Focus restored comment on John MacFarlane's “double vision: Two questions about the neo-Fregean programme”

Anything worth regarding as logicism about number theory holds that its fundamental laws – in effect, the Dedekind-Peano axioms – may be known on the basis of logic and definitions alone. For Frege, the logic in question was that of the Begriffschrift – effectively, full impredicative second order logic - together with the resources for dealing with the putatively “logical objects” provided by Basic Law V of Grundgesetze. With this machinery in place, and with the course-of-values operator governed by Basic Law V counting as logical, it is possible for all the definitions involved in the logicist reconstruction of arithmetic and analysis to be fully explicit, abbreviative definitions. Had Frege’s project succeeded, he would therefore have been in position – by his own lights – to regard the axioms of number theory simply as definitional abbreviations of certain theorems of his pure logic. Basic Law V, as every interested party knows, is inconsistent. But twentieth century orthodoxy would have scorned its description as a law of logic in any case, purely on the grounds of its existential fecundity. Contemporary Neo-Fregeanism in the foundations of mathematics does not, in intention at least, pick any quarrel with the idea that pure logic should be ontologically austere. It does however maintain that the existence of the natural numbers and the real numbers as classically conceived, and thereby the truth of the traditional axioms of arithmetic and analysis, may still be known a priori on the basis of logic and definitions. For the purposes of this claim, logic is once again conceived as essentially the system of Begriffschrift. But Basic Law V is superseded by a variety of abstraction principles, of which Hume's Principle is the best known example, which we are regarded as free to lay down as true by way of determination of the meaning of the non-logical vocabulary that they contain. Thus — the idea is — the Dedekind-Peano axioms, for example, may be known, a priori, to be true by virtue of their derivation in pure logic from a principle which may be regarded as stipulatively true, and whose very stipulation may be regarded as conferring content upon the sole item of non-logical vocabulary – the cardinality operator – which it contains and thereby as conferring content upon Hume's Principle itself..
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