Frege on Sense and Linguistic Meaning (1990)
While Frege's notion of sense fathered contemporary notions of linguistic meaning, key elements in Frege's conceptions have disappeared from view. Some of these elements are those brought out in ‘Sinning Against Frege’ (1979). Others derive from Frege's rationalism. This chapter discusses an interpretative puzzle. The puzzle centers on Frege's saying both that the most expert mathematicians may lack a sharp grasp of mathematical expressions and that such expressions nevertheless have a denotation (Bedeutung), hence a definite sense that determines a denotation. It is argued that for Frege, the cognitive value of a sense expressed by language is not exhausted by any type of linguistic meaning that is associated with actual linguistic usage or linguistic understanding, by an individual or a community. Frege believes that the sense of an expression can transcend what any actual user understands by the expression. Senses are partly individuated by rational structures, grounded in logical reality, that may not be completely understood by a thinker at any given time, but that help to individuate what it is to have a mind. The chapter discusses what Frege means by grasping or understanding a sense. Although Frege believed in a priori rational insight, he grounded it — much more clearly than his rationalist predecessors did — on the development of a true mathematical theory; and he conceived theory development with the pragmatism of a practicing mathematician. Frege's rationalism thus contrasts with traditional rationalism, and his conception of thought is distinguished from use-based conceptions. Both points are illuminated by the distinction between Fregean sense and linguistic meaning.
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