Gottlob Frege: biography of this German philosopher

Do you know who Gottlob Frege was? G. Frege (1848-1925) was a German philosopher, logician and mathematician, considered the father of analytical philosophy and mathematical logic.

Analytical philosophy is a branch of knowledge that deals with the logical analysis of scientific language as well as common language. For its part, mathematical logic (or symbolic logic) studies logic and its application in mathematics.

In this article, we will discover the most important stages in the life of this philosopher through a biography of Gottlob Frege, In addition to his most relevant contributions and work in his various fields of study.

    Gottlob Frege: Who was that?

    Gottlob Frege, full name Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) was a German philosopher, as well as a logician and mathematician.. He was born in Wismar, Germany on November 8, 1848, and died in Bad Kleinen, Germany on July 26, 1925.

    For many, Frege is considered the father of two very specific currents in the field of philosophy: mathematical logic and analytical philosophy. With regard to the latter, analytical philosophy, Frege established, with the famous philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, the bases and foundations of this type of thought.

    The most important contributions of Gottlob Frege are in the field of mathematics and the philosophy of language.. Frege became a professor of mathematics at the University of Jena, Germany.

    For a long time (practically until the end of his life), Gottlob Frege went unnoticed in these fields of knowledge and, in a way, “in the shadows”. However, thanks to two eminent personalities, also the philosopher, mathematician and logician Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), and the philosopher and mathematician Giuseppe Peano (1858-1932), Gottlob’s work became widely known.

    Reflection and relevant contributions

    Gottlob Frege believed that mathematics and language could be reduced to logic; with this idea he developed a program of logical nature whose mission was to analyze the fundamentals, both logical and philosophical, of mathematics and language.

    As a result of this whole process, he developed modern logic, which was a kind of antithesis of the preponderant classical logic of the time, in Aristotle’s time. His contributions, heavily influenced by Russell, Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle, gave way to so-called analytical philosophy..

    Thus, we can say that Frege was the first to approach the foundations of mathematics; what he did was establish the relation (according to him, quite close) between the definition of the essence of mathematical knowledge and the rigorous description of demonstrative processes.

    What Frege wanted was to show that arithmetic was a branch of logic and that as such it did not need experience or intuition to prove its principles.

    On the other hand, Gottlob Frege too he was one of the first to analyze language by a logical method. In this way, as we see, Frege sought, for much of his career, to unite logic, mathematics, philosophy and language.


      Looking further into this biography of Gottlob Frege, we know that was born in Wismar (Germany) on November 8, 1848. Her father was Carl Alexander Frege (1809-1866), co-founder and director of a women’s college. His mother was Auguste Wilhelmine Sophie Frege (1815-1898), of the Polish noble family.

      It should be mentioned that when Carl died (in 1866), it was Auguste who was in charge of the direction of this college of women.


      As for the childhood of Gottlob Frege, one can say that certain milestones of this time would mark, in a way, his academic and professional trajectory, in particular as regards philosophy.

      One of these events was the publication of a book by his father, entitled Hülfsbuch zum Unterrichte in der deutschen Sprache für Kinder von 9 bis 13 Jahren. The book was about a topic that would greatly influence Frege’s ideas and interests, and that was the logical structure of the language.

      Academic and professional background

      After finishing his childhood, Gottlob Frege began to study. He first studied compulsory education at the “gymnasium” (secondary school) in Wismar. There he graduated in 1869, at the age of twenty.

      A little later that same year, in 1869, Frege began studying mathematics at the University of Jena. He spent two years at this university, taking subjects in mathematics and physics. Although his career has been in mathematics, Frege also took courses in Kantian philosophy., In which he met the work of Emmanuel Kant.

      Far from being limited to mathematics, Frege also studied philosophy and physics at the universities of Jena and Göttingen (Germany). In addition, in the latter (University of Göttingen) he obtained his doctorate in philosophy in 1873.

      As for his career, Frege began to work as a professor of mathematics in one of the universities where he had studied: the University of Jena. From there he worked most of his life as a math teacher in different entities.

      The influences

      Some of Frege’s most prominent professors were: the philosopher Kuno Fischer (1824-1907) and physicists Hermann Schaeffer (1824-1900), Christian Philipp Karl Snell (1806-1886) and Traugott Schaeffer (1824-1900).

      Noteworthy is the influence of another professor on Frege: physicist Ernst Karl Abbe (1840-1905), known for laying the foundations for modern optics, alongside other colleagues. Arguably, Abbe has been Gottlob Frege’s mentor throughout his academic career.

      relevant work

      We can highlight three essential works of Gottlob Frege, which combine his three fundamental pillars of knowledge: logic, philosophy and mathematics.

      1. Conceptual writing (1879)

      Frege’s first relevant work was Begriffsschrift, which was translated as “ideography, a formal language of pure thought imitating arithmetic”; through it, Frege lays the foundations of modern logic, and establishes, for the first time, a system of mathematical logic, through symbolic language.

      It is curious that this work, which is today one of his most important works (also by philosophy in general), was initially ignored, especially by his colleagues.

      2. Basic concepts of arithmetic (1884)

      Translated as “Fundamentals of Arithmetic”, here Frege specifies what are the philosophical foundations of mathematics.

      3. On meaning and meaning (1892)

      Translated as: “On Meaning and Reference”, this work is currently considered the most read work by Gottlob Frege. More precisely, it is a founding article in which he expresses his fundamental ideas on the philosophy of language.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Author., Weiner, Joan, (cop. 1999). Frege. Oxford University Press.
      • Kenny, A. (1995). Frege: An introduction to the founder of modern analytical philosophy. London: Penguin Books.
      • Mendelsohn, RL (2005). The Philosophy of Gottlob Frege, Cambridge University Press.
      • Ruiza, M., Fernández, T. and Tamaro, I. (2004). Biography of Gottlob Frege. In Biographies and Lives. The online biographical encyclopedia. Barcelona, ​​Spain).

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