The department will be hosting a workshop on the philosophy of Gottlob Frege on Friday 1st of  November in Room 405, Philosophy Building.

11am-1pm: Robert May (University of California, Davis): ‘Sense’

Abstract: What is sense? Frege’s answer is this: Sense is what makes a reference thinkable such that in virtue of thinking this way an agent has grounds for making a judgement. In this talk, I explore this conception, which places sense at the crux of Frege’s account of judgement. The central claim is that sense is a composite notion, split between what makes a reference thinkable (mode of determination) and how we think of references (mode of presentation). These are related via grasp: an agent who grasps a mode of determination of a reference has a mode of presentation of that reference, and accordingly has grounds for making a judgement. This is crucial to understanding how Frege responded to the threat to logicism posed by the identity puzzle, viz. that a = b requires a special act of recognition in judgement. But it does, perhaps surprisingly, leave open the analysis of a = a.

2.30pm-4.30pm: Mark Textor and Eliot Michaelson: ‘Frege on Thinking in Signs and Sense’

Abstract: Contemporary Fregeans standardly take the theory of sense and reference to apply to natural languages, and to earn its keep by helping to explain communicative success and failure in such languages. So construed, Frege’s theory of sense and reference faces serious difficulties. We argue for an alternative understanding of Frege’s project: following Humboldt, Trendelenburg, and others, Frege held that languages, systems of signs, are primarily means of thought and that beings like us can only think ‘in signs’. On this alternative construal of Frege’s work, his theory of sense and reference applies first and foremost to the sentences in which we think rather than sentences of natural languages like English or German. Not only is this understanding of Frege historically motivated, but viewing his work in this manner actually makes many of the puzzling features of the theory which have so preoccupied more contemporary Fregeans effectively disappear.

Date: Friday 1st November (11am- 4.30pm)

Venue: Room 405, Philosophy Building