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Frege: Reading guide

Make sure you know what the following concepts mean and how to use them appropriately:

  • sense and reference
Make sure you understand:
  • the argument about why statements of the form a = b, where a and b are expressions referring to the same object or individual, suggest that reference is not all there is to meaning;
  • that reference is external to language: referents of linguistic expressions are objects in the world; 
  • that a sense is the meaning an expression carries that (1) is not its referent, (2) is shared among speakers (as opposed to concepts or ideas, which are speaker-dependent);
  • that a given referent may be designated by different linguistic expressions ("signs", in Frege's terms) with different senses
    • for instance, the morning star and the evening star have the same referent, but their senses are not equal; they correspond to different "modes of presentation", in Frege's words, of one and the same referent; 
  • that the proposition expressed by a declarative sentence (the "thought", in Frege's terms) is its sense;
  • why it makes sense to postulate that the referents of declarative sentences are truth values:
    • when we understand a declarative sentence out of context, for instance The professor is holding a pen we can imagine a given "thought" associated to it;
    • when we check this "thought" against the world, against a given state of affairs, we can decide whether the sentence is true or false;
    • thus, only when the connection between the sentence and the world is made, that is, when we go from sense ("thought") to reference, does the sentence become a statement that can be judged true or false. Reference for sentences involves truth judgements.