The philosopher and the smoker (on the death of Michael Dummett)

A philosopher is someone who claims the sentence “Father Christmas smokes” is an example of realism. Or at least this seems to be implied by the obituary of Sir Michael Dummett published in The Guardian on December the 28th, 2011.

An example would be the thought that Father Christmas smokes. Given that there is no such person as Father Christmas, then neither is there anything to make this thought true or false. (…) So the assumption that a given thought could be true or false even though we had no way of telling which – an assumption that Dummett called “realism” concerning the thought – was immediately problematical.

Indeed it is a sad circumstance: Dummett was one of the brightest minds of the last century, a figurehead of analytic philosophy, an activist, and an expert in such diverse fields as electoral reform and tarots. But he was also famous for his sense of humour – so he won’t mind a little funeral parlour lulz.

(And anyway one wonders if this 1937 Lucky Strike ad provided something of an inspiration for his philosophical views on realism as intially expressed in a his 1963 Oxford lectures and subsequently presented in his book Truth and Other Enigmas…)