“While the idealists were removing every trace of objectivity from Kant’s semantics, there was in a corner of the Austro-Hungarian empire, ignored by the leaders of German philosophy, a Czech priest by the name of Bernard Bolzano, who was engaged in the most far-reaching and successful effort to date to take semantics out of the swamp into which it had been sinking since the days of Descartes. Bolzano was the first to recognize that transcendental philosophy and its idealistic sequel were a reductio ad absurdum of the semantics of modem philosophy. He was also the first to see that the proper prolegomena to any future metaphysics was a study not of transcendental considerations but of what we say and its laws and that consequently the prima philosophia was not metaphysics or ontology but semantics. The development of these ideas in his monumental Wissenschaftslehre and in a variety of other writings established Bolzano as the founder of the semantic tradition. Bolzano’s philosophy was the kind that takes from and then gives life to science. His approach to semantics was developed in dialectical interplay with the decision to solve certain problems concerning the nature of mathematical knowledge. Kant had not even seen these problems; Bolzano solved them. And his solutions were made possible by, and were the source of, a new approach to the content and character of a priori knowledge.”

J. Alberto Coffa, The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap. To the Vienna Station, Edited by Linda Wessels, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991


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