Bolzano’s dates are 1781-1848. Thus his life includes the French revolution, the Napoleonic wars and the conservative reaction (in the Habsburg lands, the “pre-march” time or Vormärz). Most of his writings date from the years 1810—1848. A great many histories of philosophy call this period the Age of German (Post-Kantian) Idealism; and certainly many philosophical works of that time fit that description. Bolzano’s don’t, though, and this is perhaps one reason why he has not received much attention in general histories of philosophy (there are noteworthy exceptions, however: for example, the third volume of Anders Wedberg’s A History of Philosophy bears the subtitle: from Bolzano to Wittgenstein.). A second reason for neglect is that some of his best and most influential work was in the foundations of mathematics. According to Bolzano, and I think he was right about this, such foundational work belongs to both mathematics and philosophy. Generally, though, while work on the foundations of arithmetic (e.g. Frege’s) is often recognized as philosophical, work on, e.g., the foundations of geometry or the calculus is considered to belong to mathematics but not to philosophy (again, there are exceptions: Abraham Robinson and John Lane Bell come to mind here). A third factor was political: Bolzano fell into disfavour with the authorities in Vienna and was comprehensively persecuted: removed from his professorship at the Charles University in Prague.
Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Paul RusnockRead More