Sense, Reference and Ontology in Early Analytic Philosophy

Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin (2000)

In this dissertation I present an interpretation of Gottlob Frege's "On Sense and Reference", and Bertrand Russell's "On Denoting." I consider other works by both authors, but those two essays structure the dissertation as a whole. Both essays, I argue, are works in ontology. What I mean by 'ontology' is best explained by the problems I claim motivate Frege and Russell. ;Frege posits the existence of a class of entities he calls "senses" to serve as constituents of the truth-makers for sentences containing propositional attitude verbs . I read Russell's work as a response to Frege's. Russell contends that senses are objectionable on their own terms, and that they are unnecessary because the problem that seems to require them, can be solved without them. Russell offers his theory of descriptions as an alternative to Frege's distinction between sense and reference. In place of senses, Russell's ontology contains universals, both monadic properties and relations. Ultimately, I argue that Russell's response to Frege is a failure. The theory presented in "On Denoting" cannot solve the problem of false belief. That is, it cannot account for the truth of sentences such as 'John believes P', where the 'P' is replaced by a false sentence
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