The Decomposition of Thought


This paper defends an interpretation of Gottlob Frege’s views on the structure of thought. I argue that Frege did not think that a thought has a unique decomposition into its component senses, but rather the same thought can be decomposed into senses in multiple, distinct ways. These multiple decompositions will often have distinct logical forms. I also argue against Michael Dummett and others that Frege was committed to the sense of a predicate being a function from the sense of a name (or names) to a complete thought. I defend my Frege interpretation against a puzzle often discussed in the Frege literature; namely, that the Multiple Decompositions Thesis is incompatible with Frege’s stated view that a thought is built up out of its component senses as parts. I provide textual evidence and argument that Frege thought of the part/whole relation in such a way that a whole can be analyzed into (or built up out of) parts in multiple, distinct ways, thus dissolving the puzzle. I conclude with discussion of every sort of example of multiple decompositions that can be found in Frege's work.



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Nathan Bice
Columbia University (PhD)

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References found in this work

The foundations of arithmetic.Gottlob Frege - 1884/1950 - Evanston, Ill.,: Northwestern University Press.
Posthumous Writings.Gottlob Frege (ed.) - 1979 - Blackwell.
The Interpretation of Fregeʼs Philosophy.Michael Dummett - 1980 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Collected Papers on Mathematics, Logic, and Philosophy.Gottlob Frege - 1991 - Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by Brian McGuinness.

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