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Dummett’s Frege 1 The Background The mentalist conception
It is a code conception of language (telepathy doesn’t need language). 2 Wittgenstein (who criticizes it)
[W]e are so much accustomed to communication through language, in conversation, that it looks to us as if the whole point of communication lay in this: someone else grasps the sense of my words — which is something mental: he as it were takes it into his own mind. If he then does something further with it as well, that is no part of the immediate purpose of language. (Wittgenstein PI: §363)
Words in their primary or immediate signification, stand for nothing but the ideas in the mind of him that uses them ... nor can anyone apply them as mark, immediately, to anything else but the ideas that he himself had. (Locke 1894: III.ii.2) 4 ...
The chief end of language in communication being to be understood, words serve well for that end, neither in civil nor philosophical discourse, when any words does not excite in the hearer the same idea which it stands for in the breast of the speaker. (Locke 1894: III.ix.4) 5 Ideas vs. Senses Frege criticises the code conception of language.
To do so he distinguishes between:
(i) a Vorstellung (Idea) qua private/subjective entity, and (ii) a Sinn qua objective entity (mind and language independent, eternal).
6 grasping a sense: one need to be familiar with the language. So we need a medium. 7 Main Question Is it possible to deal with the objectivity of senses/thoughts without endorsing, pace Frege, Platonism? 8 The avoidance of Platonism
Dummett thinks it is possible to avoid Platonism.
He shows how to bring senses/thoughts down to earth. 9 Meaning A theory of meaning is a theory of understanding (cf. Dummett 1973: ch.5)
Theory of understanding: what does it mean to know a language? 10 This account can only be given in terms of the practical ability which the speaker displays in using sentences of the language; and, in general, the knowledge of which that practical ability is taken as a manifestation may be, and should be, regarded as only implicit knowledge. (Dummett 1978: 101) The meaning of a word/sentence is part of what is understood.
11 Three components of meaning:
1. sense: it is objective (vs Ideas); sense is what is relevant to the determination of truth value.
2. tone (lighting, coloring): it is not relevant to truth value; tone is used to convey attitude, evocative use of language, …
3. force: it applies to sentences; declarative vs. interrogatives/imperatives/... sentences.
12 meaning vs. reference: reference is not an ingredient of meaning. To understand a word doesn’t merely consist in associating to it a worldly entity. reference vs. sense: sense is part of the meaning which needs to be grasped in order to compute the truth value. As such sense is the part of the meaning which determines reference.
13 Identification: In grasping the sense of a word (e.g. a proper name) we connect the word with a way of identifying the referent. So sense is associated with a method of identifying an object. 14 There is no condition sufficient for identification which anybody must know and, since different individuals may chose different routes to single out a referent, the sense of a word cannot be the knowledge possessed by a single individual. Sense belongs to the social community: it is the common stock of information. 15 The Linguistic Turn Frege is the father of analytic philosophy, for the latter began with the linguistic turn. The priority of language in order of explanation. 16 Two axioms of analytic philosophy
1. A philosophical account of thought can be attained through a philosophical account of language
2. A comprehensive account can only be so attained. 17 Three features contribute to the linguistic turn
1. The structure of a thought is reflected in the structure the sentence expressing it. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to discuss the structure of a thought without making allusion to its verbal expression. A thought is grasped in grasping the semantic properties of the sentence expressing it.
18 2. A thought is primarily said to be true or false.
Frege always starts by explaining the referential relation between sentences/words and their referents. 19 This order of explanation is demanded by his conception of sense as the way in which the referent is given: we first must know what it is for a sentence to be true and what it is for an expression to have a reference before knowing what it is for it to express a thought/sense.
A sense can be grasped only as the sense of an expression to which reference can be ascribed.
20 3. The objectivity of sense is not enough to guarantee the objectivity of communication
The sense ought to be (objectively) attached to an expression. Hence we need to explain what it is for a sense to be attached to an expression. To do so we need to explain what it means to know a language.
21 Moral: we cannot give an account of naked thoughts. sense is what is grasped A sense which cannot be grasped is a chimera. We know what a sense is in knowing what it means to grasp it. So the study of the language in communication is an essential feature of Frege’s philosophy.
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- Winter '08