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February 14, 2006



Hey Shieva,

Frege is notorious for insisting that every true proposition refers to the same object, viz. namely `The True'. (I'd be curious to know what he has to say about false propositions.) So, I think that you're closer to the right idea with your second thought. (However, I'm not sure why this would be too "correspond-ish" for Frege. Could you explain?)


Lewis Powell

Frege thinks that false propositions refer to The False, I believe. And The True and The False are truth values.

I think, though I am far from a Frege scholar, that sentences refer to The True in virtue of correspondence to states of affairs.

On the sense/reference account, predicates are functions on objects. The True is the value the function returns for objects that satisfy it. All true sentences denote the same thing, but the sentences may represent different senses of that thing.


You are correct that false propositions refer to the False and that true propositions refer to the True. However, I think it isn't that these are truth-values, but the other way around. In "Function and Concept" he says:

"I now say: 'the value of our function is a truth value", and distinguish between the truth-values of is true and what is false. I call the first, for short, the True; and the second, the False."

The True is an object that is an extension of a concept, which Frege thinks is a primitive logical notion. I take it that these are associative objects that exist in Frege's third realm. You might read his essay "The Thought" in which Frege talks about the third at which non-spatio-temporal objects like numbers, thoughts, and the True exist. In the essay he talks about truth as a property, but acknowledges that he doesn't really think this is the appropriate way to go about talking. Why does he do it then? Well, he hasn't fond a more appropriate way of speaking yet.


Quick question: does he actually say in "The Thought" that The True is immaterial, as thoughts and numbers are? I know he thinks there's this special way in which the others exist, but I didn't know he took a stand on The True. (Though he does say "being true is not a material, perceptible property".) I thought that he was actually shockingly unrestrictive about what 'the True' refers to (at least, aside from making bunches of claims about the role the True must play, which seem to restrict perhaps to a problematic degree what entities are candidates to be the referent!).

Re: my fusion of all truthmakers stuff - it's too correspondance-ish if I mention "truthmakers" at all. Frege says "being true does not consist in the correspondence of this sense with something else, for otherwise the question of truth would reiterate itself to infinity" (again, from "The Thought"). I suppose I could identify the True with the fusion of all that exists, and leave truthmaker-talk out of it. But then there's an explanation gap: what makes the parts of the true play the roles Frege wants them to for judgment? And, if we have genuine, ordinary everyday parthood here, why does Frege insist that there's a special kind of parthood involved when it comes to the True? He says (in "Sense and Reference"), "One might also say that judgments are distinctions of parts within truthvalues. Such distinction occurs by a return to the thought. To every sense belonging to a truth value there would correspond its own manner of analysis. [BTW, I don't get that at all - why is he suddenly talking about the senses of truth values? Surely there can be some senses of the true that are false, or at least, could be constituents in false thoughts . . . I'm very confused.] However, I have here used the word 'part' in a special sense. I have in fact transferred the relation between the parts and the whole of the sentence to its referent, by calling the referent of a word part of the part of the referent of the sentence, if the word itself is a part of the sentence. This way of speaking can certainly be attacked, because in the case of a referent the whole and one part do not suffice to determine the remainder, and because the word part is already used in another sense of bodies." Question: how can we interpret his characterisation of this special type of parthood, and what can we take the True to refer to, such that (i) the characterisation of his parthood isn't ever a feature of the parthood we're familiar with, and (ii) it does correctly characterise something going on with whatever we take the True to be?


Quick reply: I don't think he says it any more explicitly than "being true is not a material, perceptible property." He is rather explicit in several places that the True is an object, and I think that in FC he even classes it with numbers. If it isn't an immaterial object then I don't know what kind of object it is. I think both Joan Weiner and Michael Beaney take the view that the True is a third realm object. I think there is some disagreement among philosophers here, but I'm not in on it. I have worries about how his early work relates to the later, and how much I should relate concepts between the two. I think he can be seen as trying to work this out in some of the different things that he says. My sense though is that Frege thinks there is just one object that is the True in something very much like a Platonic sense. The relation of the True to a thought is more difficult. It isn't a correspondence relationship, or the relation of a property to an object. Perhaps his remarks in IL@211 will be of some help:

"We have two truth-values, the True and the False. If a sentence has a Bedeutung at all, this is either the True or the False... The True and the False are to be regarded as objects, for both the sentence and its sense, the thought, are complete in character, not unsaturated… If we say the 'the thought is true', we seem to be ascribing truth to the thought as a property. If that were so we should have a case of subsumption. The thought as an object would be subsumed under the concept of the true. But here we are misled by language. (Sounds like Witt.) We do not have the relation of an object to a property, but that of a sense of a sign to its Bedeutung."

I don't think anything I've said helps answer the "Sense and Reference" question which looks like a departure from the way that he talks about truth-values in other places. Sorry I can't be more helpful but it's been awhile since I've revisited Frege. It entirely possible that neither Frege nor I have a clue as to what we're talking about when it comes to the True.

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