Number determiners, numbers, and arithmetic

Philosophical Review 114 (2):179-225 (2005)
In his groundbreaking Grundlagen, Frege (1884) pointed out that number words like ‘four’ occur in ordinary language in two quite different ways and that this gives rise to a philosophical puzzle. On the one hand ‘four’ occurs as an adjective, which is to say that it occurs grammatically in sentences in a position that is commonly occupied by adjectives. Frege’s example was (1) Jupiter has four moons, where the occurrence of ‘four’ seems to be just like that of ‘green’ in (2) Jupiter has green moons. On the other hand, ‘four’ occurs as a singular term, which is to say that it occurs in a position that is commonly occupied by paradigmatic cases of singular terms, like proper names: (3) The number of moons of Jupiter is four. Here ‘four’ seems to be just like ‘Wagner’ in (4) The composer of Tannhäuser is Wagner, and both of these statements seem to be identity statements, ones with which we claim that what two singular terms stand for is identical. But that number words can occur both as singular terms and as adjectives is puzzling. Usually adjectives cannot occur in a position occupied by a singular term, and the other way round, without resulting in ungrammaticality and nonsense. To give just one example, it would be ungrammatical to replace ‘four’ with ‘the number of moons of Jupiter’ in (1): (5) *Jupiter has the number of moons of Jupiter moons. This ungrammaticality results even though ‘four’ and ‘the number of moons of Jupiter’ are both apparently singular terms standing for the same object in (3). So, how can it be that number words can occur both as singular terms and as adjectives, while other adjectives cannot occur as singular terms, and other singular terms cannot occur as adjectives?
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DOI 10.1215/00318108-114-2-179
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