Frank Ramsey: A more human philosophy

Cheryl Misak in the TLS:

During the 1920s, Frank Ramsey made massive contributions to no fewer than four disciplines: philosophy, economics, mathematics and subjective utility theory. In 1999, the philosopher Donald Davidson caught his brilliance by coining the term the “Ramsey Effect”: when you discover that your exciting and apparently original philosophical discovery has already been presented, and presented more elegantly, by Frank Ramsey.

The 1920s were to be Ramsey’s only window in which to make his contributions. When the decade began, he was a seventeen year old, starting his mathematics undergraduate degree at Trinity College, Cambridge. Before he graduated, he had demolished John Maynard Keynes’s new theory of objective probability relations; made a valiant attempt at repairing a defect in Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica; translated Wittgenstein’s enormously difficult Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus from German to English; and published a critical notice of the Tractatus for the journal Mind, which still stands as one of the most challenging commentaries of that influential book.

This was a stunning run for an undergraduate. Keynes was building an economics empire at King’s and he knew a good thing when he saw it. In an impressive show of administrative skill and sleight of hand, he snapped up the young prodigy before Trinity could blink.

More here.