Mind 114 (454):321-354 (2005)

Authors
Joan Weiner
Indiana University, Bloomington
Abstract
Does Frege have a metatheory for his logic? There is an obvious and uncontroversial sense in which he does. Frege introduces and discusses his new logic in natural language; he argues, in response to criticisms of Begriffsschrift, that his logic is superior to Boole's by discussing formal features of both systems. In so far as the enterprise of using natural language to introduce, discuss, and argue about features of a formal system is metatheoretic, there can be no doubt: Frege has a metatheory. There is also an obvious and uncontroversial sense in which Frege does not have a metatheory for his logic. The model theoretic semantics with which we are familiar today are a post-Fregean development. The question I address in this paper is, does Frege have a metatheory in the following sense: do his justifications of his basic laws and rules of inference employ, or even require, ineliminable use of a truth predicate and metalinguistic variables? My answer is ‘no’ on both counts. I argue that Frege neither uses, nor has any need to use, a truth predicate or metalinguistic variables in his justifications of his basic laws and rules of inference. Quine's famous explanation of the need for semantic ascent simply does not apply to Frege's logic. The purpose of the discussions that are typically understood as constituting Frege's metatheory is, rather, elucidatory. And once we see what the aim of these particular elucidations is, we can explain Frege's otherwise puzzling eschewal of the truth predicate in his discussions of the justification of the laws and rules of inference.
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzi321
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