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Frege's Judgement Stroke and the Conception of Logic as the Study of Inference not Consequence



One of the most striking differences between Frege's Begriffsschrift (logical system) and standard contemporary systems of logic is the inclusion in the former of the judgement stroke: a symbol which marks those propositions which are being asserted, that is, which are being used to express judgements. There has been considerable controversy regarding both the exact purpose of the judgement stroke, and whether a system of logic should include such a symbol. This paper explains the intended role of the judgement stroke in a way that renders it readily comprehensible why Frege insisted that this symbol was an essential part of his logical system. The key point here is that Frege viewed logic as the study of inference relations amongst acts of judgement, rather than – as in the typical contemporary view – of consequence relations amongst certain objects (propositions or well-formed formulae). The paper also explains why Frege's use of the judgement stroke is not in conflict with his avowed anti-psychologism, and why Wittgenstein's criticism of the judgement stroke as ‘logically quite meaningless’ is unfounded. The key point here is that while the judgement stroke has no content, its use in logic and mathematics is subject to a very stringent norm of assertion.