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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging

the Truth
Mark Textor
King’s College London
mark.textor@kcl.ac.uk

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According to Frege, judgement is the ‘logically primitive activity’. So what is judge-
ment? In his mature work, he characterizes judging as ‘acknowledging the truth’
(‘Anerkennen der Wahrheit’). Frege’s remarks about judging as acknowledging the
truth of a thought require further elaboration and development. I will argue that
the development that best suits his argumentative purposes takes acknowledging
the truth of a thought to be a non-propositional attitude like seeing an object;
it is a mental relation between a thinker, a thought, and an object, namely a
truth-value.

Ein Urteil ist mir nicht das blosse Fassen eines Gedankens,
sondern die Anerkennung seiner Wahrheit.
(Frege 1892, p. 164 n. (p. 34 n.))1

1. Introduction
A distinctive characteristic of Frege’s logic is that it takes judgement
to be the ‘logically primitive activity’. The ‘primacy of judgement in
Frege’s philosophy’ (Ricketts 1986, p. 67) has often been discussed.2
However, Frege’s theory of judgement is still not fully understood.
He is clear that judging is not predicating truth. But what, then, is
judging? Heck points us in the direction of a positive Fregean account:
[P]art of Frege’s idea is just this: there ought to be room for the idea that
recognizing a thought as true need not consist in recognizing it as having
the property truth; there ought to be room for the idea that one can put
a thought forward as true without predicating truth of it, namely, by
uttering it seriously, and doing so in such a way as thereby to purport to

1
I give the page numbers in the translation first, followed by the original page numbers in
brackets.
2
For further investigations of the primacy of judgement in Frege’s philosophy, see Bell 1979,
Kremer 2000, Levine 1996, Heck and May 2006, Reck 2007, Ricketts 1996, and Stepanians 1998.

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doi:10.1093/mind/fzq041
2 Mark Textor

be referring to the True. Of course one would like to know how to furnish
the said room. I do not claim to know how that should be done.
(Heck 2002, p. 87)
Frege himself made steps to furnish this room. In his mature work, he
characterizes judging as acknowledging the truth (Anerkennen der
Wahrheit). However, he does not clarify this notion in detail. Just as
he trusts that his readers know what the extension of a concept is, he
trusts that they know what acknowledging the truth of a thought is.
(On extension, see Frege 1884, §68 n.) His remarks about judging as

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acknowledging the truth of a thought require further elaboration
and development. I will argue that the development that best suits
Frege’s argumentative purposes takes acknowledging the truth of a
thought to be a non-propositional attitude like seeing an object; it is
a mental relation between a thinker, a thought, and an object, namely
a truth-value. Or so I will argue. In the next section I will set the stage
for further discussion by outlining the role of judgement in Frege’s
philosophy of logic.

2. Judgement as the logically primitive activity


In 1880, Frege described his distinctive contribution to logic as
grounding logic on a new logically primitive activity:
For in Aristotle, as in Boole, the logically primitive activity [logische
Urtätigkeit] is the formation of concepts by abstraction, and judgement
and inference enter in through an immediate or indirect comparison of
concepts via their extensions. (Frege 1880–81, PW p. 15 (NS p. 16))
He continues by identifying a new logically primitive activity: judging.
As opposed to Boole, I start from judgements and their contents, and not
from concepts. (Frege 1880–81, PW p. 16 (NS p. 17); I have corrected
the translation)
He does not yet distinguish between sense and reference; ‘concept’ and
‘judgeable contents’ are therefore amalgams of sense and reference.
But the idea of starting logic with judgement can be transposed into
his theory of sense and reference.
What is meant by saying that judging is the logically primitive
activity? Judgement is the activity that is subject to norms issuing
from the laws of logic. Consider:
To make a judgement because we are cognisant of other truths as providing
a justification for it is known as inferring. There are laws governing this
kind of justification, and to set up the laws of correct inference is the goal of

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 3

logic. (Frege 1879–91, PW p. 3 (NS p. 3); my emphasis and in part my


translation)
When I infer that 2 < 3 from [if 2 < 4, then 2 < 3] and [2 < 4], I make
a judgement that has a distinctive kind of justification. I am justified
in making the judgement in virtue of other true judgements and not,
say, perceptions or acts of testimony. Logic aims to discover the laws
that govern this particular kind of justification, the laws of truth.
The laws of truth themselves do not govern judgement and infer-
ence directly; prescriptions for correct judgement do. The connection

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between the laws of truth and these prescriptions is direct:
We must assume that the rules for our thinking and for our holding
something to be true are determined by the laws of truth. These are given
with those. (Frege 1897, PW p. 128 (NS p. 139); my translation)
Frege is too optimistic: the prescriptions for correct judging cannot be
read off from the laws of truth. For example,
if (if A, then B) and A, then B
is a law of truth, but
One may: acknowledge the truth of B, if one acknowledges the truth
of (if A, then B) and A
is not a prescription for judging. (For examples of such prescriptions,
see Frege 1893, §48.) If I already have a very good reason to doubt B, I
ought not to acknowledge the truth of B; I ought to question the truth
of A or the truth of (if A, then B). One man’s modus ponendo ponens is
another’s modus tollendo tollens. (See Harman 1986, p. 5.) However, so
far it is only important to note that if judging and inferring were not
activities that involve truth in such a way that they are governed by
prescriptions for judging truly, the laws of truth would not determine
the prescriptions for judgement. Logic could not be said to be the
study of the laws of truth that ground these prescriptions.

3. The laws of logic, truth-values, and judgement


Judgements are governed by norms following from the laws of truth.
The laws of truth are general truths. Frege aims to show that the
truth-grounds of the truths of arithmetic are the laws of logic (Frege
1879, pp. 103–4 (pp. iii–iv)). In his Basic Laws of Arithmetic he at-
tempted to prove the truths of arithmetic from the laws of logic
given suitable definitions of arithmetical concepts. Russell’s paradox
showed that Frege’s attempt failed. Even so, one can only try to prove

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4 Mark Textor

the truths of arithmetic from the laws of logic if the latter are truths.
This contrasts with the contemporary view of the ‘laws’ of logic as
universally valid schemata.3 A schema like ‘P ! (Q ! P)’ does not
express a thought and can therefore not be a truth; it is a recipe for
the generation of true sentences.
Frege cannot therefore use schemata to capture the generality we
have in mind when we say, for instance, that everything is either the
case or not the case. In Begriffsschrift, he adopts a part of the symbol-
ism of arithmetic to express the generality of logical laws. Textbooks

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of arithmetic express the distributive law of multiplication by writing
‘(a + b)  c = a  c + b  c’. The letters ‘a’ etc. are (the precursors of)
variables, and the distributive law of multiplication is a general truth
about all numbers. One can infer infinitely many particular truths
from the law by instantiating its variables:
ða þ bÞ  c ¼ a  c þ b  c
Therefore : ð1 þ 2Þ  3 ¼ 1  3 þ 2  3
For ‘(1 + 2)  3 = 1  3 + 2  3’ to count as a genuine instance of
the law, the expressions that instantiate the variables, ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘3’,
have to refer to the things that are among the values of the variables a,
b, and c, that is, numbers.
The laws of logic are also general truths expressed by means of
letters. Frege’s basic law 1 can be approximately rendered in current
notation as ‘a ! (b ! a)’ (Frege 1879, §14).4 The letters ‘a’ and ‘b’
are variables ranging over everything. From this law one can infer
particular logical truths:
a ! ðb ! aÞ
Therefore: Blood is red ! (Snow is white ! Blood is red)
As in other law statements the variables in the expression of a law of
logic must range over a domain, in this case over everything, and the
expressions replacing the variables must refer to things in the domain
(see Frege 1893, §5, n. 3). Hence, assertoric sentences like ‘Blood is red’
must refer to something. What can an assertoric sentence refer to?
Frege’s answer to this question is, at least in part, motivated by his
widening of the realm of functions. Functions map arguments to
3
For further discussion, see Goldfarb 2001 and Ricketts 1986, 76 f.
4
‘Approximately’, because in Frege 1879 and 1893 he expresses the law with the content
stroke ‘–––’ which ensures that the letters can be replaced by any term with a reference. If one
replaces ‘a’ with a name like ‘England’, ‘–––England’ will refer to the False.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 5

values. In arithmetic, numerical functions take numbers as arguments


and yield numbers as values. He argues that the equation ‘12 = 1’ has a
constituent (‘j2 = 1’) that refers to a function. The value of this func-
tion for an argument cannot be a number. What is it? In ‘Function
and Concept’ he writes:
Of these equations the first [‘–12 = 1’] and third [‘12 = 1’] are true, the others
false. I now say ‘the value of our function is a truth-value’, and distinguish
the truth-value the True from the False. I call the first, for short, the True;
and the second, the False. Consequently, for instance, ‘22 = 4’ refers to the

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True, just as ‘22’ refers to 4. And ‘22 = 1’ refers to the False. (Frege 1891,
p. 144 (p. 13); in part my translation)

Functions like j2 = 1 take objects as their arguments and yield truth-


values as their values. The referent of a sentence is functionally deter-
mined by the referents of the sentence parts. If ‘j2 = 1’ refers to a
function, the completed expression ‘12 = 1’ stands for the value of the
function for the argument referred to by ‘1’. ‘12 = 1’ turns out to be a
complex expression that refers to a truth-value. Frege generalizes this
model to include assertoric sentences that, accordingly, turn out to
refer to truth-values.
Assertoric sentences can only refer to truth-values if there are such
things. But in the passage just quoted Frege merely proposes to express
the uncontroversial fact that ‘12 = 1’ is true in a new way by saying that
the True is the value of the function j2 = 1 for the argument 1.
However, expressing an uncontroversial fact in a new way does
not introduce new objects. Either he makes an unjustified existence
assumption or merely introduces a new way of speaking.
The True and the False are neither part of common-sense ontology
nor part of the ontology of science. Why should one believe that these
objects exist and how should one arrive at an understanding of them?
Frege argues that everything will become much ‘simpler and sharper’
if one assumes the existence of the two truth-values (see Frege 1893,
p. x). That is, one can extend the application of functions to include
what today are aptly called ‘truth-functions’ and the laws of logic
will turn out to be general truths whose variables range, among
other things, over truth-values. He argues that this simplification is
a weighty reason in favour of his view. However, the theoretical sim-
plification can only be a further and not the sole reason. Assume that
positing an object of kind X leads to great simplification of a theory.
This fact alone will not make it plausible that there are Xs. If one has
no other reasons for the existence of Xs, the simplification is

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6 Mark Textor

unjustified. So far, truth-values seem to be posits motivated by the-


oretical requirements. If there is no independent argument for them,
one will argue that these theoretical requirements have not been met.
But do we not commit ourselves to truth-values when we speak
of truth-functions and truth-values in logic? No, the widespread talk
of truth-values is just a convenient way to say that something is true
(false). (A representative example of someone holding this view is
Quine 1974, §2.)
‘Function and Concept’ and ‘On Sense and Reference’ are com-

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panion pieces to Frege’s Basic Laws of Arithmetic. They are written
to introduce and justify the new conceptions that are used in Basic
Laws of Arithmetic. (See Frege 1893, p. 7, n. 1.) ‘On Sense and
Reference’ contains the outline of an argument for the assumption
of truth-values that gives theory-independent reasons for this assump-
tion. He argues that truth-values are not just theoretical posits;
everyone who makes judgements is committed to them:
Every assertoric sentence, in which the reference of the words is of
importance, is therefore to be taken as a proper name, and its reference,
if it has one, is either the True or the False. These two objects are
acknowledged, if only implicitly, by everybody who judges, who takes
something to be true, and therefore even by the sceptic. Calling the
truth-values objects may at this point still seem to be an arbitrary fancy, or
perhaps a mere play on words, from which no profound consequences
could be drawn. What I am calling an object can be more exactly discussed
only in connection with object and relation. But so much should already
be clear that in every judgement, [Footnote: A judgement, for me is not
the mere grasping of a thought, but the acknowledgement of its truth
[Anerkennung der Wahrheit]] — no matter how trivial — the step from
the level of thoughts to the level of reference (the objective) has already
been taken. (Frege 1892, pp. 163–4 (p. 34); in part my translation and
emphasis)
The reason that the True and the False are fundamental for logic
is that the logically primitive activity of judging commits us to
them.5 A Fregean account of judgement must therefore bring out
the connection between judging and the True and the False. In the
next sections I will develop Frege’s line of thought in more detail.

5
For an interpretation of Frege along these lines, see Heck 2007, p. 40. See also Burge 1986,
p. 129 and p. 131. Similarly, Ricketts says ‘Frege takes the notion of a truth-value to be available
to his audience by reflecting on their engagement in the singular activity of judging’ (Ricketts
2003, p. 418). However, how judging makes truth-values available is not explained further.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 7

My starting point will be the view of judgement that is suggested by his


remark on the subject in Begriffsschrift.

4. Early Frege: judging as predicating


In Begriffsschrift, Frege contemplates a language that has only one predi-
cate: ‘is a fact’ (Frege 1879, p. 113 (p. 4)). All assertions are made by
applying ‘is a fact’ to singular terms like ‘John’s loving Mary’; the latter
are taken to denote judgeable contents. He takes these contents to be

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circumstances (Umstände). Judging is subsuming judgeable contents
under the concept z is a fact.
Frege’s view that judging is predicating z is a fact of a judgeable
content can be motivated by looking at a problem for the traditional
view that judging is subsuming things under concepts. Take the judge-
ment expressed by an utterance of ‘John loves Mary’. Which thing is
subsumed under which concept? Is John subsumed under the concept
z loves Mary ? Why should one not say that Mary is subsumed under
the concept z is loved by John, and so forth? There seems to be
no independent reason to single out one of these subsumptions as
the judgement made.
Frege wants a conception of judgement that brings out that all these
subsumptions are correctly detectable in the judgement that John
loves Mary (see Macbeth 2005, pp. 143 f.). If one assumes that z is a
fact is a property or concept of judgeable contents and a judgement is
the subsumption of a thought under this property, judging that John
loves Mary is subsuming the judgeable content that John loves Mary
under the property z is a fact. My subsumption of the content that
John loves Mary under the property z is a fact is correct iff John has
the property z loves Mary; my subsumption is also correct iff Mary has
the property z is loved by John; and so on. Hence, in subsuming the
judgeable content that John loves Mary under the property z is a fact,
I make all the above subsumptions ‘in one go’.
Shortly after the publication of Begriffsschrift Frege changed his
mind about judgement. Predicates like ‘z is a fact’ or its successor ‘z
is true’ no longer play a role in the theory of judgement and are even
taken to be misleading expressions. He argues in ‘On Sense and
Reference’ that asserting is not linguistically predicating ‘z is true’ of
a thought. I can assert that 2 is prime simply by uttering the indicative
sentence ‘2 is prime’ in the right circumstances; no truth-predicate is
necessary. (See Frege 1892, p. 164 (p. 34), and Frege 1897, PW p. 129

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8 Mark Textor

(NS p. 140).) I can also utter ‘2 is prime is true ’ without asserting


that 2 is prime. For I may utter the sentence making as if to as-
sert when acting in a play. He concludes that it is not the
truth-predicate ‘z is true’ but the ‘the form of the assertoric sentence’
by means of which one states the truth. If one utters a sentence in
the indicative in the absence of factors that defeat its force, one makes
an assertion.
An objection that shows a view of the speech-act of assertion
to be wrong may have no force against a view of the mental act

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of judgement. For instance, Frege analyses ‘A lied’ as ‘A asserted as
true a thought while believing it was false’ (Frege 1892, p. 166 n.
(p. 37 n.)). Hence, one can assert that p without having judged or
even being disposed to judge that p. When Frege says that assertion
is the enunciation of a judgement, we must therefore take assertion
as a speech-act that is the outward manifestation of a judgement or
a disposition to judge (Frege 1918a, p. 356 (p. 62)). In general, one
cannot straightforwardly reason from properties of a manifestation to
properties of what is manifested. Therefore one cannot immediately
conclude that judging must have certain properties that asserting has
(and vice versa).
However, he goes on to give an argument that directly concerns
judgement:
By combining subject and predicate, one reaches only a thought, never
passes from sense to reference, never from a thought to its truth-value.
One moves at the same level but never advances from one level to the
next. A truth-value cannot be a part of the thought, any more than,
say, the Sun can, for it is not a sense but an object. (Frege 1892, p. 164
(p. 35))

Subject and predicate in the logical sense are parts of thoughts; rough-
ly they are the senses of singular terms and predicates distinguishable
in a sentence expressing the thought. He argues that judging cannot be
combining a mode of presentation of a thought and the sense of ‘is
true’ into a complex thought. There is a Frege-independent and a
Frege-immanent reason for this negative thesis.
The Frege-independent reason for rejecting the predication view Let
us assume that judging that p is mentally predicating truth of the
thought that p. What is predicating truth? We have two options: (a)
predicating truth is what is common in judging that p is true, assum-
ing that p is true, wondering whether p is true, etc.; or (b) predicating
truth is a distinctive mental act with ‘assertoric force’.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 9

If we accept (a), one can predicate truth of the thought p and yet
not judge p. One only entertains now, as Frege says above, the
more complex thought [p is true]. Predicating truth of the more
complex thought will result in an even more complex thought.
One can now again predicate truth of this complex thought,
and so forth. Hence, if one wants to explain judgement in this
way, one faces a regress of ever more complex thoughts. The con-
clusion is that predicating truth is thinking complex thoughts,
but not judging.

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If we accept (b), one cannot predicate truth without eo ipso judging
that p. But in (b) the judgement is not explained with recourse to the
predication of truth; all the explanatory work has been done by the
distinctive force of the mental act and no work by the concept of truth.
For example, if one were to think a thought that does not contain the
sense of ‘is true’ with this force one would still make a judgement.
The result is that the property (concept) z is true does no work in a
theory of judgement.
The Frege-immanent reason for rejecting the predication view This
appeals to a conception of what judgement is or should achieve
if it is the logically primitive activity. In ‘Comments on Sense
and Reference’ Frege expands on topics introduced in ‘On Sense
and Reference’. In this paper he criticizes intensional logicians as
follows:
The intensional logicians are only too happy not to go beyond the
sense … They forget that logic is not concerned with how thoughts,
regardless of truth-value, follow from thoughts, that the step from thought
to truth-value — more generally, the step from sense to reference — has to be
taken. (Frege 1892–95, PW p. 122 (NS p. 133); my emphasis)
Logic studies inference, argues Frege. An inference is a judgement
mediated by other judgements. It takes one from acknowledged
truths to acknowledged truths. An inference from p to q cannot be
exhaustively described in terms of the thoughts p and q. You have only
inferred q from p if you acknowledge the truth of q and this acknow-
ledgement is justified because you acknowledge the truth of p. This
view of inference underlies Frege’s prima facie counterintuitive restric-
tion that one cannot infer anything from a mere assumption. The
mere assumption of p cannot justify acknowledgement of the truth
of q: I can only infer from the assumption that q is true if p is. (See, for
instance, Frege 1917, PMC p. 23 (BW p. 37), and Frege 1910, PMC
p. 182 (BW p. 118).)

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10 Mark Textor

Now if judging is predicating truth, an inference only takes one


from some thoughts to a more complex thought that contains the
sense of the truth-predicate. But when I infer q from p, I am not
aiming to think the thought that q is true; that I could do without
inference. Intuitively, I want to apprehend the truth of q via the truth
of p. Frege aims to capture this intuitive view and systematize it when
he writes about judgement. He calls the act that is supposed to achieve
this aim ‘judgement’. His description of this act already assumes that
there are truth-values; the alternative description as acknowledgement

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of truth does not assume this. It can therefore be accepted by someone
who has yet to be convinced that there are truth-values.
Can one identify the step from thought to truth-value with a
mental- or speech-act that we already need for other purposes?
Frege argues that a truth-value is the reference of an assertoric sen-
tence. This suggests that the notion of reference may be used to shed
light on judgement in Frege’s sense. In a recent paper, Heck and May
have developed this suggestion and argued that judging that p is trying
to refer, by thinking that p, to the True.
When one judges that 2 + 3 = 5, one is not just entertaining the thought that
2 + 3 = 5; one is attempting to refer to something, namely, the True. … The
view is not that judging that p is ascribing the property denoting the True to
the thought that p : that would indeed re-instate the regress. Rather, the
view is that judging that p is attempting to refer, by thinking that p, to the
True. (Heck and May 2006, pp. 19–20)

This characterization makes the notion of advancement in Frege’s


guiding metaphor clear. In judging that p one aims to refer to the
thought’s truth-value.
Let us first note that the phrase ‘by thinking that p’ is essential for
Heck and May’s idea. I might attempt to refer to the True by using the
singular term ‘the True’ or ‘my favourite truth-value’, and even suc-
ceed, without thereby making a judgement. These cases of trying to
refer to the True are excluded by adding ‘by thinking that p’. But how
can one attempt to refer to the True by thinking that p? Doesn’t one
simply think that p?
Heck and May point us in the direction of an account of judgement
in the spirit of Frege’s views on truth and logic: judgement must be a
non-propositional act that is (indirectly) governed by the laws of logic.
In the following sections I will draw on Frege’s characterization
of judging as acknowledging the truth of a thought to fill in this
outline.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 11

5. Mature Frege: judging as acknowledging


From roughly 1882 onwards, Frege characterizes judging as acknowl-
edging the truth of a thought or as something one does by acknowl-
edging the truth of a thought. He mainly uses two grammatical
constructions:
The ‘as’ construction: S acknowledges a thought as true (einen
Gedanken als wahr anerkennen). (See Frege 1879–1891, PW p. 2 (NS
p. 2); Frege 1906c, PW pp. 197–8 (NS pp. 213–14); Frege 1915,
PW p. 251 (NS p. 271); Frege 1923, PW pp. 258–9 (NS pp. 278–9).)

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The object-construction: S acknowledges the truth of a thought
(die Wahrheit eines Gedankens anerkennen). (See Frege 1892, p. 164
(p. 35); Frege 1918a, p. 345 (p. 63); Frege 1918b, p. 373 (p. 143) and
p. 383 (p. 153); Frege 1893, p. 9; Frege 1923, PW p. 259 (NS p. 279);
Frege 1924/5, PW p. 267 (NS p. 286).)6
Sometimes both constructions occur in the same passage:
One comes to know something when a thought is acknowledged as true
[als wahr anerkannt wird]. For this the thought has first to be grasped.
But I don’t count the grasping of the thought as a recognition, only the
acknowledgement of its truth, the judgement proper. I take a source of
knowledge to be that in virtue of which the acknowledgement of truth, the
judgement, is justified. (Frege 1924/5, PW p. 267 (NS p. 286); my translation)
The fact that Frege switches from ‘acknowledging as true’ to ‘acknowl-
edging the truth’ with silken ease suggests that these constructions are
mere stylistic alternatives. However, if we take further uses of these
constructions into account, we see that there are important differences
between them. It will become clear that only the object-construction
will help his general project.
Frege takes judgement to be indefinable (Frege 1892, p. 165 (p. 35)).
As we have seen, he characterizes judgement in ‘On Sense and
Reference’ as follows:
A judgement, for me is not the mere grasping of a thought, but the
acknowledgement of its truth [Anerkennung der Wahrheit]. (Frege 1892,
p. 164 n. (p. 34 n.); my translation)
This is not an analytic definition, but an elucidation that requires
Frege’s readers to draw on their understanding of ‘acknowledging’
6
There is one (isolated) passage (Frege 1899–1906, PW p. 168 (NS p. 183)) in which he
switches from acknowledging the truth of a thought to acknowledging a truth. I take this
passage to be either an aberration or a careless paraphrase that is ‘outnumbered’ and out-
weighed by the systematically important passages.

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12 Mark Textor

and ‘truth’. In elucidating ‘judgement’ in this way, Frege wants to set


his view of judgement apart from the Kantian tradition and capture an
important part of our pre-theoretic understanding. Kant distinguished
between problematic and assertoric judgements; a ‘problematic’ judge-
ment is merely grasping a thought with consideration of its truth
suspended (Kant 1781/87, p. A76/B101; and Kant 1800, §30, n. 1).
Logicians who have followed Kant in this point are criticized by
Frege (1906b, PW p. 185 (NS p. 201)).
‘To acknowledge’ (anerkennen) is the key term in Frege’s elucida-

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tion. Therefore we must start with a clarification of its meaning.
‘Anerkennen’ is derived from ‘erkennen’. In the thirteenth century
the verb ‘erkennen’ had a legal meaning and also an older epistemic
meaning (the Latin ‘cognoscere’ is a synonym for ‘erkennen’ in the
epistemic sense). The legal meaning of ‘erkennen’ is, roughly, to rec-
ognize a claim, a decision, or demand. The verb ‘anerkennen’ (mod-
elled on the Latin ‘agnoscere’) was introduced in the sixteenth century
to disambiguate ‘erkennen’. ‘Erkennen’ retained the epistemic mean-
ing and ‘anerkennen’ took on the legal meaning.7 From the sixteenth
century onwards, ‘erkennen’ has primarily had an epistemic use.
The object-construction with ‘erkennen’ (‘Sie erkannte ihn sofort’
[she recognized him immediately]) ascribes an episode of recognizing
or re-identifying an object; the propositional construction (‘Ich
erkannte, dass der Weg endete’ [I recognized that the path ended])
ascribes the acquisition of propositional knowledge. The legal meaning
of ‘anerkennen’ animates discussions of ‘anerkennen’ in Fichte and
Hegel.
The previous remarks point us to a difficulty in the translation of
‘anerkennen’ noted by Inwood:
Anerkennung and anerkennen overlap the meanings of ‘recognition’ and
‘to recognize’, and of ‘acknowledgement’ and ‘to acknowledge’, but do not
coincide with either. (Inwood 1992, p. 245)
In the English literature on Hegel and Fichte, ‘anerkennen’ is some-
times translated as ‘recognizing’, sometimes as ‘acknowledging’.8
While ‘to recognize something’ still has an epistemic meaning in
7
See Trübners Deutsches Wörterbuch under the entry ‘anerkennen’. In his detailed discussion
of ‘anerkennen’ Inwood (1992, p. 245) concurs. Stepanians (1997, pp. 83 ff.) and Kremer (2000,
Sect. 4) provide further discussion of the use of ‘anerkennen’ in the philosophical literature of
Frege’s time.
8
See Inwood 1992, p. 245; Margalit (1997, pp. 128–9) prefers ‘recognition’, Stern (1993,
p. 143, p. 144, p. 149) ‘acknowledgement’.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 13

addition to the legal and evaluative one, the epistemic meaning of ‘to
acknowledge something’ is at least less prominent. Since ‘anerkennen’
was introduced as a special term for the legal meaning of ‘erkennen’,
I will translate it as ‘to acknowledge’ in this paper. ‘Anerkennung’
(‘billigen’, ‘gutheissen’) also denotes an appropriate response to
a value or valuable thing (‘die Schönheit einer Frau anerkennen’ [to
acknowledge the beauty of a woman]). In this sense ‘anerkennen’
means ‘valuing’ or ‘honouring’.
Grimms Deutsches Wörterbuch gives as an example for the standard

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use of ‘anerkennen’ the sentence ‘Das ganze Land erkannte den König
an’ (The whole country acknowledged the King). Here ‘A erkennt B
an’ means A acknowledges (confirms) the title of B. The example
illustrates a grammatical feature of ‘anerkennen’ that can be confus-
ing. ‘Anerkennen’ is a separable verb; it contains the prefix ‘an’ and the
main verb ‘erkennen’. I have used boldface to make the main verb and
its prefix visible. If the separable verb is the first verb in a sentence or
clause, the main verb and the prefix are separated and the main verb
assumes its normal position in the sentence, while the prefix is placed
at the end. If the prefix is separated from ‘anerkennen’, the separated
main verb looks like the different verb ‘erkennen’. As we will see, this
has led to mistranslations.
These linguistic observations shed light on Ricketts’s often-
discussed interpretation of Frege. He has argued that ‘acknowledging
the truth’ should be understood in the epistemic sense:
Truth is … the goal of judging, and judging is the recognition of
truth. … Frege’s use here of a quasi-factive verb with jurisprudential
associations is deliberate: he aligns judgement with knowledge, not belief.
To make a judgement is to acquire a piece of knowledge; our capacity for
judgement is a capacity to arrive at knowledge. (Ricketts 1996, p. 131)
Ricketts based his epistemic rendering of ‘recognition of the truth’ on
an explanation given in Heyne’s Deutsches Wörterbuch. Heyne para-
phrases ‘anerkennen’ as ‘stärkeres erkennen, mit dem Beisinn der
Würdigung und Gesetzlichkeit’ (stronger recognition with the sugges-
tion of honouring and legality). Ricketts takes ‘erkennen’ in this ex-
planation to be epistemic and argues therefore that ‘anerkennen der
Wahrheit’ refers to an episode of acquisition of knowledge.
However, as we have seen, ‘anerkennen’ is derived from ‘erkennen’
in the legal sense as endorsing or honouring a claim. Heyne gives
an etymological explanation of ‘anerkennen’ that appeals to the old
legal-evaluative meaning of ‘erkennen’. If ‘erkennen’ had, as Ricketts

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14 Mark Textor

assumes, the epistemic sense in Heyne’s explanation, it would be at


best unclear what is meant by saying that acknowledgment is stronger
recognition. Also, how could epistemic recognition suggest honouring
and legality? If we take ‘erkennen’ to have its legal meaning in
Heyne’s explanation, these problems disappear: someone who ac-
knowledges a claim recognizes it in the traditional sense and thereby
honours a law or an obligation. Ricketts’s interpretation is based on an
implausible understanding of ‘erkennen’ and is therefore itself
implausible.

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Among the multiple meanings of ‘anerkennen’ is a further one that
is especially important for Frege. In Dedekind’s ‘Was sind und was
sollen die Zahlen’ Frege would have read the following criticism of
Kronecker’s view that only natural numbers exist:
But I see absolutely no merit — nor did Dirichlet — in actually undertaking
this tedious transcription and in declining to use and acknowledge
numbers other than the natural numbers. [Aber ich erblicke keineswegs
etwas Verdienstliches darin — und das lag auch Dirichlet ganz fern — ,
diese mühselige Umschreibung wirklich vornehmen und keine anderen als
die natürlichen Zahlen benutzen und anerkennen zu wollen.] (Dedekind
1888, p. 338; my translation)
Someone who acknowledges numbers other than the natural numbers
admits them into his ontology. None of Dedekind’s readers will have
struggled to understand his message. I will call this use of ‘anerkennen’
the ontic use.
In contemporary English, ‘acknowledge’ and ‘recognize’ also have
an ontic use. For example, Quine expounds his view of ontological
commitment in terms of acknowledgment and recognition of posits:
Better to acknowledge all posits under an inclusive and familiar heading.
Posits too dubious for such recognition will then be dropped … (Quine
1981, p. 81)
In one of its meanings ‘believe in’ denotes the dispositional state
initiated by an act of recognition (as in ‘scientists no longer believe
in phlogiston’). Gendler Szabó (2003) argues that believing-in is a
non-propositional mental state. Believing-in something is non-
propositional like acknowledging, but it lacks the factive character
of the latter attitude.
Frege frequently makes use of ‘anerkennen’ in the ontic sense. For
instance, he says in ‘Foundations of Geometry II’:
We must acknowledge [anerkennen] logically primitive elements that are
indefinable. (Frege 1906a, p. 300 (p. 301); my translation)

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 15

Indefinables are not the right kind of thing to be honoured and they
don’t have claims that can be endorsed. ‘Anerkennen’ here must have
its ontic meaning. Another example of the ontic use can be found in
Frege’s review of Cantor’s papers on the transfinite:
[Cantor’s papers] aim to bring about acknowledgement of the actual infinite
[das eigentlich Unendliche zur Anerkennung zu bringen]. This is done
partly negatively by refuting attempted disproofs, and partly affirmatively
by demonstrating its existence. (Frege 1890–92, PW p. 68 (NS p. 76); my
translation)9

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What is acknowledged is an object, the actual infinite. One furthers
acknowledgment of a if one provides reasons for a’s existence and
against its non-existence.
Ontic acknowledgement is required in the serious use of subject–
predicate sentences:
Someone who does not acknowledge a reference [Wer eine Bedeutung
nicht anerkennt], can neither ascribe nor withhold a predicate of it. (Frege
1892, p. 162 (p. 33); my translation)
To anticipate: I will propose an interpretation of ‘acknowledging the
truth of a thought’ according to which judging is a special case of
acknowledging the reference of an expression, namely the reference of
an assertoric sentence.
Let us sum up this section. In Frege’s time, ‘anerkennen’ had and
still has now a legal and an ontic sense. In the ontic and the legal
use ‘N anerkennt … ’ takes a singular term to make a sentence.
This suggests that acknowledgement is an attitude towards an
object, a particular; not a propositional attitude. I will call such an
attitude a ‘nominal attitude’ because its representational content can
be completely specified by a nominal phrase. Acknowledgement in the
ontic sense is prima facie a mental act that accepts an object.
Acknowledgement in the legal sense is a response to the status of an
object or an evaluation of the object in the light of its features.
In the legal and the ontic sense ‘anerkennen’ is factive. One can only
acknowledge a claim if someone is entitled to the claim. Similarly, one
cannot acknowledge higher numbers if there are none. In ‘Negation’
Frege agrees:
We cannot change anything in the being of the thought by judging. One
can only acknowledge what is there [Wir können nur anerkennen, was ist].
(Frege 1918b, p. 377 (p. 148); my translation and emphasis)

9
See also Frege 1893, §155, about acknowledgement of higher numbers.

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16 Mark Textor

In general, one can only acknowledge a, if a is.


We have now seen which senses of ‘anerkennen’ were available for
Frege to draw on when saying that judging is acknowledging the truth
of a thought. On which sense of ‘anerkennen’ does he draw? The
legal-normative or the ontological sense? I will argue in sections 6
and 7 that the legal-normative sense is not operative in Frege’s
elucidation of judgement.

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6. Acknowledging as acknowledging a claim
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, philosophers in the phe-
nomenological tradition explained judgement as acknowledgement of a
claim: a claim is made and then acknowledged (see Karelitzki 1914,
p. 52). Recently, Stepanians (1998, p. 89) has argued that the legal
meaning of ‘anerkennen’ is crucial for understanding Frege’s theory
of judgement. One acknowledges the truth of a thought if one accepts
the claim the thought makes. Frege indeed says that if we grasp a
thought it presses us (drängt) to answer the question whether it is
true or false (Frege 1899–1906, PW p. 168 (NS p. 183)). This sounds
bizarre. How can a thought press us for an answer or make a claim?
Stepanians’s answer is based on the omnipresence of truth: the
thought that p is the same thought as the thought that it is true
that p (Stepanians 1998, p. 86). Hence, grasping the thought that p
is grasping the thought that it is true that p. In grasping the thought
that it is true that p, the thought ‘labels itself ’ as true and we are
invited to accept its truth-claim or reject it.
But although every thought may label itself as true, this cannot be
understood, as he suggests, ‘as the claim of the thought to truth’
(Stepanians 1998, p. 89). If a person has a claim, and the claim is
not honoured, then the person has a reason to complain and to criti-
cize those that do not honour the claim. But I can grasp the thought
that Cologne Cathedral will be refurbished and form no opinion on
the matter because the question whether Cologne Cathedral will be
refurbished is of no interest to me. In this situation I am not open to
criticism for not honouring a claim to truth. The obvious explanation
for this is that the thought does not make such a claim in any plausible
sense. Explicitly adding the sense of ‘it is true … ’ to the thought that
Cologne Cathedral will be refurbished does not change the situation.
Even if all thoughts contain the sense of ‘it is true that … ’, they make

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 17

no claim to truth. Acknowledging the truth should then not be con-


strued on the model of acknowledging a claim.

7. Acknowledgment as evaluation
‘Anerkennen’ also means ‘billigen’ or ‘gutheissen’ (endorse). If I
recognize your good work, I assign it a positive value. I may award
you a prize in recognition or acknowledgment of your good work.
While Frege never explicitly proposed an evaluative understanding of

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judgement and truth, some of his contemporaries tried to exploit the
evaluative sense of ‘acknowledgement’ to understand judgement.
For example, Rickert writes: ‘The act of judging contains “practical”
behaviour, which in true assent approves [billigt] or acknowledges
[anerkennt] a value and in true negating disapproves or rejects a
non-value [Unwert]’ (Rickert 1892, pp. 185–6; my translation).10
If we work with this model, acknowledging the truth of a thought is
an evaluation of a thought that gives the thought a new status. Think
of it as awarding a thought a prize. (Thanks to Tom Baldwin for
suggesting this analogy.) The acknowledgment of truth confers a posi-
tive status on the thought.
The evaluative understanding of acknowledgement is only plausible
if being true (false) is an evaluative property. If truth is valuable, falsity
should be a defect of a thought. However, for Frege the True and the
False are both ‘truth-values’. This is due to the fact that ‘value’ in his
term ‘truth-value’ means ‘value of a function’. This observation about
terminology does not exclude thoughts from also having value in an-
other sense. Consider the following passage from one of Frege’s letters
to Russell:
Now it would be impossible to see why it was of value to us to know
whether or not a word had a reference if the whole sentence did not have a
reference and if this reference was of no value to us; for whether or not that
is so does not affect the thought. Moreover, this reference will be
something which will have value for us precisely when we are interested in
whether the words are referential, and hence, when we inquire about truth.

10
The background of the evaluative view of judgement is Lotze’s Logik. He argued that the
distinction between truth and falsity is a distinction in value (Wertdifferenz) with which logic
starts (Lotze 1880, pp. 4 f.). Lotze’s student Windelband later took it to be uncontroversial that
‘is true’ is a value predicate (Windelband 1920, p. 196). If ‘is true’ is a value predicate, it is
natural to hold that judging is an evaluation. Controversially, Frege’s contemporary Bruno
Bauch (1923, p. 163) aligns Frege with these philosophers. The evaluative understanding of
Frege’s ‘anerkennen’ is suggested by Gabriel (2003, p. 19).

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18 Mark Textor

(Frege 1902, PMC p. 152 (BW p. 235); in part my translation; see also Frege
1892, p. 163 (p. 33))
Frege suggests that the reference of an expression can have value
for us. He also likens the truth/falsity opposition to other
oppositions between values:
When we are concerned with the truth of thought, we waver between
opposite thoughts, and with the same act we recognise one as true and the
other as false. Similar relations of opposition can be found in other cases
too, e.g. between what is beautiful and ugly, good and bad, pleasant and

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unpleasant and positive and negative in mathematics and physics.
(Frege 1897, PW p. 149 (NS p. 161); my translation)
Choice is a practical form of evaluation: if I choose something for, say,
its beauty, I evaluate it positively with respect to beauty. If something
has a positive value, it is fitting to choose it; if it has a negative value, it
is fitting to reject it (see Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 1999,
p. 45). Recognising the positive value of x can therefore consist in
choosing x. In his unpublished work Frege suggests twice that judge-
ment is a form of choice:
To each thought there corresponds an opposite, so that rejecting
[Verwerfung] one of them coincides with acknowledging [Anerkennung]
the other. To make a judgement is to make a choice [Wahl] between
opposite thoughts. Acknowledging one of them and rejecting the other is
one act [Tat]. (Frege 1906b, PW p. 185 (NS p. 201); my translation; see also
Frege 1906c, PW p. 198 (NS p. 214))
It is tempting to distinguish acknowledgements of truth from
other choices of a thought over its negation in terms of the
reasons that justify the choice. If we assume that truth is a posi-
tive evaluative property of thoughts, reasons for the truth of a
thought are reasons for its choice-worthiness. One acknowledges the
truth of a thought, the proposal goes, if, and only if, one chooses
the thought for reasons that speak in favour of its truth (and no
other reasons).
Frege’s remarks about judgement as choice need further develop-
ment. I cannot simply choose A over B, I can only choose to do
something with A (buy it, look at it, etc.), while abstaining from
doing it with B. (See Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen 1999,
p. 45.) But what do I choose to do with the thought that p when I
choose it over its opposite? Frege does not answer this question.
Holding that we choose to acknowledge the thought as true leads to
a (very) tight circle. Holding that we choose to think the thought when

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 19

the question of its truth arises mischaracterizes judgement. An episode


of thinking a thought when the question of its truth arises, even
if it is justified by reasons of truth, need not be a judgement. One
might simply choose to assume that p for a good reason. Moreover,
if I choose between A and B, I make up my mind between a course
of action involving A and one involving B. Axioms are self-evident
thoughts: grasping the thought that 1 = 1 is acknowledging its truth
with justification. Now consider judging that 1 = 1. When I make this
judgement I do not make up my mind between the thought that 1 = 1

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and its opposite. (See Stepanians 1998, p. 189.) A rational thinker
simply has no alternative to judging that 1 = 1 and, more importantly,
there is neither the need nor the possibility to make up one’s mind
whether 1 = 1.
One might hold that judgement is a positive evaluation of a thought
without, like Frege, taking this evaluation to be a particular choice.
A non-reductive understanding of acknowledgement as positive evalu-
ation does not face the problems just discussed, but it raises the ques-
tion which positive status is conferred on a thought by acknowledging
its truth. The only plausible answer seems to be: the positive status
of being judgeable (derivatively: assertible). We are, for example,
allowed to draw conclusions from it. This circle is so tight that the
proposal does not shed light on judgement. However, this is not the
main objection against this proposal. Frege intends to use observations
about judgement to argue for the existence of the True and the False.
The evaluative conception does not help him to achieve this aim.
When I acknowledge the value of your work, I acknowledge that
your work is valuable. Nothing prevents us from construing this var-
iety of acknowledgement as propositional. Neither the choice nor
the more general version of the positive evaluation model brings out
the connection between judging and the truth-values. If I choose the
thought that p for reasons that speak for its truth, I am committed to
the thought having a property, being true, but I am not committed
to the True or the False.

8. Why ‘acknowledging the truth’ is ontic


acknowledgement
Frege uses ‘anerkennen’ frequently in the ontic sense. Does ‘acknowl-
edging’ have the ontic sense in ‘acknowledging the truth’? His late paper
‘Negation’ contains an intriguing argument that suggests a positive

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20 Mark Textor

answer. He wants to refute the view that the being of a thought consists
in its being true. There are false thoughts. He argues as follows:
When I raise the question whether the Sun is bigger than the Moon,
I acknowledge thereby the sense of the interrogative sentence
‘Is the Sun bigger than the Moon?’
If this sense were a thought whose being consisted in its being true, then I
should thereby acknowledge the truth of this sense. Grasping the sense would
at the same time be an act of judging, and the utterance of the sentence

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would at the same time be an assertion, that is, an answer to a question. [The
original text to this point reads: Wenn ich die Frage stelle, ob die Sonne
grösser als der Mond sei, so erkenne ich damit den Sinn des Fragesatzes: ,,Ist
die Sonne grösser als der Mond?“ an. Wäre nun dieser Sinn ein Gedanke,
dessen Sein in seiner Wahrheit bestände, so erkennte ich damit zugleich das
Wahrsein dieses Sinnes an. Das Fassen des Sinnes wäre zugleich ein Urteilen,
und das Aussprechen des Fragesatzes wäre zugleich eine Behauptung, also
die Beantwortung einer Frage.] But in an interrogative sentence neither the
truth nor the falsity of the sense may be asserted. Hence, the sense of an
interrogative sentence is not something whose being consists in its being
true. The essence of the question requires distinguishing between grasping a
sense and judging. (Frege 1918b, p. 374, (p. 145); my translation and
emphasis)
First, a note on my translation: in McGuinness’s edition of Frege’s
collected papers ‘anerkennen’ is falsely translated as ‘seeing’. I assume
that the translators did not take into account that the separable verb
‘anerkennen’ splits up into the prefix ‘an’ and ‘erkennen’ (see Sect. 5).
The main verb of ‘anerkennen’ without its prefix looks like the
epistemic verb ‘erkennen’. I have corrected this translation in the
quotation above.
Here is an outline of Frege’s reductio ad absurdum argument:
(P1) p cannot exist without being true
(P2) One cannot raise the propositional question whether p
without acknowledging (the thought) p, that is, the
sense of the interrogative sentence ‘p?’
(P3) One cannot acknowledge p without acknowledging the
things on which p’s existence depends
(C1) One cannot raise the question whether p without acknow-
ledging the truth of p
(P4) Judging that p is acknowledging the truth of p

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 21

(C2) One cannot raise the question whether p without thereby


judging that p
(C2) is clearly false. In general, raising a propositional question is not
answering it. Hence, the argument shows that one premiss is false.
Frege sets up (P1), the view that it is part of the essence of a thought to
be true, for refutation. Hence, he must take (P2), (P3), and (P4) to be
plausible, or at least more plausible than (P1).
Let us start by a brief look at (P1). Frege’s opponent may plausibly
be taken to argue that it is obvious that a thought can only exist if it is

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true. Frege criticizes the view under consideration for implying that
‘false thought’ is a contradictory expression like ‘non-existent thought’
(Frege 1918b, p. 373 (p. 144)). ‘False thought’ is only a contradictory
expression if being true is part of the sense of ‘thought’ or it is an
axiom that every thought is true.
Now to (P2) and (P3). Premiss (P2) follows from Frege’s charac-
terization of a propositional question:
A propositional question contains the request that we should either
acknowledge the truth of a thought, or reject it as false. (Frege 1918b, p. 373
(p. 143); in part my translation)
When I raise a propositional question, I request that my audience
either acknowledges or rejects the truth of the thought p expressed
by the interrogative sentence uttered and that this acknowledgement
or rejection is made manifest in asserting or denying p. I cannot ra-
tionally request my audience to do this if I take there to be no thought
expressed by the interrogative sentence. Consider the following
example. A verificationist who holds that the unverifiable sentence
‘A city will never be built on this spot’ does not express a thought,
cannot rationally raise the question whether a city will never be built
on this spot. Frege uses the acknowledgment terminology to make this
point: one can only raise a propositional question whether p if one
acknowledges the thought expressed by ‘p’. This form of acknowledge-
ment cannot be evaluative or normative. If one honestly asks whether
p, one does not yet evaluate p positively. Such an evaluation is not
required for rationally raising the question whether the Sun is bigger
than the Moon. In contrast, the ontic sense of ‘acknowledge’ provides
a plausible starting point for the argument. I can only rationally raise
the propositional question whether p if I acknowledge the thought p
in the ontic sense.
What about premiss (P3)? Even if an object a depends on an object
b (that is, a can only exist if b exists), I can acknowledge a without

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22 Mark Textor

thereby acknowledging b for the simple reason that I do not know


that a is ontologically dependent on b. With this in mind we must
strengthen (P3) to
(P3*) One cannot acknowledge p without acknowledging the
things whose existence is obviously required by p’s existence
(P4) is not in need of further comment: it is simply Frege’s charac-
terization of judgement.
Since (P2), (P3*), and (P4) seem plausible, Frege lays the blame

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at the door of a strengthened version of (P1): it is not an obvious
or definitional truth that if something is a thought it is true. His
opponent can backtrack to the weaker thesis that being true is only
metaphysically necessary for a thought’s existence. However, I am not
interested in an assessment of his argument, only in what it tells us
about acknowledgment of truth.
Frege’s argument is only valid if he uses ‘acknowledging x’ in all
premisses in the same sense. Moreover, he does not talk of different
acts of acknowledgement in the different premisses of the argument.
There is one act of acknowledging the thought p that is at the same
time an acknowledgement of everything on which its being evidently
depends. Compare: if I acknowledge the mereological sum of A and B,
I have thereby acknowledged A and B. Since he uses ‘acknowledging x’
in (P2) in the ontic sense, he must use it in the same sense in the other
premisses. The result is that judging that p is acknowledging an object:
the being true of p (das Wahrsein des Sinnes). In the next sections I will
expand on this result.

9. From acknowledging the truth to truth-values


We have then an exegetical reason to take ‘acknowledge’ to have the
ontic or Quinean meaning in ‘acknowledging the truth of a thought’.
This interpretation of ‘acknowledging the truth of a thought’ would
become more plausible if we could show that this understanding of
‘acknowledging’ can be used in an argument for the conclusion that
there are the two truth-values. Let us see how one can argue for this
conclusion on the basis of the assumption that acknowledging is a
nominal attitude.
Judging is acknowledging the truth of a thought p. Now take the
sentence ‘S acknowledges the truth of the thought p’. It can be decom-
posed into the definite description ‘the truth of the thought p’,

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 23

a psychological verb, and a term for a thinker. Frege holds that a def-
inite description can only be satisfied by an object. He says, for instance:
In the sentence
‘the direction of a is identical with the direction of b ’
the direction of a appears as an object [erscheint als Gegenstand] …
[Footnote: This is shown by the definite article. A concept is for me that
which can be predicate of a singular judgement-content, an object that
which can be subject of the same.] (Frege 1884, p. 77; see also §51, §57,

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§66 n., and §68 n.)
The definite article presents something as an object because definiteness
and identity are intertwined: ‘the F’ denotes something if, and only
if, there is some thing x that is F and everything y that is F is identical
with x. Since only objects can stand in the relation of identity, only
objects can be designated by definite descriptions. This is one source
of Frege’s paradoxical claim that the concept horse is not a concept.
If one could paraphrase away the definite description ‘the truth of
p’, judging would not commit one to a new object. However, if we
expand ‘S acknowledges the truth of p’ to ‘S acknowledges that it is
true that p’ or to ‘S acknowledges p as true’, the regress of predicating
truth is inescapable. For what could acknowledging p as true be other
than predicating truth of it? The same point applies to any attempt to
reduce acknowledging the truth to a propositional attitude. Consider
the most plausible proposal and assume that acknowledging A is
the same as judging that there is something to which A is identical.
This assumption raises again the question whether judgement is predi-
cation of the second-order concept there exists an x = z. A new regress
of predication threatens. But if acknowledging the truth of p is
acknowledging an object, this regress does not get going. If we read
‘acknowledging the truth of p’ such that it prevents the regress, we are
committed to a new object. This object is referred to by ‘the truth of
p’. Further investigation will show that the object is the True. Since
acknowledging the truth of p is the same mental act as acknowledging
the falsity of not-p, we are also committed to the False (see Frege 1897,
PW p. 149 (NS p. 161)). Hence, clarifying what is involved in judge-
ment gives us a reason to take every thinker who makes judgements to
be committed to the True and the False. The regress of predicating
truth is stopped by the introduction of a new object. Although Frege
does not spell out this argument, it is Fregean in spirit in elaborating
his criticism of a predicative understanding of judgement.

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24 Mark Textor

One can fruitfully compare this Fregean line of thought with


Brentano’s remarks on judgement. Brentano takes our immediate
self-knowledge to consist of acknowledgements of mental events in
the ontic sense. In Brentano’s work, acknowledgement or recognition
of an object is a non-propositional and non-predicative act:
No one who pays attention to what goes on within himself when he hears
or sees and perceives his act of hearing or seeing could be mistaken about
the fact that this judgement of inner perception does not consist in the
connection of a mental act as subject with existence as a predicate, but

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consists rather in the simple acknowledgement [in der einfachen
Anerkennung] of the mental phenomenon which is present in inner
consciousness. (Brentano 1874, I. p. 201; my translation and emphasis)
He applies this understanding of acknowledgment to judgement in
general:11
If we say that every acknowledging judgement [anerkennende Urteil] is
an acceptance-as-true, and every rejecting [verwerfende] judgement an
acceptance-as-false, this does not mean that the former consists in
predicating truth of what is accepted as true and the latter in predicating
falsity of what is accepted as false. Our earlier discussions have shown that
what these expressions mean is a particular kind of intentional reception
of an object, a distinctive way of psychologically relating to a content
of consciousness. (Brentano 1874, II. p. 89; my translation)
Judging is acknowledging an object, and acknowledging an object is
not predicating anything of it. Brentano does not say which object is
acknowledged in a judgement. Frege does: the truth of the thought.
We will learn more about this object in section 13.
The ontic conception of acknowledgement sheds light on the meta-
phor that we have seen Frege using in ‘On Sense and Reference’ to
illustrate his view of judgement:
But so much should already be clear that in every judgement, [Footnote:
A judgement, for me is not the mere grasping of a thought, but the
acknowledgement of its truth] — no matter how trivial — the step from the
level of thoughts to the level of reference (the objective) has already been
taken. (Frege 1892, p. 164 (p. 34); in part my translation)
If we understand ‘acknowledging the truth of a thought’ in the ontic
sense, we can credit Frege with the discovery of an act that takes us
from a thought to its truth-value. Grasping a thought is often raising a
propositional question. If one raises the propositional question
whether p, one acknowledges only the thought p, no truth-value or
11
Kremer (2000, p. 565) discusses this further.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 25

referent is acknowledged. When I answer the question (positively),


I move from acknowledging the thought p to acknowledging the
truth of p; I advance to the truth-value. Similarly, when I reject the
truth of a thought I advance to its truth-value. Judgement and infer-
ence are ‘level-crossing’ mental acts. In them the judger advances from
a thought to its truth-value.
To sum up: acknowledging the truth of a thought is an irreducible
nominal attitude. The distinctive character of judgement is not due to
predicating the property z is true, but to the distinctive psychological

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mode of acknowledgement and the nature of the object acknowledged.
The attitude relates us to the truth of the thought p and the falsity of
the thought not-p.
So far we have argued that Frege’s remarks about judgement can be
systematized if we see him as working with the ontic conception of
judgement. In order to make his idea plausible, we need to address
four main problems:
First, we need to say more about the distinctive psychological mode
in which we think of the True without using propositional attitudes
in doing so.
Second, if (i) judging is acknowledging the truth of a thought and
(ii) one can only acknowledge what is, there is no place in Frege’s
theory for false judgements. How can his view make sense of error?
Third, judging p is acknowledging the truth of the thought p and
rejecting the falsity of the opposed thought not-p. Judging therefore
commits us to the assumption that for every true thought there is one
object that can be acknowledged in judgement and for every false
thought there is an object that can be rejected in judgement. Frege
argues for a stronger conclusion: that there are only two truth-values,
the True and the False, which are acknowledged in every judgement.
How can one justify Frege’s view that there are only two truth-values?
Fourth, if a thought is a mode of presentation of the True (False),
there is a property all true thoughts have, namely determining the True.
How can Frege then say there is no such property?

10. Acknowledgement and other nominal attitudes


Let us start with the first problem. Brentano and other writers argue
on independent grounds for the existence of an attitude in which an
object is accepted without being subsumed under a concept.12 Let us
12
For more recent work on the same topic, see Gendler Szabó 2003.

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26 Mark Textor

have a look at these arguments to deepen our understanding of ac-


knowledgement. If I consciously see Johnny, I need not come to be-
lieve that Johnny is F, for some perceptual property F-ness. Yet when I
consciously see him, I am visually aware of him in a way that is ‘not
neutral with respect to his existence’. My consciously seeing Johnny
will of course dispose me to make judgements about his features.
But consciously seeing him does not consist in such judgements.
But does not any form of object-directed intentionality require
awareness of properties possessed by the object of which one is

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aware? For how can one be aware of an object without being aware
of some of its properties?13 Experience of something is always experi-
ence of something as so-and-so. However, one can and should accept
that we are never aware of bare particulars without abandoning
the view that, for instance, in perception one is fundamentally aware
of objects. Consider Ayers’s example:
[W]hat is ‘given’ in a sensation of a green light flashing … is just that, a
green light flashing. So what is given or presented in our complex, but
integrated perceptual state when we perceive a red, hard and heavy
material cube by both sight and touch is the variously qualitied cube, not a
set of internal impressions or sense-data taken to be red and cuboid, if not
hard and heavy. (Ayers 2004, p. 241; my emphasis)
When one says ‘I saw a green light flashing’ or ‘I had a visual impres-
sion as of a green light flashing’, one reports how experience portrays
the world without using a complete that-clause: ‘a green light flashing’
is a so-called ‘small clause construction’. Such a construction is almost
a sentence because it only lacks a copula or an equivalent expression.14
If one adopts Parsons’s account of small clause constructions for our
purposes, one can say that a perceptual experience as of a green light
flashing is an experience as of a process whose subject is the green
light. The process is an object and its relation to the green light is not
that of a property to a subject. The content of my experience is com-
plex; however, its complexity is not the complexity of a property
ascription.
Discussion of this example will not convince all comers and it is not
intended to do so. It should only bring out that there are, independ-
ently of considerations about judgement, reasons to accept irreducible
nominal attitudes.

13
For a good formulation of this intuition, see Ginsborg 2006, p. 354.
14
See Higginbotham 1983 and Parsons 1987.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 27

How can one say in more detail what acknowledging an object is?
One way to do so is to employ the general functionalist strategy and to
characterize acknowledgement by its place in the web of intentional
attitudes and states. There is a whole family of nominal attitudes that
we can make use of. Here is a part of the web of nominal attitudes:
Ceteris paribus, if S fears x, S acknowledges x
Ceteris paribus, if S hates x, S acknowledges x
Ceteris paribus, if S loves x, S acknowledges x

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Ceteris paribus, if S’s attention is drawn to x, S acknowledges x
Ceteris paribus, if S acts upon x, S acknowledges x
We can now build on this general characterization of ontic acknow-
ledgement and say that acknowledgement of truth is a particular spe-
cies of ontic acknowledgement. It may be further characterized by
principles that connect this attitude with normative statuses:
If S values the truth, S will be motivated to acknowledge the truth of
p iff S has reasons for the truth of p
If S acknowledges the truth of p, S is entitled to draw inferences
from p
If S acknowledges the truth of p, S is allowed to assert that p

11. Factivity and error


Let us turn, now, to the second problem. In acknowledging the truth
of the thought that Barcelona is in Italy, I have not advanced to the
False. For it is implausible to say that a false judgement is the acknow-
ledgement of the False under the mode of presentation expressed by
‘the truth of p’. This mode of presentation cannot present the False. If
the thought p is false, the mode of presentation (the truth of p) does
not present anything. Hence, one could say that the falsity of the
content of my judgement results in a referential failure. Although it
is in principle possible for Frege to exploit such a conception of
a mistaken judgement, his remark that one can only acknowledge
what is, points in another direction. Only if a thought is a mode of
presentation of the True can its truth be acknowledged.
It is a remarkable fact that it is difficult to find passages in which
Frege discusses false judgement. Taschek (2008, p. 389, n. 17) lists
three, which all turn out to be inconclusive. They are either about
perceptual illusions that Frege construes as giving rise to the

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28 Mark Textor

entertaining of thoughts that belong to the realm of fiction or about


assertions which are different in crucial respects from judgements.
Frege of course says ‘We can make mistakes’ (1879–91, PW p. 3 (NS
p. 2)). Does this not show that he makes room for false judgements?
No, for this statement is a condensation of ‘What is true is true inde-
pendently of our judgements’ (Frege 1879–91, PW p. 3 (NS p. 2)). If the
truth of p were constituted by one’s judging that p, we would explain
truth in terms of acknowledgment, not the other way around. But
there is no reason for the proponent of the acknowledgement view

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to endorse that the truth of p depends on its acknowledgement.
If acknowledging the truth of a thought is a factive notion, what
account should one give of error or mistaken judgement? Consider
a case in which you and I honestly disagree about a question. You
honestly assert p, while I honestly assert not-p. Since our assertions are
honest, one should assume that we have both made a judgement. But
if judging is acknowledging the truth, and the thoughts p and not-p
cannot both be true, one of us has not made a judgement. This is
prima facie counter-intuitive.
However, the problem disappears if we bring in the notion of a try
or an attempt. As Frege himself says, we are only bound by the laws of
truth if we want our thinking to reach the truth (Frege 1893, p. xvi).
Suppose p is true. Then I have tried to acknowledge the truth of not-p,
and failed to do so without realizing. There is a clear and intuitive
sense of ‘mistake’ in which I made a mistake. I have failed to do what I
tried to do. The falsity of the thought makes my trying to acknowledge
the truth a failure. If I am to succeed in acknowledging the truth,
I must acknowledge the truth of p and reject the truth of not-p.
Hence, Frege can give good sense to the idea of a mistaken judgement
even if acknowledging the truth is a factive attitude.
We often make false assertions. Is this an internal problem for
Frege’s view because of the connection between assertion and judge-
ment? No, asserting is not making a judgement. If I assert that p,
I present myself as someone who has judged that p or is disposed
to judge that p. I can present myself in this way without being in a
position to make the relevant judgement.
In turn, we can exploit the factive character of acknowledgement to
explain when a judgement is successful. Compare acknowledging the
truth with hitting the target, and trying to acknowledge the truth with
aiming for the target.15 Hitting the target involves aiming at the target.
15
For this analogy, see Kremer 2000, p. 555.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 29

As every hitting of the target is a successful act of aiming to hit the


target, every acknowledging of the truth is a successful act of aiming to
acknowledge the truth. But not every act of aiming to acknowledge the
truth is successful. Such failed acts are not judgements; they are mere
attempts to make a judgement. As a failed attempt to hit the target
may be indistinguishable for the person undertaking it from a hitting
of the target, a failed attempt to acknowledge the truth may be indis-
tinguishable for the thinker from an acknowledgement of the truth
until further investigation takes place. There is no regress of explan-

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ation here because acknowledging the truth is a success notion and
cannot be qualified in the dimension successful/unsuccessful. One
cannot unsuccessfully hit the target.

12. What is Frege up to?


The previous section raises a new sub-problem. It is fair to say that the
common-sense conception of judgement, if there is one, is not cap-
tured by Frege’s metaphor of advancement from a thought to a truth-
value. Similarly, we would resist the idea that judging is factive: false
judgements seem to be judgements, not mere attempts to acknowledge
the truth. Frege should then not be seen as attempting to capture a
pre-theoretic concept. But what, then, is he trying to achieve?
In order to answer this question let us compare Frege’s treatment of
judgement with his treatment of number. We possess the concept of
number and have intuitions about its applications, but this concept is
also the basic concept of a science, arithmetic. Similarly, we master the
concept of judgement and we can confidently ascribe judgements
and justify our ascriptions by drawing on features of judgements.
At the same time judgement is a basic concept of a science, namely
logic. Judging is for Frege the logically primitive activity and logic
studies inferences, conceived as judgements with a distinctive kind
of justification.
If what we hold ‘in everyday life’ about number comes into con-
flict with what the science of arithmetic holds, Frege sides with the
science. In Foundations of Arithmetic, for instance, he observes that
number-words have an attributive use (‘The emperor’s carriage is
drawn by four horses’) and a singular term use (‘The number of
Jupiter’s moons is the number 4’). Now, identity statements in
which numerals function as singular terms are dominant in arithmet-
ic; equations are of special interest to mathematicians (see Frege 1884,

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30 Mark Textor

p. 69). Frege goes on to privilege in his account the use of numerals


in equations. His justification is that
[o]ur concern here is to arrive at a concept of number usable for the
purposes of science; we should not, therefore, be deterred by the fact that
in the language of everyday life number appears also in attributive
constructions. (Frege 1884, p. 69)
Just as Frege ignores certain features of the common-sense concept of
number, he ignores some features of our concept of judgement while
he keeps others (judging is an activity, etc.) in order to arrive at the

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concept of judgement that is of use for the science of logic. In logic we
need to take the step from a thought to its truth — that is the point of
inference. Hence, we need an attitude in which one apprehends the
truth and not just the thought. In contrast to intensional logicians he
stresses that one must not
forget that logic is not concerned with how thoughts, regardless of truth-
value, follow from thoughts, that the step from thought to truth-value —
more generally, the step from sense to reference — has to be taken … (Frege
1892–5, PW p. 122 (NS p. 133); emphasis added)
The advancement-to-truth model is therefore rooted in Frege’s under-
standing of logic, not in our common practice of ascribing judgements
to thinkers. Every rational thinker who pursues the truth will make
inferences — that is, mediated judgements. If the sceptic makes infer-
ences, he can, by reflection on what he does, discover that he is
acknowledging the truth of thoughts. Further reflection will make it
clear that he has thereby admitted truth-values into his ontology. In
this sense every judger is committed to truth-values.
Frege did not try to capture the common-sense concept of judge-
ment, but to develop a scientifically useful concept. Therefore, if
common-sense counts failed judgements as judgements while he
takes them to be mere attempts to make a judgement, this therefore
does not count against Frege. Yet, if one wants to bring Frege’s view
closer to capturing the common-sense notion of judgement, one could
explain judgement as an attempt to acknowledge the truth, either
successful or not.

13. More about the True and the False


Now to the third main problem. So far we have not closed the pos-
sibility that each true (false) thought has its own truth-value, distinct

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 31

from the truth-value of other thoughts. Frege himself encourages


this idea:
By the truth-value of a sentence I understand the circumstance that it is
true or false. (Frege 1892, p. 163 (p. 34))
However, truth-values cannot be circumstances consisting of sen-
tences and the concept z is true (false). If Frege uses the truth-predicate
to say what a truth-value is, he faces the problem of explaining why
‘sentence S stands for the True’ should be more than an artificial
way to say that S is true. Things get even more complicated: if

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the truth-value of the sentence S is the circumstance that S is true
(false), and circumstances are distinct if they have distinct constitu-
ents, then there are as many truth-values as there are sentences.
However, he argues that there are exactly two truth-values. My con-
clusion is that he does not tell us what truth-values are in the above
passage. He only tells his readers under which circumstances a sen-
tence S has a truth-value: S has a truth-value if, and only if, S is either
true or false.16
How can one make it plausible that every true (false) thought is a
mode of presentation of the same truth-value? In ‘On Sense and
Reference’, Frege gives a further characterization of judgement as
distinguishing parts in the truth-value. This distinguishing is done by going
back to the thought. (Frege 1892, p. 165 (p. 35); my translation)
One can draw on this characterization to understand the relation be-
tween thoughts and truth-values. However, the characterization just
given is controversial and needs discussion first.
Frege later gives up the assumption that truth-values have parts, but
sticks to the assumption that thoughts have parts.17 The reference
of the definite description ‘the capital of Sweden’ is Stockholm,
but Stockholm does not contain as a part the reference of the name
‘Sweden’, although the name is part of the definite description (see
Frege 1919, PW p. 255 (NS p. 275); and Frege 1913, p. 87 (p. 20)).
In general, the reference of a complex expression is not a compositum
of the references of its parts. For this reason Frege used ‘part’ in ‘On
Sense and Reference’ in a new, extended sense.
One can bring out the point Frege aims for when he characterizes
judgement as distinguishing parts in truth-values without assuming

16
I owe this reading to Künne 2010, pp. 315–19.
17
Heck and May (MS) discuss and assess Frege’s reasons for the assumption that thoughts
have parts.

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32 Mark Textor

that truth-values really have parts. He holds that we decompose


thoughts into parts. Why? His considered view is that one decomposes
sentences into complete and incomplete parts when one sees them
as premisses and conclusion in an inference from the general to the
particular. (See Frege 1914, PW p. 201 (NS p. 217); Frege 1906b,
PW p. 187 (NS p. 203); Frege 1919, PW p. 254 (NS p. 274).) Take a
simple inference:
ðPÞ j
a¼a
Therefore: (K) j Hesperus = Hesperus

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When I infer (K) from (P), I see the sentences asserted and the
thoughts they express as sharing a part, namely the predicate ‘z = z’.
(K) is an instance of (P) because both contain this predicate. But
discerning a shared predicate and the corresponding thought part in
the premiss and conclusion is not sufficient to appreciate that one can
infer the one from the other. Inferring is acknowledging the truth of
one thought in virtue of acknowledging the truth of another. If we take
this and the previous point together, we arrive at the thesis that in order
to make an inference from (P) to (K) one must see the thoughts ex-
pressed as sharing parts such that sharing those parts guarantees that (K)
is true, if (P) is true. But one can only see this connection between the
composition of the thoughts and their truth, if one implicitly assumes
that the thought parts are modes of presentations of referents and that
the referents in turn determine the truth of the thoughts under con-
sideration. Instead of misleadingly saying that judging is distinguishing
parts in a truth-value Frege could have said the following:
In judging and inferring p one decomposes the thought p into
complete and incomplete parts and one thereby acknowledges those
objects and concepts that are presented by these thought parts and
which determine (when the concepts are applied to the objects) the
truth-value of the thought.
The commitment to these objects and concepts is manifest in our
concern for the references of the parts of the sentence that expresses
the thought when we care about truth (Frege 1892, p. 163 (p. 33)).
In this picture, every true (false) thought can be decomposed into
parts. These parts represent, in the case of simple predicative thoughts,
objects and concepts, in the case of quantificational thoughts, first and
higher-order concepts. In the simplest case, the value of the concept
presented for the objects presented is the truth-value of the thought.
If the truth-value is functionally determined by the objects and

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 33

concepts presented by the thought parts, and not by the thought parts
themselves, one can exchange thought parts that present the same
objects without changing the truth-value:
The result of replacing the mode of presentation a in the thought
that a is F with a mode of presentation that determines the same
object as a is a new thought with the same truth-value as the
thought that a is F
This substitution principle together with further premisses yields the
conclusion that every true thought presents the True, every false

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thought the False. The True and the False are objects and thoughts
are modes of presentation of these objects in that the thought deter-
mines at most one truth-value. Thoughts are expressed by assertoric
sentences, therefore these sentences name or at least purport to name
the True (the False).
If there is only one object, the True, which is acknowledged in any
judgement, and another object, the False, which is rejected in the same
judgement, is there just one type of judgement, acknowledgement
of the True? No, here we need to bring to bear that judgement is
a three-place relation between a thought, a thinker, and a truth-value.
Judging is acknowledging the truth of a thought. Although all judge-
ments are directed upon the True, they differ, argues Frege, because
the True is determined via different modes of presentations, that
is, thoughts (Frege 1892, p. 177 (p. 50)).

14. Acknowledging the truth and the truth-property


Let us finally turn to the fourth main problem. Judging is the logically
primitive activity. It is best understood as acknowledging the truth of
a thought. Therefore the logically primitive activity commits us
to truth-values, negation, and concepts. Logic is concerned with the
objects we discover when we reflect on judgement and the laws that
hold for these things. Neither the laws of truth nor the prescriptions
for correct judgement involve the property z is true. Consider again
Frege’s first basic law: a ! (b ! a). The property z is true is predicated
neither in this nor in any other law of logic. The prescriptions for
judgement are prescriptions for the correct acknowledgement of the
truth of a thought. Hence, they govern our acknowledgement of
a particular kind of object, not the ascription of a property.
However, if thoughts are modes of presentation of the True (False),
there will be a property which all thoughts that stand for the

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34 Mark Textor

True have: they all determine the True. Now one can say that some-
thing falls under the concept z is true if, and only if, it stands in the
determination-relation to the True. Hence, every true thought has the
property z is true.18
Does this, as some philosophers have argued, constitute a tension
in Frege’s philosophy? (See Kemp 1995, p. 44.) No, Frege can accept
that there is a property which all and only true thoughts have: they
all fall under z is true. But the truth-property is, so to speak, just an
ordinary property, not a logical one. This is because the concept z is

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true plays a role neither in an account of the logically primitive
activity of judgement nor in the laws of logic. Reflection on judge-
ment shows that judging commits us to two objects: the True and
the False. The fact that there is a property that all and only thoughts
that determine the True have is a consequence of an investigation
into the nature of judgement. But it is no part of this investigation.
Compare: if one analyses propositional knowledge as true justified
belief, it is a trivial consequence that all knowers have the property
of having at least one belief. However, this further property is not a
property with which epistemology is concerned. Similarly, the prop-
erty determining the True is not a property with which logic is
concerned.
To say that logic is not concerned with the concept z is true is not to
deny that there is such a concept. Indeed, Frege has good reason
to think that there is such a property. If ‘z is true’ did not refer to a
concept, sentences containing it (‘(the thought) that seawater is salty
is true’) would be neither true nor false. However, this is clearly not
the case. Therefore, ‘z is true’ must have sense and reference, and there
must be a concept z is true.19
The assumption that there is a concept of truth allows Frege to give
a coherent account of judgements that directly involve the sense of
the truth-predicate. For example, I may come to form the belief
that disjunctivism is true, although I cannot spell out in detail what
disjunctivism is, that is, I don’t know that disjunctivism says that p,
for some p. While the truth-operator ‘it is true that … ’ is always
eliminable, the truth-predicate is not. When I acknowledge the truth
of the thought that disjunctivism is true, I subsume an object,

18
I ignore here Tarskian reasons to doubt the existence of such a property.
19
See Frege 1915, PW pp. 251–2 (NS pp. 271–2), for a parallel argument that concludes that
‘true’ has a sense.

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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 35

disjunctivism, under the concept z is true (given a particular decom-


position of this thought).
I want to conclude this paper by taking a look at a longstanding
dispute between Frege-exegetes. Some Frege-exegetes have argued that
Frege puts forth arguments that support the view that there is no
property of truth (see Ricketts 1996, p. 131). Hence, Frege lacked
truth-conditional semantics and he could not pursue what is today
called ‘semantics’ and ‘meta-logic’: he cannot define when a thought
has the property z is true and study the consistency and completeness

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of logical systems.
Another group of exegetes has argued that Frege allows for the
use of the truth-predicate in arguments intended to persuade us of
the truth of axioms (see Burge 1986, pp. 133 ff.; Heck 2007; Stanley
1996; and Tappenden 1997). Of course there can be no proofs of
axioms. But the content of an axiom can be unfolded in argumen-
tative steps. There is semantical reasoning in Frege’s Basic Laws of
Arithmetic.
The distinction between the truth-values as logical objects and z
is true as a non-logical property points us towards a solution to
this dispute. Both opponents are right. Logic is not concerned with
the property z is true. But there is the property z is true that can be
studied, although it is not studied in logic but in, as Frege says, a new
science.20 If we study whether a thought is logically independent of
another thought,
we enter into a realm that is otherwise foreign to mathematics. For
although like all other disciplines mathematics, too, is carried out in
thoughts, thoughts are otherwise not the objects of its investigations …
(Frege 1906a, p. 336 (pp. 425–6))
The new science aims, broadly speaking, to discover laws about the
semantic properties of thoughts. The new science is different from
logic because it is a special science, its objects are thoughts and their
properties, and its ontology is not established by drawing on the
theory of judgement.21 The laws of logic issue prescriptions for judge-
ment in general, the laws of the new science issue only prescriptions
for judgements of a particular kind.22
20
For further discussion of Frege’s new science, see Antonelli and May 2000.
21
Weiner (2005, pp. 343 f.) makes the distinction between the special science of thoughts
that uses a truth-predicate and the universal science of logic that does not.
22
I have presented material related to this paper in talks at the University of Bern, King’s
College London, Trinity College Dublin, the conference ‘Days of Judgement’ in Leiden, and the

Mind, Vol. 0 . 0 . 2010 ß Textor 2010


36 Mark Textor

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University of Zürich. I have benefited from discussion on these occasions. I am particularly


indebted to Niall Connolly, Nils Kürbis, Jim Levine, David Papineau, Gabriel Segal, and
Markus Stepanians for discussion. I want to thank Jessica Leech, Wolfgang Künne, and
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Frege on Judging as Acknowledging the Truth 37

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