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PHIL 415 - Lecture: Frege (The Thought) and Russell
PHIL 415 - Lecture: Frege (The Thought) and Russell

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McGill University
PHIL 415
Michael Hallett

Frege - “The Thought: A Logical Inquiry” (1918) Anti-idealism -> Objectivism about senses/thoughts -> Thoughts as objects In this paper, Frege repeats the assertion that the thought is the sense of the sentence Frege is at pains here to point out that Thoughts are unlike material things(incorruptible), yet they are unlike mental contents. In this regard, lists (pp. 299-301) central properties if odeas (look briefly at these), then proceeds to argue that Thoughts are not like that. Above all, Thoughts need no bearer. ... If the Pythagorean theorem about right-angled triangles is true, it is and was always (so timelessly) true. If it is true that the sun has nine satellites then it is timelessly true. Now it surely cannot be sentences that are true or false (sentences as linguistic objects), since sentences are only of quite recent invention. Therefore it must be what sentences express that possess truth-values – thus these must be timeless as well, and these are just what Frege calls Thoughts. Thus thoughts must be timeless, universal and thus independent of us. We do not produce them, we discover, or apprehend them. Frege goes on to point out one other feature of thoughts which he claims makes them somewhat similar to 'outer objects', physical things. They do not, like things, undergo change – they do not decay, are not subject to earthquakes or whatever. However, like physical things they can affect the physical world, usually via their being grasped by minds. They can act, through being apprehended, but they cannot be acted upon. (Look at the way physical or political theories have had an impact on the world. More subtly, think about scientific experimentation.) Difficulties with this view: > Why is language, a human invention, so wonderfully suited to capture thought, which is independent of us? (Many examples in the paper of how the proper construal of sense depends on the linguistic formulation.) > Not clear what 'apprehending/grasping' a Thought amounts to. > Not clear how the certainty of communication follows. How
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