Fregean abstraction, referential indeterminacy and the logical foundations of arithmetic

Erkenntnis 59 (2):203 - 232 (2003)
In Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik, Frege attempted to introduce cardinalnumbers as logical objects by means of a second-order abstraction principlewhich is now widely known as ``Hume's Principle'' (HP): The number of Fsis identical with the number of Gs if and only if F and G are equinumerous.The attempt miscarried, because in its role as a contextual definition HP fails tofix uniquely the reference of the cardinality operator ``the number of Fs''. Thisproblem of referential indeterminacy is usually called ``the Julius Caesar problem''.In this paper, Frege's treatment of the problem in Grundlagen is critically assessed. In particular, I try to shed new light on it by paying special attention to the framework of his logicism in which it appears embedded. I argue, among other things, that the Caesar problem, which is supposed to stem from Frege's tentative inductive definition of the natural numbers, is only spurious, not genuine; that the genuine Caesar problem deriving from HP is a purely semantic one and that the prospects of removing it by explicitly defining cardinal numbers as objects which are not classes are presumably poor for Frege. I conclude by rejecting two closely connected theses concerning Caesar put forward by Richard Heck: (i) that Frege could not abandon Axiom V because he could not solve the Julius Caesar problem without it; (ii) that (by his own lights) his logicist programme in Grundgesetze der Arithmetik failed because he could not overcome that problem.
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Ethics   Logic   Ontology
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