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Sunday, December 23, 2018


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Clearly agree on the direct reference thing. Absurdities result if the meaning of a name is its bearer.

But this is a question of Frege exegesis. What does Frege mean by saying that the negation of ‘Kepler died in misery’ isn’t ‘Kepler did not die in misery, or the name 'Kepler' ist bedeutungslos’. How do we translate his German here?

As you must know, there is a big scholarly debate about this. That is why in the third edition they replaced (nearly) every occurrence of ‘reference’ with ‘meaning’. So the title of Frege’s essay is now ‘On Sense and Meaning’.

There are at least five reasons why it should be ‘meaning’ not ‘reference’, here is one for the Kepler example. Why on earth does Frege say that we can’t express the negation as the disjunction ‘Kepler did not die in misery, or the name 'Kepler' ist bedeutungslos’?. Surely if the external and accidential relation of reference was intended, that’s exactly how we would express it. Either Kepler died in misery or Kepler did not exist. (Let’s put aside the red herring of presentism for now). If ‘Bedeutung’ simply means reference, then ‘Kepler does not exist’ means the same as ‘‘Kepler’ has no referent, and Frege should have no problem with expressing the negation that way. So why does he say we cannot express it that way?

The only reason I can think of is that ‘Bedeutung’ means exactly what it means in German, namely the thing signified, the meaning of ‘Kepler’. Then of course we cannot express the negation that way.

The most general meaning of Bedeutung is semantic value. The semantic value of a Satz is its Wahrheitswert. The semantic value of an Eigenname is its Gegenstand. The semantic value of a Begriffswort is a Begriff.

In each case there is a difference between sense and reference, Sinn and Bedutung.

The Sinn of a Satz is a Gedanke. The Sinn of an Eigenname is the proper name's sense or Sinn, which is not a Gedanke (proposition, thought) but a constituent thereof. The Sinn of a Begriffswort is the sense of the concept word.

Bedeutungslos: A sentence is bedeutungslos if it has no truth value. A proper name is bedeutungslos if there is no Gegenstand to which it refers. Thus 'Vulcan' is bedutungslos, but obviously it has meaning because it has Sinn. A concept word is beduetungslos if there is no Funktion to which it refers.

Alles klar?

So in the case of an ordinary proper name such as 'Kepler,' the name is bedeutunglos if there is nothing to which it refers. So Bedeutung is correctly translated as reference assuming 'reference' means what 'referent' means.

When I assert that Kepler died in misery, I presuppose that 'Kepler' refers to something; but that my use of this name has this presupposition is no part of the Sinn of the Satz I assertively utter. That's Frege's point. Now suppose you assert a falsehood: you assert that Kepler did not die in misery. You too are presupposing that 'Kepler' has a referent. So the negation of the Gedanke or proposition *Kepler died in misery* is *Kepler did not die in misery," NOT *Kepler did not die in misery or the name 'Kepler' is bedeutungslos.* We are arguing about whether a man who we both believe existed died in misery or not. The presupposition we are both making is external to the content (proposition) we are arguing about.

The point is that a singular proposition like *Kepler died in misery* does not entail the proposition *Kepler exists.* Therefore *Kepler did not die in misery* is not the disjunction *Kepler did not die in misery or Kepler did not exist.*

What am I missing?

>>The Sinn of a Satz is a Gedanke.

However you are ignoring the places where he speaks of 'mock thoughts' in the case of empty names and fiction. The mountain you have to climb is chapter 1 of Evans' The Varieties of Reference. Have you read that? If not, there is a gap in your education, sorry!

I read Evans a long time ago and the book is in my library (but my library is so big I am having trouble locating it.) In any case we are not concerned with fiction. 'Kepler died in misery' is not a fictional sentence.

More on presupposition later.

>> 'Kepler died in misery' is not a fictional sentence.

Correct. But you need to read and understand Evans in order to grasp the significance of the mock vs genuine distinction.

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