Gottlob Frege’s Concepts of Meaning and Reference

Gottlob Frege’s Concepts of Meaning and Reference

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

There is no problem with an identity statement like “a=a”. However, it is a problem how an identity written in the form “a=b” can be accepted as true.

In his article titled “Über Sinn und Bedeutung” written in 1892, Frege presented meaning and reference as two different aspects that are decisive in the way an expression indicates. Frege spoke of the reference of proper names in the first stage. The object with that name itself constitutes the reference of the name. However, he later used reference for expressions other than the noun. For example, according to Frege, the reference of a proposition (news sentence) is the truth value of the proposition in question. The meaning of the proposition is the thought expressed by the proposition in question. The meaning of an expression is the presentation form of the referenced object.

Let’s take an example that Frege also discusses: The Morning Star is the Evening Star. Here, reference is made to the celestial body observed in a certain part of the sky in the morning and evening hours, respectively, as the Morning Star and the Evening Star, and then the astronomers’ discovery that this object is one and the same object, the planet Venus. Morning Star and Evening Star have different meanings as they are different expressions. Whereas the reference of both is one and the same. “The Morning Star is the Evening Star.” The proposition is true because the references of two expressions with different meanings are the same. The terms “Morning Star” and “Evening Star”, which are also discussed here, are also referred to as specific descriptors.

Whether certain identifiers have similar references to proper names; whether the reference should be based on meaning; that is, whether names and expressions refer directly; whether there are language-independent meanings; Whether identities of the kind that Frege deals with are necessary, etc. The issues have been discussed by many analytical philosophers, from Russell to Wittgenstein, from Quine to Kripke.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook