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Fregean Thoughts 1 Some thesis on sense and reference
(cf. Dummett 1973: ch. 6) 1. The sense of a complex is compounded out of the sense of the constituents Compositionality: we understand the sense of a complete expression (e.g. a sentence, compounds names) by understanding the sense of its constituents and the way they are put together. 2 The sense of a complete sentence is a thought, which is the bearer of truth value. As such thoughts play the same role than propositions within the British tradition (cf. FregeRussell correspondence; thought vs. singular propositions). 3 senses/thoughts: (i) Timeless entities. A thought isn’t true at a given time and false at another.
(ii) Objective entities. Everyone can grasp the same thought.
(iii) Immutable entities. Do not change across time/space.
4 2. The sense of a word doesn’t consist of a mental image vs. empiricist tradition e.g. Locke and rationalist tradition e.g. Descartes)
A sense/thought is objective, communicable, while a mental image is private and incommunicable (Cf. Frege’s antipsychologism)
5 3. The reference of an expression is determined by the reference of the components The truth value (reference) of a sentence depends on the referents of its constituents parts
Sense determines reference, while reference doesn’t determine sense: we may associate the same referent with different expressions. 6 4. An expression can have sense but lack reference vs. Russell who, like Meinong, postulated the distinction between being and existence (narrow concept). Russell’s theory of descriptions has been introduced to handle, among other things, the problem of empty terms. 7 For Russell: proper names, being disguised definite descriptions aren’t singular terms anymore: the only singular terms, genuine names, are ‘this’ and ‘that’ which, referring to sense data, cannot be empty.
For Frege: if an expression lacks reference, the sentence in which it occurs lacks reference as well, it lacks truth value.
8 5. The reference of an incomplete expression is itself incomplete The referent of a predicate expression is a concept, which is incomplete, unsaturated.
The identity relation, i.e. coextensiveness, between concepts (the referents of predicate expressions) is analogous to the identity relation between objects, the referents of proper names.
9 The analogue of “a = a” is “(x)(Fx ↔ Gx)” The identity relation between predicate words is of coextensiveness (‘F’ and ‘G’ are coextensive)
The predicates ‘F’ and ‘G’ have different senses but the same concept as referent. Hence, predicates, like proper names have sense and reference.
10 A functional expression, upon being completed is no longer a functional expression, but a proper name. When a concept (the referent of a predicate) is saturated by an object (the referent of a singular term) it becomes a referent …
Sentences are compound proper names whose referents are objects (the Truth or the False).
11 6. The sense of a proper name’s fixes the criterion of identity of the object named Criterion of identity:
to grasp what object a name is being used to stand in for, is to know how to recognise the object as the same again.
Identification presupposes reidentification (Strawson).
12 7. Truthvalues are the referents of sentences Expressions which form logical units possess reference.
So the referent of a sentence can only be a truth value. For the referent must be something that remains invariant under any replacement of a part of a sentence with another expression having the same referent: the substitution alters the sense/thought but not the reference.
13 8. Expressions within indirect speech (oratio obliqua) don’t have their ordinary reference No substitution salva veritate of coreferring expression within oratio obliqua constructions. Oblique reference vs. ordinary reference: the oblique reference of a thatclause is the ordinary thought (ordinary sense vs. indirect sense). Attitude ascriptions are relations between agents and thoughts.
14 9. Only in the context of a sentence does a word stand for anything Frege’s context principle.
Tension between the context principle and compositionality: i.e. between the view that a word has meaning only in the context of a sentence and the view that the meaning of the sentence depends on the meaning of its compounding parts. 15 10. The referents of our words are what we talk about Frege’s realism (vs. Idealism of his days).
Things in the external (real) world make what we say true or false. And the only way we can apprehend the external world is via language: we apprehend concepts, relations, ... via predicates.
(cf. Dummett, 1973, ch. 11) A thought is the sense expressed by an assertoric sentence. A thought is made up by the senses of its components parts of the latter (compositionality).
The difference between assertoric sentences and questions, imperatives, ... is explained by force.
17 Eternal Sentences and Context eternal sentence: it expresses a thought and is true or false independently of the context in which it is uttered/used. 18 Because of contextual features (e.g. indexicals) a sentence usually expresses a thought only relative to a given context (e.g.: “It is raining”, “I’m happy”, …). The same sentence in different contexts may express different thoughts which can be either true or false (E.g.: “Today is sunny” said today may be true while uttered tomorrow may say something false). 19 Since a thought must always be true or false absolutely, the context in which a sentence is used may contribute to the expression of the thought.
There aren’t (semantically) underdetermined thoughts. 20 Main features of a thought 1. Thoughts are bearers of truth value
A sentence may be said to be true/false only in a derivative way. 21 A thought would be true even if we were unable to express/grasp it (Platonism). So what is true cannot be something whose existence depends on us.
Fregean thoughts (like senses) are mind
22 2. Thoughts are the objects of propositional attitudes The existence of a thought, qua bearer of cognitive value, is essential for an account of beliefs and other attitudes understood as relations to thoughts. 23 3. Thoughts are eternal
So sentences containing tokenreflexive expressions (indexicals) ought to be “eternalised” to express a given thought which truth value is timeless, eternal, .... 24 ...
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- Winter '08
- Thought, Dummett