What's in a Numeral? Frege's Answer

Mind 116 (463):677 - 716 (2007)
Frege wanted to define the number 1 and the concept of number. What is required of a satisfactory definition? A truly arbitrary definition will not do: to stipulate that the number one is Julius Caesar is to change the subject. One might expect Frege to define the number 1 by giving a description that picks out the object that the numeral '1' already names; to define the concept of number by giving a description that picks out precisely those objects that are numbers. Yet Frege appears to do no such thing. Indeed, when he defends his definitions, he does not argue that they pick out objects that we have been talking about all along-the issue never comes up. The aim of this paper is to explain why. I argue that, on Frege's view, our numerals do not, antecedent to his work, name particular objects. This raises an obvious question: If (like 'Odysseus') the numerals do not name particular objects, how can Frege write (as he does) as if sentences in which numerals appear state truths? One central concern of this paper is exegetical-to answer these questions. But my aim is not solely exegetical. For these questions direct us to something that, I believe, creates only an apparent problem for Frege but an actual problem for many contemporary philosophers: the assumption that singular terms appearing in statements about the world must actually have referents. Another aim of this paper is to suggest that the problem-as well as a solution that can be found in Frege's writings-should be of import to contemporary philosophers
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 22,631
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

46 ( #97,970 of 1,938,745 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #458,338 of 1,938,745 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.