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Frege and the Logic of Sense and Reference

Frege and the Logic of Sense and Reference

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Published by kevinklement
This book aims to develop certain aspects of Gottlob Frege's theory of meaning, especially those relevant to intensional logic. It offers a new interpretation of the nature of senses, and attempts to devise a logical calculus for the theory of sense and reference that captures as closely as possible the views of the historical Frege. (The approach is contrasted with the less historically-minded Logic of Sense and Denotation of Alonzo Church.) Comparisons of Frege's theory with those of Russell and others are given. It is in the end shown that developing Frege's theory in these ways reveals serious problems hitherto largely unnoticed,
including those possibly rendering a Fregean intensional logic inconsistent even if his naive class theory is excluded.
This book aims to develop certain aspects of Gottlob Frege's theory of meaning, especially those relevant to intensional logic. It offers a new interpretation of the nature of senses, and attempts to devise a logical calculus for the theory of sense and reference that captures as closely as possible the views of the historical Frege. (The approach is contrasted with the less historically-minded Logic of Sense and Denotation of Alonzo Church.) Comparisons of Frege's theory with those of Russell and others are given. It is in the end shown that developing Frege's theory in these ways reveals serious problems hitherto largely unnoticed,
including those possibly rendering a Fregean intensional logic inconsistent even if his naive class theory is excluded.

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04/15/2013

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Because Frege was blind to these sorts of contradictions in his philosophy, he
never attempted to formulate solutions for them. Russell, however, was not so
blind. Despite the differences in formulation, in beginning to look for a broadly
Fregean solution to these problems, it is worthwhile to ask whether Frege could
have accepted any solution considered by Russell.
Russell’s first worked out solution to the Principles Appendix B paradox is
that of “Les paradoxes de la logique,” wherein Russell denied the existence of
general propositions. General Gedanken are involved in both the formulation of
the Appendix B paradox given above and the contradiction discussed in the
previous chapter used to prove the inconsistency of system FC+SB

. Could Frege
hope to eliminate these antinomies in his philosophy by denying the existence of
general Gedanken? Perhaps, but what would be the philosophical justification
for such a move? We noted above that after abandoning the theory of denoting
concepts, Russell was left in the dark about the constituents of general
propositions. But the constituents of general Gedanken are in no way mysterious
to Frege. Gedanken are composed of the Sinne of the expressions making up the
propositions expressing the Gedanken. Frege understands quantifiers as having
higher-level functions as their Bedeutungen; the Sinne of quantifiers are
incomplete Sinne picking out these functions. They are no more mysterious than
any other incomplete Sinne. Without abandoning his theory of quantification as
involving higher-level functions, it is not clear what philosophical grounds
Frege could have for denying general Gedanken. We do not want to make such a
move simply as an artificial dodge of the contradictions; we want some
philosophical insight into what goes wrong in their deduction. In the context of
Fregean philosophy, this solution cannot do this.
The other Russellian solution to the “paradoxes of propositions” mentioned
above is the adoption of a ramified type hierarchy. In Chapter 4 we already
discussed why orders would be difficult to justify from a Fregean standpoint.
Frege’s ontology of Gedanken as third-realm entities makes it difficult to defend
the claim that some version of Poincaré’s vicious-circle principle applies to their
truth-conditions. Indeed, as we have seen, orders only became justified to
Russell when he radically changed his ontology of propositions. In the
Principles, where Russell’s ontology of propositions is perhaps closest to
Frege’s ontology of Gedanken, Russell found the suggestion that propositions
come in different orders as “harsh and highly artificial.”25

However, we shall
discuss this in more detail in the next chapter, where we focus more specifically
on possible alterations of Frege’s philosophy in light of the difficulties discussed
here.

25

Russell, Principles of Mathematics, §500.

190

Frege and the Logic of Sense and Reference

Thus, we might not be able to find an adequately Fregean solution to the
difficulties discussed here by examining Russell’s own proposed solutions. But
this does not mean that there are no lessons to learn from Russell relevant to a
Fregean diagnosis of the antinomies. Perhaps most importantly, from the very
beginning, Russell was aware of the Cantorian origins of such contradictions.
Cantor had shown that the cardinal number of classes of entities of some domain
must always be larger than the number of entities in that domain. Thus, the
number of classes of propositions must be greater than the number of
propositions. However, Russell was committed to a proposition for every class
of propositions, such as the proposition stating its logical product. Thus, for
Russell, the cardinal number of propositions was as great as the number of
classes of propositions, in violation of Cantor’s result. The case is similar with
Frege. Frege is committed to as many Gedanken as classes of Gedanken.
It can be concluded that any logical system that contains ontological
commitment to intensional entities such as Russell’s propositions or Frege’s
Gedanken must be very careful regarding the cardinal number of intensions
posited. If the number is sufficiently great, so as to form a 1-1 mapping with
classes or functions, contradiction can easily result. This issue is taken up in
greater detail in the next chapter.
For both Russell and Frege, the number of intensions to which their systems
are committed is great. For Russell, for any formula α, the system is committed
to a proposition {α}. As we have seen, Frege is committed to something similar
through the process of “Sinn-transformation” described earlier. For any
expression of the system FC, we can form a name of the Sinn it expresses using
our Sinn constants. Axioms FC+SB

35, FC+SB

36 and FC+SB

37 similarly commit
the system to Sinne for everything nameable even in the expanded language. It
should be noted that the commitment to an intensional entity for every
expression is not in and of itself problematic. It is only problematic if the
identity conditions of such intensions are very strict. The stricter the identity
conditions of intensions, the more intensions are posited. The Principles
Appendix B paradox would not arise for Russell if it were possible for
“{(q)(qw B q)}” and “{(q)(qr B q)}” to stand for the same proposition
without w and r being the same class. Similarly, it would not apply to Frege if it
were possible for “(Πx*)(x* ∈ w*)” and “(Πx*)(x* ∈ m*)” to denote the same
Gedanke without “w*” and “m*” denoting the same Sinn picking out the same
class. Frege and Russell require rather strict identity conditions for Gedanken
and propositions, respectively. By and large, if two expressions in their logical
systems differ by anything more than the choice of letters for bound variables,
the intensions posited for the expressions are non-identical.
It might be thought, then, that the sorts of difficulties discussed here might
be solved by loosening the identity conditions of the intensional entities posited.

Comparison with Russell and Other Thinkers

191

The problem is that very strict identity conditions for intensions are required if
those intensions are to be viewed as relata in belief and other intentional states.
Frege needs strict identity conditions for his Gedanken if he is to understand
belief states as relations between a believer and a Gedanke believed. In previous
chapters, we discussed the interpretation that propositions can be understood as
expressing the same Gedanke when they necessarily have the same truth-value
or are logically equivalent. This was concluded to conflict with Frege’s doctrine
of indirect Bedeutung, since it is not true that if A and B are logically equivalent
that anyone who believes A must also believe B. The identity conditions for
Gedanken must be more stringent than logical necessity. One of the very
purposes of our development of a logical calculus for the theory of Sinn and
Bedeutung was to allow for the transcription of statements of propositional
attitudes and related inferences. If we make the identity criteria for Gedanken
too weak, then our logical calculus would become incapable of doing so
adequately. These issues are taken up in greater detail in the next chapter.

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