Taking Frege's name in vain

Erkenntnis 39 (2):167 - 190 (1993)
A widely held view about Fregean Sense has it that the determination of a sign's referent by the sign's sense is achieved viasatisfaction: the sense specifies a condition (or set of conditions) and the referent is that entity, if any, which uniquely satisfies that (set of) condition(s). This is usually held in conjunction with the claim that the sense is existentially and qualitatively independent of the referent: if the referent did not exist, or did not uniquely satisfy the sense, the sense would still exist and would still specify the same condition(s) that it actually does (and might determine a different referent than its actual one). Proponents of this view give several reasons for holding it. I describe these reasons and argue that they are not convincing. More generally, I try to show that the notion of satisfaction has no useful application within Frege's system. I then suggest an alternative account of the determination of a referent by a sense that I think is truer to Frege and more illuminating. Compared to the satisfaction view, my account construes determination as a more naturalistic and epistemically real relation between speakers and things in the world.
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