This Week’s Special: Gottlob Frege’s, “On Sense and Reference.”

By Daniel A. Kaufman

http://brommage.freeshell.org/tlp/Frege.pdf

On tap this week is likely the single most influential paper in the philosophy of language, Gottlob Frege’s “On Sense and Reference” (Über Sinn und Bedeutung), originally published in 1892.  So many and wide-ranging are the paper’s implications that philosophers are still talking about it today.  While the tide certainly has turned against the Fregean account of meaning, there remain prominent contemporary Fregeans and neo-Fregeans – the late Jerrold J. Katz being, perhaps, the most notable example – and one would be hard pressed to find anyone working in the philosophy of language, who has not spent a good amount of time thinking about this particular paper.

“On Sense and Reference” does a number of things, but the two most significant include: (a) rejecting the idea that meanings are psychological objects, in favor of the notion that they are publicly graspable, abstract objects; and (b) rejecting the idea that the meaning of an expression is exhausted by its referent, the latter view which was articulated by John Stuart Mill, in A System of Logic (1843).

Frege’s innovation was to introduce a new semantic value, “sense” (sinn), which he characterized as a “mode of presentation” – by which he meant, essentially, a description – that uniquely picks out an expression’s referent.  Thus, the sense of ‘Superman’ might be “the guy from the planet Krypton, in the blue and red uniform, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound” or “the superhero who had a torrid love affair with Lois Lane” or some other such thing.  (Bertrand Russell similarly maintained that a name is essentially a disguised definite description, and this Frege/Russell “Description Theory” of names was dominant in analytic philosophy, until the publication of Saul Kripke’s 1970 Princeton lectures on the topic, under the title Naming and Necessity, in 1980.)   The sense of a sentence is a proposition, which consists of an ordered n-tuple, made up of the senses of the component parts of the sentence.  Thus, the sense of “Superman flies” is an ordered pair consisting of <SenseSuperman, Senseflies>.  Somewhat obscurely, the referent of a sentence, on Frege’s view, is its truth-value, which means that every true sentence has the same referent (as does every false one).

As far as ontological commitments go, senses were a very good buy, in that they could be deployed in solving a number of significant logical and semantic puzzles.  Frege, himself, was concerned with two in particular.

Identity statements.

While the terms ‘morning star’ and ‘evening star’ refer to the same object (Venus), they clearly have what Frege calls different “cognitive values.”  One need know nothing substantial, in order to know that the morning star is the morning star, but to discover that the morning star is the evening star might be a significant empirical discovery, and while it certainly is a necessary truth that the evening star is the evening star, one can easily imagine a possible world, in which the evening star is not the morning star.

These obvious facts are quite mysterious – perhaps, even inexplicable – if the meaning of a term consists in nothing but its referent.  With the introduction of sense, however, the mystery disappears and these facts become easy to explain.

Ascriptions of Belief and other Propositional Attitudes

A bedrock principle of logic — one that derives from Leibniz’s law of the indiscernibility of identicals — is the substitutability of co-referential terms, salva veritate; that is without a change of truth value.  Thus, if the sentence ‘Superman flies’ is true, then the sentence ‘Clark Kent flies’ must also be true, insofar as Superman is identical with Clark Kent.

And yet, there are linguistic contexts in which this bedrock principle appears to break.  Consider, for example, the following sentence:

(i) Lois Lane believes that Superman flies.

Ms. Lane, however, does not know that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person, so the following would be false:

(ii) Lois Lane believes that Clark Kent flies.

Philosophers are quite loathe to think of bedrock principles of logic as being breakable, and certainly, if another explanation can be found, it is preferable. Senses provided Frege with the answer.  In an “opaque” linguistic context – like the one created by ‘believes that’ – terms do not have their customary reference, according to Frege, but rather their indirect reference, which just is their customary sense.  The referent of ‘Superman’ in (i), then, is “the guy from the planet Krypton, in the blue and red uniform, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound,” and the referent of “Clark Kent” in (ii) is something like “the skinny geek, with glasses, who works at the Daily Planet.”  In the opaque context, then, these two terms – ‘Superman’ and ‘Clark Kent’ – do not refer to the same object, and this is what explains their non-substitutability.  Bedrock logical principle saved.

Senses proved that they could do a lot more work than this, however, and were deployed in any number of directions.  They provided semantic content for non-referring names – on a purely referential account of meaning, how can ‘Santa Claus’ mean anything, given that there is no referent? – and they made it possible to individuate meanings in a more fine-grained fashion, such that one could distinguish synonymy from mere co-referentiality – ‘creature with a heart’ and ‘creature with a kidney’ are co-referential expressions, in that they refer to precisely the same set of creatures, but it would seem crazy to suggest that they are synonymous.

It would take the better part of a century for philosophers to work through all the implications of the ideas expressed in “On Sense and Reference” and just as much time to begin finding the problems with it.  And it would take the best of the best in the analytic tradition to really challenge it – the Wittgensteins, Quines, Kripkes, and Putnams of the world.

In short, a ground-breaking paper, in every possible “sense” of the term.

33 Comments »

  1. It took the best of the best, Kleene and his object language/observer language distinction , to clarify that reference problems were not a problem for logic because they were not in the domain of logic, they were in the domain of the observer language. Thus we can reason about real world situations using logic without having to worry about reference problems and so on, as long as we maintain this distinction.

    Having the truth value of the sentence as it’s referent does the a similar thing, bur more clumsily.

    Like

  2. Re-reading this after thirty years, most of my initial reaction has been validated – this is the most muddled epistemology I’ve ever laid eyes on, by someone with little knowledge of how natural languages work, and who continues to try to bend grammar to logic in a manner that effectively confuses the two.

    The one additional reaction is the discovery of the profound Platonism underlying the argument. “A truth value cannot be a part of a thought any more than, say the Sun can, for it is not a sense but an object.” So on what spiritual plane do truth value objects exist, exactly?

    Let’s take the example given in Dan’s commentary – Superman. It is quite proper to use this example to explicate Frege’s understanding of ‘sense;’ but once we move into discussing his understanding of ‘reference,’ then Superman ought to go, because neither the term nor any sentence concerning it can have any direct reference (although I suppose Frege – who back-walks somewhat from his initial extreme demands on the nature of reference – would grant that these have ‘indirect reference’ under certain circumstances). This means that technically nothing can be said of Superman that could be true or false – which also means that anything at all could be said Superman, eg., ‘Superman is the aardvark that fathered Luke Skywalker’ – see how far that claim get’s one at a convention of Star Wars fans!

    Were this theory developed as a social program, it would lead to our being utterly incapable of having any discussion concerning anything other than Mr. Gradgrind’s ‘facts.’

    This is no small point. While Frege’s logical distinctions have benefited the development of the professional study of logic, it has also contributed to the isolation of that study from the domain of common speech. A concrete benefit: computer languages. A concrete harm: considerable loss of interest in philosophy outside of the Academy.

    And perhaps worse; one thing I got out of my symbolic logic course was that I could actually use logical structures to make the most questionable arguments appear valid, just as long as I steered the argument back towards its logical structure and away from any sources that would confirm or disconfirm its claims. That’s because logical structures have only themselves for content.

    I am sure that a great many students have also learned this lesson over the years. Thus formal logic may have persuaded a great many people that either truth is relative to beliefs that can be squeezed into such structures – or perhaps that there is no truth at all.

    Finally, I recognize that Frege’s Platonism arises from his effort to remove psychologism from philosophy. But I think the furthest we can go to accomplish that is with Kant; and if the effort fails, then we return to Hume – not a bad place to be, but as far from the Frege of this paper as one could imagine.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi EJ

    I can’t agree that this is a work of muddled epistemology. We have shoulders now and we can see further than Frege who did not have those shoulders.

    But don’t forget that Frege was shoulders to those shoulders in many ways (just as Bertrand Russell was shoulders to Goedel by being wrong about something).

    i am also not sure what you mean about the Platonism. Can the truth value be part of a thought? Can the meaning even be part of a thought? And, whatever you think of the ontology of the suggestion, having the truth value of the sentence as its referent actually works very well in practice.

    Like

  4. But if I have a sentence like “Superman is Clark Kent” or “Mandy came out of the all-night Vurt-U-Want clutching a bag of goodies” or “Beatrice gazed on an infinitely small, infinitely bright object for an infinitely short period of time” we do understand that the referents are intended to be fictional characters in a fictional or allegorical realm.

    Given that implicit caveat then these sentences can be regarded as true and they can have a direct referent under Frege’s suggestion, ie their truth value.

    Like

  5. Robin Herbert,

    I understand your point and agree that Frege (or any philosopher) can have important historical import even when (sometimes especially when) wrong. And I think Dan makes a good case concerning the usefulness of Frege’s understanding of sense. But Frege’s understanding reference is way too overly complicated, and what I call his Platonism (obviously I believe it is Platonism) abstracts truth from experience (which I think he states explicitly) as well as collective understandings within communities. Rather than explaining how grammar works in communication, he suggests that it doesn’t, if our principle criterion for communication is relating ‘truth.” (At one point he says that natural languages are “flawed” – what? in what universe of discourse could the common language people actually do use to communicate be “”flawed.”? Well, in the universe where Truth is existent separate from any thought we might have….) (From a different perspective, truth value is itself a thought, it is something we think; and moving along that line, it may be something that we need to agree on, not something absolutely divorced from experience.)

    “Given that implicit caveat then these sentences can be regarded as true and they can have a direct referent under Frege’s suggestion, ie their truth value.”

    No, I’m sorry, Frege explicitly rules this out. You can’t defend his position by asserting an addendum he would not agree to. (And I suggest that if we accept your caveat, Frege’s theory of reference simply collapses under the burden of too many exceptions.)

    Like

  6. Oh, one other remark, and I think it important, because I think it’s really what going on in this essay: This is exactly the kind of essay one would expect a mathematician to write about language, trying to find some way to reduce it to the rigorous certitude of mathematical formulas. A dream beginning, I believe, with Descartes. (Well, one person’s dream is another’s nightmare….)

    Like

  7. A few things in reply to several people.

    1. I am a devotee of the later Wittgenstein and Ordinary Language philosophy. Obviously, I disagree entirely with Fregean semantics. It is worth noting, however, that earlier in my career and in graduate school, I was on board, largely because of the influence that Jerrold J. Katz had over my philosophical development while in graduate school.

    2. Frege’s influence on the philosophy of language — massive influence — is simply a fact that I was reporting. It was not an endorsement.

    3, Yes, Frege represents the beginning of what would become a massive formal semantics project in philosophy. He also represents the beginning of the logicist program — to reduce mathematics to pure logic — that would reach its apex with Russell and Whitehead’s Principia.

    Like

  8. DanK,

    yes, i understand. My point was that – from Frege’s point of view – the use of Twain/Clemons would be preferable. Interestingly, although he approaches his concrete examples from different perspectives for purposes hypothetical and as clarification, nothing in the text warrants thought experiments or exampling using fictional entities. On the contrary, Frege clearly wants such discussions as his to remain grounded in entities which can have truth value in his theory of reference.

    No one doubts Frege’s importance; I simply find myself sometimes wondering, ‘why?’ But of course this has been asked of a number of important philosophers; it’s a fair question, but it doesn’t diminish any philosopher’s historical importance (nor that of the studies and debates that followed from that philosopher’s initial impact).

    Like

  9. Hi ejwinner,

    I am sorry, you have lost me there. You appeared to be saying that Frege rules out that, when we talk of a fictional character, that we know we are talking about a fictional character.

    Like

  10. I have read a little further, and see nothing fundamentally wrong with Frege’s treatment of fictional characters. He says that in a direct statements , they have a sense and Ni referentand therefore such statements are neither true nor false. That makes sense, because they are clearly nit true and how can you say of a statement that is not claimed to be true that it is false?

    On the other hand he says that in indirect statements about fictional characters, the sense can be the referent. So “Jerry Seidel intended that his fictional character, Superman, was Clark Kent” has referents and therefore a truth value.

    That seems entirety consistent with what I said. If some asks why Clark and Superman are never shown together ” I will say “They are the same person”, clearly meaning that, in the story this is true of these characters.

    So, this is an indirect statement about them and has a truth value in Frege’s scheme

    Like

  11. Robin Herbert,

    “If some asks why Clark and Superman are never shown together ‘ I will say ‘They are the same person’, clearly meaning that, in the story this is true of these characters.”

    I suggest Frege would disagree; He says that in matters of aesthetics we are completely indifferent to true or false statements concerning fictional characters, and only invest in such statements when on a scientific quest for truth (which investigation would reveal that ‘Superman’ has no referent). So it seems Frege is really excluding discussions that clarify or debate sense – such as whether Superman or Clark Kent were the same man in a given work of fiction – from logical analysis. (This is certainly in keeping with the agenda of Logical Positivism that followed after, which held that topics in aesthetics, religion, politics, etc., were philosophically moot.)

    To get to the point where we can claim “in the story this is true of these characters,” in a way that itself can be considered logically true or false, we need a different epistemology; some form of conventionalism, for instance, or Pragmatism or Phenomenology.

    Remember that what is involved is the effort to clarify logic so that it can ground mathematics; and to develop a language whereby the prose used in scientific claims has the rigor of formal logic. The project was to find a grounding epistemological unity of math, logic, and scientific discovery. Some still think this possible, but many of us think it has fallen apart. In any case, obviously this has nothing to do with whether Superman exists, since he doesn’t, nor whether we like the stories in which he appears, since this not scientifically measurable or logically explicable (at least from Frege’s point of view).

    At any rate, I think this will be my last comment on this issue, because I have a sense that we may be slipping down a rabbit hole of differing interpretations and commitments.

    Like

  12. ejwinner

    “… So it seems Frege is really excluding discussions that clarify or debate sense – such as whether Superman or Clark Kent were the same man in a given work of fiction – from logical analysis. (This is certainly in keeping with the agenda of Logical Positivism that followed after, which held that topics in aesthetics, religion, politics, etc., were philosophically moot.)”

    Yes, this is a very important point. The references to Odysseus etc. in the article seem to confirm what you are saying. Frege obviously acknowledges and respects poetry and fiction etc. but sees discourse relating to these things as being a different kind of discourse from that involved in scientific inquiry.

    This, in general terms at least, is a plausible view in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi ej,

    You appear to have entirely ignored my point about Frege’s distinction between direct and indirect references to fictional characters (which was my entire point). When Homer says “Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca, while still asleep” it is, in Frege’s scheme, neither true nor false. When I.say that “Homer wrote that Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca, while still asleep” then the sentence is true, because the referent of Odysseus is the sense of it in Homer’s sentence.

    So I am not sure of the nature of the disagreement here. Do you deny that Frege made that distinction? Or are you saying that Frege would count my statement as a direct statement?

    We don’t really need to wonder about that because it still the case that the statement “Clark Kent is Superman” can have a truth value in Frege’s system, just so long as it is meant as an indirect statement about the fictional character, Superman.

    I.might say Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider ithout adding “in the comic book story” because surely that is understood.

    If someone says “No, he was bitten by a genetically modified spider” then I will make it explicit and say “that was in the movie, I am talking about the comic book” So discussions about the traits of fictional characters are just such indirect references and can have truth values under Frege’s scheme.

    Like

  14. Mark,

    I think that you are also ignoring the distinction between direct and indirect statements about fictional characters.

    Do you disagree that he made that distinction? That he said that ‘Odysseus’ does have a referent in the sentence “Homer said that Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca, while still asleep “?

    If so then clearly he saw no distinction between discourse about aesthetics and discourse about science

    That is the beauty of making the sentence’s truth value it’s referent, the subject matter of the sentence makes no difference to how it is treated in logic.

    Like

  15. Incidentally, it is northern case that the Logical Positivists regarded topics like aesthetics as philosophically moot. Neurath, for example, regarded things like aesthetics and believed that when we talk of them we are using the same kind of language as we use when doing physics, (and not in any reductionist sense)

    You are maybe thinking of Carnap’s statement that poetry and literature can have high value while carrying no knowledge, whereas metaphysics carries no knowledge without the high value. But clearly that did not refer to statements about poetry and literature.

    Like

  16. Hi Robin

    “Do you disagree that he made that distinction? That he said that ‘Odysseus’ does have a referent in the sentence “Homer said that Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca, while still asleep”?”

    Frege did make distinctions in the paper between simple, declarative sentences and various kinds of sentences involving subordinate clauses, but he is not saying (as I understand him) that “Odysseus” has a reference.

    He does say however that the truth of some complex sentences doesn’t depend on the truth of a subordinate (‘that…’) clause – which implies that “Homer said that…” is indeed a sentence which can have a truth value.

    I’m still a bit unclear how he sees the subordinate clause about Odysseus: as a proper noun I think he said at one stage.

    Like

  17. This is from the SEP entry on Fiction:

    “Frege (1892) is often taken to be the first champion of fictional antirealism within analytic philosophy, in so far as he held that in direct (gerade) contexts such as “Odysseus came ashore” a fictional name has a sense but no reference. But Frege also held that in oblique (ungerade) contexts such as “John believed that Odysseus came ashore” and “The author of the Odyssey says that Odysseus came ashore” this sense becomes the new referent of the fictional name.”

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fiction/

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Robin

    Let me elaborate on the last bit of my last comment.

    In the linked paper (p. 46) Frege talks about the reference of the subordinate clause (not names within the clause, but the clause itself) being “indirect, i.e. not a truth value but a thought… The subordinate clause could be regarded as a noun, indeed one could say: as a proper name of that thought … which it represented in the context of the sentence structure.”

    As I say, this is not altogether clear to me. But he does seem to be suggesting that many subordinate clauses e.g. those involving the subjunctive mood (e.g. wishes, commands, etc.) or incorporating non-referring (in a scientific sense) names are somehow opaque and not amenable to the sort of scientifically-focused logical analysis with which he is primarily concerned.

    Like

  19. Where is semantics headed? Current research in natural language semantics being done in labs at Microsoft, Facebook, IBM, and Google appears (from their publications and hiring notices) to be heavily based on deep neural networks.

    Like

  20. Hi Mark,

    The question under discussion is whether or not Frege’s scheme can handle sentences such as “Superman is Clark Kent”. I say that it can just so long as the speaker intends this as an implied indirect statement, something like “In the Superman mythos, Superman is Clark Kent”. I further claim that most of the time when we say something like this it is, in fact, such an implied indirect referent (see my Spiderman example).

    If you go back a couple of pages to 44 and see his whole discussion about the subject, not just subordinate clauses, it seems to be quite consistent with what the SEP article is saying, ie that the thought can be the referent.

    That Frege believed that there were entire classes of discourse that were not amenable to this kind of analysis is not being doubted.

    Like

  21. Robin

    “That Frege believed that there were entire classes of discourse that were not amenable to this kind of analysis is not being doubted.”

    And yet you were claiming upthread that (given your interpretation) “clearly he [Frege] saw no distinction between discourse about aesthetics and discourse about science.”

    This general topic (originally raised by ejwinner) is what brought me into the conversation in the first place.

    You write:

    “The question under discussion is whether or not Frege’s scheme can handle sentences such as “Superman is Clark Kent”.”

    Well, this is your question. I am just trying to understand what Frege is actually saying in the linked paper. You have been making a number of claims about “Frege’s scheme” which appear to take us well beyond this. Is it Frege’s ideas you are talking about or extensions of his ideas?

    “I say that [Frege’s scheme] can [handle such sentences] just so long as the speaker intends this [sentence] as an implied indirect statement, something like “In the Superman mythos, Superman is Clark Kent”. I further claim that most of the time when we say something like this it is, in fact, such an implied indirect referent (see my Spiderman example).”

    I get your examples but I am having trouble relating them to the paper except in a very tenuous way.

    “If you go back a couple of pages to 44 and see his whole discussion about the subject, not just subordinate clauses, it seems to be quite consistent with what the SEP article is saying, ie that the thought can be the referent.”

    I see what you are saying but I can’t see anything on p. 44 (or anywhere else in the paper) which parallels what you are saying.

    Frege does say however that in cases of direct or indirect quotation “the words do not have their customary reference. In direct quotation, a sentence designates another sentence, and in indirect quotation a thought.” (p. 44). (I think he is talking about sentences involving ordinary referring terms here, not fictional names, etc.)

    I have also been looking at his basic definitions on p. 38. But to deal with these questions properly would take, I think, rather too much time and effort.

    Ejwinner’s reference to a “rabbit hole of differing interpretations and commitments” seems apropos.

    Like

  22. Hi Mark

    And yet you were claiming upthread that (given your interpretation) “clearly he [Frege] saw no distinction between discourse about aesthetics and discourse about science.”

    The operative word being “about”. For Frege the important question is whether or not a sentence has a truth value. It may surprise you, but not every statement about science is amenable to rigorous logic.

    It seems utterly bizarre to interpret Frege as saying that a sentence like “Homer said that Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca, while still asleep” is neither true nor false, or to suggest that Frege himself, would have agreed with that position.

    I think the SEP article has this just right.

    No point in going on though. You can’t see anything in Frege’s paper which matches what I (and the author of the SEP article) see quite clearly.

    No path forward.

    Like

  23. I have just posted a paper by Frege to which little attention has been payed so far, as well as an English translation of it I have made, see https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/translation-of-an-article-by-gottlob-frege/. From this I would conclude that Frege (at least at the time he wrote it) did not have anything in mind in the direction of a formal semantics for natural language. His starting point is that natural language and the thinking based on it is very flexible but easily leads to errors and misunderstandings, so he developed his Begriffsschrift as a special purpose tool for mathematics and science to improve the situation. From that paper, I am getting the impression that he thought of language as something historically developing. I would try to interpret his later papers, like “Sense and Reference” in this direction, not as an attempt into the direction of creating a formal semantics of natural language, but as an attempt to clarify a specific point in order to get more clarity into thoght and language (for scientific and mathematical purposes). I am getting the impression here that the later development of attempts to develop a semantic theory of naturla language based on formal logic (as, for example, the attempts of Donald Davidson) do not really represent a direction into which Frege himself was heading. I may be wrong, but my impression is that this whole direction of thought that claims its origin in Frege’s work started with a misunderstanding of what Frege was aiming at. I think Frege did not have a theory in mind where the semantics of natural language is developed in terms of formal logic, as if something like formal logic already exists in the human mind at an underlying level. Language, in his view, is basically vague and prone to error, and its means develop historically. Formal logic is a special purpose tool that augments language and is better fitted than normal language for special purposes, but like other tools for exactly this reason lacks language’s flexibility and potential for evolution. Of course it is possible that Frege later changed his mind on these things, but it might be worth a try to reread his later papers from such an angle.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Yes, indeed, there is a history of reception and the meaning of his paper now is very much a result of the interpretations people have given it, and what he really meant we don’t know. What we make out of it is always a construction. But maybe that history is not yet over.

    Like

  25. Robin

    “It seems utterly bizarre to interpret Frege as saying that a sentence like “Homer said that Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca, while still asleep” is neither true nor false, or to suggest that Frege himself, would have agreed with that position.”

    I am not saying this at all! In fact, in a previous comment I made this quite clear. I said: “He [Frege] does say however that the truth of some complex sentences doesn’t depend on the truth of a subordinate (‘that…’) clause – which implies that “Homer said that…” is indeed a sentence which can have a truth value.”

    I went on to say that I was “still a bit unclear how he sees the subordinate clause about Odysseus” (and in a subsequent comment elaborated on this).

    Like

  26. I can see that Frege begins talking about how the softness and mutability of natural language, which is a precondition for its versatility, gives rise to ambiguities and misunderstandings.

    He goes on to point out that a conceptual notation like arithmetic does not have operators for complex logical progression, necessitating the use of natural language for this and involving the kind of ambiguities already discussed.

    He points out that logical notation has the opposite problem, it has the operators for complex logical progression, but not for content.

    So he is proposing a new conceptual notation which would have both, the arithmetic operators for the content and the logical operators for complex logical progression.

    Finally he makes a suggestion that such a conceptual notation might be extended beyond mathematics, from his last sentence seemingly suggesting that this might be useful for philosophers.

    So it seems reasonable to suppose that “On Sense and Reference” is a discussion of the kinds of language which would be amenable to be included in such a conceptual notation which went beyond mathematics.

    If that was not his intention then his scheme certainly fits the bill in any case. As I said before, the issue is more elegantly dealt with by Kleene and his object/observer language distinction.

    Like

  27. Robin

    Let me just clarify a parenthetical remark in a previous comment which may have led you to misunderstand my position. I wrote:

    “Frege does say however that in cases of direct or indirect quotation “the words do not have their customary reference. In direct quotation, a sentence designates another sentence, and in indirect quotation a thought.” (p. 44). (I think he is talking about sentences involving ordinary referring terms here, not fictional names, etc.)”

    I was not meaning to imply that he did not see clauses involving fictional names as designating thoughts also. I was just pointing out that the discussion at this point (particularly the reference to words not having “their customary reference”) was general and not specifically concerned with the names of fictional characters.

    Like

  28. It is a bit too much to expect that Frege should address every possible implication of his scheme. It is enough that indirect references to fictional characters can have truth values in it.

    I am interested in whether or not we can have a consistent theory of reference that will work in all circumstances. I suspect that there cannot be one. I am currenly reading Putnam’s, “Reason, Truth and History”. I guess I should wait until I have read the entire book, but there is something definitely suspect about his “brain in vat” argument in chapter 1. Seems to suggest, for example, that if I am in a game show and there are two boxes and I am told that there is a $100 note in one of the boxes and must guess which, it seems I should conclude that it is intrinsically impossible for there to be a $100 note in either of the boxes.

    Like