Archives of Scientific Philosophy: The Frank Ramsey Papers
363 Hillman Library
3960 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
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Further Information on Frank Ramsey from Cambridge University.
Frank Plumpton Ramsey's career was ended abruptly by his untimely death in 1930. He was only 26 at the time but had already earned the respect and indebtedness of such powerful thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and John Maynard Keynes. In the preface to his Philosophical Investigations, for instance, Wittgenstein says that he was forced to recognize "grave mistakes" in his own thought by the criticism his ideas encountered from Frank Ramsey, with whom he discussed them in innumerable conversations during the last two years of Ramsey's life. Though much smaller than the Carnap and Reichenbach Collections, the Ramsey Papers clearly evidence their author's original and lasting contributions to symbolic logic, epistemology, philosophy of science, foundations of mathematics, probability theory, and economics.
Ramsey's papers are handwritten, and much is unpublished. Of special interest is an incomplete book on logical theory. The manuscript was occasionally worked on during the last few years of Ramsey's life and shows evidence of considerable revision. Several chapters exist in various draft stages and bear titles like "The Coherence Theory of Truth," "Judgement," and "Knowledge and Opinion." There is also a draft of a paper on the foundations of mathematics that Ramsey delivered to the London Mathematical Society in 1925 and published originally in its Proceedings. In this piece Ramsey disposes of the problematic axiom of reducibility and of the difficulties associated with identity and the multiplicative axiom in Russell's Principia .
Other items in the collection include Ramsey's notes, which range over a number of issues. There is a long outline of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, apparently prepared for discussions with Wittgenstein. Other notes deal with various aspects of Wittgenstein's philosophy, logical theory, foundations of mathematics, the infinite, visual space, and solipsism. They bear headings like "Meaning," "Reconsiderations of Causality, Probability," "First Philosophy," and "Existential Judgements."
The collection also includes Ramsey's notes on economics and politics, which illustrate the development of theories he later propounded in published essays like "A Mathematical Theory of Saving" and "A Contribution to the Theory of Taxation." Of these two, according to Keynes, the former is "one of the most remarkable contributions to mathematical economics ever made." An essay entitled "The Industrial Revolution: 1760-1832" and part of a paper entitled "Ethics and Politics," which evidences the influence of G. E. Moore, are also in the collection.
The Ramsey Collection contains little correspondence and nothing from his library. Notebooks from Ramsey's student days, however, include essays he wrote on topics in political philosophy and ethics as part of his studies at Cambridge. Other notebooks cover Moore's lectures on metaphysics. There is a series of unpublished papers for the Cambridge Discussion Society with titles like "The Social Irresponsibility of the Scholar," "Induction--Keynes and Wittgenstein," and "Civilization and Happiness." Also worth mentioning is part of a paper on Wittgenstein's theory of identity. The few pieces of correspondence in the collection are between Ramsey and Wittgenstein and deal with this subject.
A subject index and a proper name inventory provide easy access to the Ramsey Papers. Researchers should note that the University of Pittsburgh owns all rights to the papers of Ramsey that are housed here. The curator of the ASP will gladly consult with anyone wishing to publish material from the collection.