Frege's Theory of Sense and Reference: Some Exegetical Notes

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Abstract:

Frege's theory of indirect contexts and the shift of sense and reference in these contexts has puzzled many. What can the hierarchy of indirect senses, doubly indirect senses, and so on, be? Donald Davidson gave a well-known ‘unlearnability’ argument against Frege's theory. The present paper argues that the key to Frege's theory lies in the fact that whenever a reference is specified (even though many senses determine a single reference), it is specified in a particular way, so that giving a reference implies giving a sense; and that one must be ‘acquainted’ with the sense. It is argued that an indirect sense must be ‘immediately revelatory’ of its reference. General principles for Frege's doctrine of sense and reference are sated, for both direct and indirect quotation, to be understood iteratively. I also discuss Frege's doctrine of tensed and first person statements in the light of my analysis. The views of various other authors are examined. The conclusion is to ascribe to Frege an implicit doctrine of acquaintance similar to that of Russell.

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