moral Sciences in 1964 and taking a PhD in 1968. He took an Oxford BPhil in 1969 and was elected Prize Fellow and then Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, where he worked until 1978. He then moved to the University of St. Andrews, where he was appointed Professor of Logic and Metaphysics and then the first Bishop Wardlaw University Professorship in 1997. As of fall 2008, he is professor at New York University (NYU). He has also taught at the University of Michigan, Oxford University, Columbia University, and Princeton University. Crispin Wright is founder and director of Arché at the University of St. Andrews, which he left in September 2009 to take up leadership of the new Northern Institute of Philosophy (NIP) at the University of Aberdeen.

Philosophical work

In the philosophy of mathematics, he is best known for his book Frege's Conception of Numbers as Objects (1983), where he argues that Frege's logicist project could be revived by removing the axiom schema of unrestricted comprehension (sometimes referred to as Basic Law V) from the formal system. Arithmetic is then derivable in second-order logic from Hume's principle. He gives informal arguments that (i) Hume's principle plus second-order logic is consistent, and (ii) from it one can produce the Dedekind–Peano axioms. Both results were proven informally by Gottlob Frege (Frege's Theorem), and would later be more rigorously proven by George Boolos and Richard Heck. Wright is one of the major proponents of neo-logicism, alongside his frequent collaborator Bob Hale. He has also written Wittgenstein and the Foundations of Mathematics (1980).

In general metaphysics, his most important work is Truth and Objectivity (Harvard University Press, 1992). He argues in this book that there need be no single, discourse-invariant thing in which truth consists, making an analogy with identity. There need only be some principles regarding how the truth predicate can be applied to a sentence, some 'platitudes' about true sentences. Wright also argues that in some contexts, probably including moral contexts, superassertibility will effectively function as a truth predicate. He defines a predicate as superassertible if and only if it is "assertible" in some state of information and then remains so no matter how that state of information is enlarged upon or improved. Assertiveness is warrant by whatever standards inform the discourse in question.

Many of his most important papers in philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophical logic, meta-ethics, and the interpretation of Wittgenstein have been collected in two volumes published by Harvard University Press.



  • Wittgenstein on the Foundations of Mathematics (Harvard University Press, 1980)
  • Frege's Conception of Numbers as Objects (Humanities Press 1983)
  • Truth and Objectivity (Harvard University Press, 1992)
  • Realism, Meaning, and Truth, 2nd edition (Blackwell 1993)
  • The Reason's Proper Study (co-authored with Bob Hale) (Oxford University Press, 2001)
  • Rails to Infinity (Harvard University Press, 2001)
  • Saving the Differences (Harvard University Press, 2003).


  1. Archived 2006-12-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. C. Wright (1989), "Wittgenstein's Rule-following Considerations and the Central Project of Theoretical Linguistics", in Reflections on Chomsky, ed. A. George, Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell; reprinted in C. Wright (2001), Rails to Infinity, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard.
  3. Pluralist Theories of Truth (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  4. Epistemic Entitlement – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  5. Dummett, Michael – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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