Synthese 167 (1):105 - 123 (2009)

Mark Textor
King's College London
Frege’s writings contain arguments for the thesis (i) that a thought expressed by a sentence S is a structured object whose composition pictures the composition of S, and for the thesis (ii) that a thought is an unstructured object. I will argue that Frege’s reasons for both (i) and (ii) are strong. Frege’s explanation of the difference in sense between logically equivalent sentences rests on assumption (i), while Frege’s claim that the same thought can be decomposed differently makes (ii) plausible. Thoughts are supposed to do work that requires that they be structured and work that requires that they be unstructured. But this cannot be! While the standard response to this problem is to reject either (i) or (ii), I propose a charitable repair in the spirit of Frege’s theory that accepts both. The key idea can be found in Frege’s Basic Laws of Arithmetic(BL, GGA). Frege argues that the thought expressed by a sentence is determined by the truth-conditions that can be derived from the semantic axioms for the sentence constituents. The fact that the same axiomatic truth-condition can be derived in different ways from different semantic axioms suggests a Fregean solution of the dilemma: A thought is a type that is instantiated by all sequences of senses (decomposed thoughts) that have the same axiomatic truth-conditions. This allows for multiple decomposability of the same thought (for different decomposed thoughts can have the same axiomatic truth-conditions) and for a notion of containment (the decomposed thought contains those senses whose semantic axioms are needed in the derivation of the truth-conditions). My proposal combines the virtues of (i) and (ii) without inheriting their vices.
Keywords Frege  Thoughts  Multiple Decomposition
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-008-9304-z
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,079
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Principles of Mathematics.Bertrand Russell - 1903 - Cambridge, England: Allen & Unwin.
The Foundations of Arithmetic.Gottlob Frege - 1884/1950 - Evanston: Ill., Northwestern University Press.

View all 47 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Composition of Thoughts.Richard Heck & Robert May - 2011 - Noûs 45 (1):126-166.
Frege on Multiple Analyses and the Essential Articulatedness of Thought.Silver Bronzo - 2017 - Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 5 (10).
Gedanken Beleuchten. Frege Und Davidson Zum Problem der Prädikation.Christoph C. Pfisterer - 2009 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 57 (4):583-595.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Analysis and Decomposition in Frege and Russell.James Levine - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (207):195-216.
Frege and the Analysis of Thoughts.Pieranna Garavaso - 1991 - History and Philosophy of Logic 12 (2):195-210.
The Composition of Thoughts.Richard Heck & Robert May - 2011 - Noûs 45 (1):126-166.
Frege on Truths, Truth and the True.Wolfgang Künne - 2008 - Studia Philosophica Estonica 1 (1):5-42.
The Truth of Thoughts: Variations on Fregean Themes.Oswaldo Chateaubriand - 2007 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 75 (1):199-215.
The Structure of Frege's Thoughts.Marian Zouhar - 2011 - History and Philosophy of Logic 32 (3):199-209.
I. Frege as a Realist.Michael Dummett - 1976 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 19 (1-4):455-468.
Frege's Gedanken Are Not Truth Conditions.Ari Maunu - 2002 - Facta Philosophica 4 (2):231-238.


Added to PP index

Total views
158 ( #74,050 of 2,506,036 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #416,828 of 2,506,036 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes