Sunday, May 10, 2009

76b Gottlob Frege, a second lecture

The contribution of Frege to modern philosophy and logic began with the rejection of the analysis of Aristotle of the statement as a construction of subject / predicate.

In the classical approach a statement like "Socrates is wise" can be split up in two parts. First there is the subject "Socrates" and second the property or attribute, which is contributed: "being wise".

This view was maintained for 2000 years and had created some insolvabe philosophical riddles, like the idea of substance and the ontological status of universalia.

Frege picked up a project that already was suggested by Leibniz: to create a formal language which would be more suited to formulate the fundamental philosophical problems.

So Frege discared the Aristotelian approach and analysed statements using a mathematical model of function and argument.

In his opinion the statement "Socrates is wise" contains a function, mathematically written "( ) is wise". This is an incomplete expression. The "Socrates" is here the argument.

This is directly derived from mathematics in which you can analyse the statement "2 + 3" as a function " ( ) + ( )" which will be completed by filling in the arguments 2 and 3.

What is philosophically so important here, you may wonder. Neither the function, nor the individual arguments are expressing anything. They have no meaning. Everything gets a meaning only when combined.

There existed the old theory of meaning: a word creates mental images in the mind of the speaker or hearer and thus creates a meaning of a word. This Frege called psychlogism. In his opinion this whole mental images ado was completely irrelevant.

And here Frege came up with a completely new approach. The meaning of a word consists in the part played by the word in determining the truth-conditions of sentences in which it occurs.

A second consequence of his approach was that a word, according to Frege, only had a meaning in the context of a sentence.

Truth-conditions, contexts of a sentence? What is this all about? Frege was the first one to come up with the distinction between sense and reference. He also added the feature of sense and 'coloring'.

The sense is that part of the meaning of an expression which is relevant to the determination of the truth-value of a sentence in which the expression occures. It contains the critera to determine the reference.

The coloring is that part of its meaning which is not relevant regarding the truth-value of the sentence. For instance, that which distinguishes "chap" from "guy" and from "man".

Here we see the first contours of what later will become know under the name of "linguistic analysis". But a more fundamental philosophical observation is, that according to Frege it makes no sense to discuss the meaning of a term without the context of a sentence.

The meaning of terms is determind by the use of them, by the fact that we can ask what meaning and reference a sentence and its composing elements have.

This is just a tiny bit of Frege's contribution to modern philosphy. When you read the articles in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy you will understand what I mean.

But keep a close eye on this distinction between meaning and reference and between denotation (= reference) and connotation (= coloring). It will play an important role in the philsophical ideas of the next 12 philosphers.

The Discussion

[13:24] Jhary Oconnell: how does this differ from Wittgeneteins observations in PI regarding the meaning of a word being its use.. The way you describe they seem very similar..
[13:25] Herman Bergson: You are quite right Jhary...a lot of these ideas you will see return in Wittgenstein's and Russell's philosophy
[13:27] Herman Bergson: Maybe..for those of you who arent that used to technical philosphical ways...let me repeat what is so important here
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Frege was the first one who actually bypassed a lot of epistemological theory...Kant and Hume....and others
[13:28] Sage Hartmann: herman, is your latter distinction closely related to the idea of a proposition being extensional or intentional?
[13:28] Herman Bergson: he focussed on language
[13:29] Herman Bergson: which distinction do you mean Sage?
[13:29] Sage Hartmann: between denotation and connotation
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Can I look that up, Sage...(^_^)
[13:30] Sage Hartmann: lol of course =)
[13:30] Herman Bergson: Do you mean the logic axiom of extensionality?
[[13:30] Ze Novikov: and how does he deal with the problem of different languages ...say German as opposed to French or English
[13:31] Mickorod Renard: I had a quick look at some of his ' calculus' and frankly , blew a fuse
[13:31] Herman Bergson: Good question Ze....
[13:31] Sage Hartmann: well as i understand it, extensionality means the property of being 'replacable' in every proposition with the same truth-condition, but an intentional statement doesn't have this property, i think...
[13:31] Herman Bergson: So let me continue...
[13:32] Sage Hartmann: (ohh sorry didn't realize you weren't done!)
[13:32] Herman Bergson: I'll look it up for you, Sage...promise...:-)
[13:32] Sage Hartmann: :)
[13:33] Herman Bergson: So Frege focuses on language..and in a sense that it doesnt matter whether it is German, Dutch or Swedish..:-)
[13:33] Herman Bergson: in every language a word has the same properties
[13:33] Herman Bergson: a meaning and a reference
[13:33] Herman Bergson: and this leads to interesting observations
[13:34] Ze Novikov: but then i come back now to Sage's question of a moment ago ...words can be used very differently
[13:34] Herman Bergson: when a word , or actually a sentence has a meaning and a reference you consider it true
[13:34] Herman Bergson: sure.....
[13:35] Vladimir Apparatchik: Herman - you implied earlier that the Aristotelian approach had generated philosophical riddles, what riddles did Frege's approach help to solve, if any?
[13:35] Mickorod Renard: yes, i was wondering that
[13:35] Herman Bergson: well...
[13:36] Herman Bergson: in the middle Ages they discussed the ontological status of universalia...does Redness exist and so on
[13:37] Herman Bergson: but a concept of redness only get a meaning within a sentence according to Frege
[13:37] Herman Bergson: the apple is a meaningful statement that can have a truth-value
[13:38] Herman Bergson: So a lot of metaphysical discussions become meaningless...
[13:38] Herman Bergson: For instance..
[13:38] Herman Bergson: a word may have a meaning in a sentence....
[13:39] Herman Bergson: the meaning gives a clue how to establish the reference
[13:39] Herman Bergson: now what to do with a sentence that contains words that have a meaning but no refrence?
[13:39] Herman Bergson: for instance...
[13:40] Herman Bergson: martians are little green men with big ears
[13:40] Herman Bergson: you all understand what I mean...
[13:41] Herman Bergson: But as this statement lacks reference it can not have a truth-value...
[13:41] Herman Bergson: but plz....this is becoming very techical and intricate
[13:42] Herman Bergson: I think that we should stick to the observation that words have a meaning and a reference..which is an object in the real world of which they are the name say it in a simplified way
[13:43] Ze Novikov: so the reference must exist within the sentence not outside
[13:43] Herman Bergson: no the reference is what exists outside the sentence...
[13:43] Herman Bergson: what is not told here is that ontologicaly we accept a form of realism
[13:44] Sage Hartmann nods
[13:44] Herman Bergson: that means...we accept that there exists a real world outside our consciousness
[13:44] Ze Novikov: ummm
[13:45] Sage Hartmann: wait, i don't see how we need to make any claims about how it's outside our consciousness at this point... it just has to be outside the sentence no? =)
[13:46] Herman Bergson: I dont think so...this is a semantical matter...and it presupposes an outide world
[13:46] Herman Bergson: we can debate what is outside the sentence ontologically, but think that is a bit overdone
[13:47] Ze Novikov: ok
[13:47] Herman Bergson: What is important is that metaphysical questions arent approached anymore from an epistemological or ontological view
[13:48] Herman Bergson: Now it is the language that is in the picture as the bearer of meaning
[13:48] Ze Novikov: how much mathematical symbology did he use?
[13:48] Ze Novikov: to explain his ideas?
[13:48] Herman Bergson: and the philosophical question shifts from "What can I know" to "what does that mean and how does it obtain its meaning?"
[13:49] Herman Bergson: Frege used a lot of mathematical symbolism
[13:50] Samuel Okelly: did Frege explain how the theory for "reference" is constructed?
[13:50] Herman Bergson: But that is not suited to discuss here in class...then we go too much into a specialism
[13:50] Herman Bergson: That is a good question Samuel....
[13:51] Herman Bergson: For he wasnt an empiricist,,nor kantian, nor rationalist...
[13:52] Herman Bergson: He used all kinds of arguments derived from rationalis and empirism
[13:52] Herman Bergson: In the Article in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy this is discussed in extenso
[13:53] Samuel Okelly: i see - it seems key to understanding how meaning is achieved
[13:53] Herman Bergson: My impression is that that was not his greatest concern
[13:53] Herman Bergson: I would truth is achieved
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: is there a misunderstanding in his use of the word 'reference'?
[13:54] Herman Bergson: what makes you think that Mickorod?
[13:54] Samuel Okelly: precisely as reference points for one word can surely differ and so this would impact on the resulting truth no?
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: well I read somewhere about a mix up between object,,meaning,,and reference
[13:55] Herman Bergson: oh thank you...and i have to clean it up?..(^_^)
[13:56] Vladimir Apparatchik: Your summer vacation assigment Herman !
[13:56] Herman Bergson: Thank you Vladimir..:-)
[13:57] Herman Bergson: Well Rodney has arrived so we can conclude our
[13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL
[13:57] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:57] Herman Bergson: main concepts to remeber are Meaning, Reference, Denotation and Connotation
[13:57] Rodney Handrick: Hi everyone
[13:57] Herman Bergson: HiRodney..:-)
[13:58] Sage Hartmann: :) well i should be going - ty everyone
[13:58] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:58] baby Hotaling is Online
[13:58] Herman Bergson: We will hear about these concepts a lot in the near future..:-)
[13:58] Herman Bergson: Thank you for your attention
[13:58] Mickorod Renard: bye sage
[13:58] Ze Novikov: Thank you
[13:58] Mickorod Renard: Hi rodney
[13:58] Rodney Handrick: Hi Mick
[13:58] Mickorod Renard: thank you Herman
[13:59] Vladimir Apparatchik: Thanks herman - clearly we have a homework assignment
[13:59] Tiara Calvert: Thank you, have a great day all:)
[13:59] Mickorod Renard: bye tiara
[13:59] Herman Bergson: That is up to you..:-)
[13:59] Vladimir Apparatchik: but it will help for subsequent lectures I guess
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: Thanks you , Herman
[13:59] Herman Bergson: Definitely
[13:59] Mickorod Renard: I tried to do some homework,,but openly admit that I am still lost with him
[14:00] Herman Bergson: I can imagine Mickorod...dont think I read all of it as a novel
[14:01] Alarice Beaumont: Herman.. i did not find the last class in your blog?!
[14:01] Herman Bergson: It is quite a fight to get the essential things
[14:01] Herman Bergson: oh...didnt I put it in?
[14:01] Mickorod Renard: I am sure you didnt Herman,,but I am amazed at your grasp of it all,,I am overwhelmed
[14:01] Herman Bergson: thanks you Mickorod
[14:01] Alarice Beaumont: I wanted to read it but did not find it.. only sdb
[14:02] Herman Bergson: oh I get sloppy?
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: hihi... lol already starting retirement ;-))
[14:02] Herman Bergson: No....Oh..sorry..
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: just teasing, Herman :-)
[14:02] Herman Bergson: last friday I had a RL funeral to attend
[14:02] Alarice Beaumont: oh :-( I'm sorry to hear that
[14:02] Herman Bergson: that is why the last class isnt edited
[14:03] Alarice Beaumont: that is a hard thing to go thru
[14:03] Samuel Okelly: i would add that i think you are quite adept at being able to focus on the essential points of the different schools herman - making it easier for us ;-)
[14:03] Herman Bergson: my mother in law....but she was 94..
[14:03] AristotleVon Doobie: well, one life if hard enough to manage, now you have two
[14:03] Rodney Handrick: same condolences
[14:03] Ze Novikov: may she rest in peace... my sympathies...
[14:03] Herman Bergson: thank you Rodney
[14:04] Osrum Sands: 94 is a good number of "Plum Puddings"!
[14:04] Alarice Beaumont: yes... mine, too Herman.
[14:04] Jhary Oconnell: Good night and thank you, Professor Bergson; cheers all. Have phun!
[14:04] Herman Bergson: Bye Jhary
[14:04] Rodney Handrick: Bye Jhary
[14:04] Jhary Oconnell: ciao
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-06-18 15:01:44

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