sense and reference

im having troble with an essay regerding the importance of freges distinction between sense and reference and its extension to a theory of rationality to the philosophy of mind. does anyone know what ramifications this distinction, and its extension in the form of a theory of rationality would have for theorys such as behaviorism, functionalism, dennets intentional stance and anomalous monism.

if anyone has any ideas or thoughts it would be good. thanks.

You really came to the wrong place here… :laughing:

Tigerboy, what’s the nature of the distinction he draws?

The basic distinction is made as a refutation of the direct reference theory of meaning.

The direct reference theory states that the meaning of proper names (like London, Brevel_monkey etc) is their referent. So - the meaning of London is the city London, and nothing more. However - Frege argued that this view is incoherent. He used (among others) the example of the morning star Hesphorous and the Evening star Phospherous - which are actually both the same planet, Venus. If the direct reference theory were true, then words with the same referent would have exactly the same meaning and so be substitutable with each other. But - consider the statement:

John believes that he is watching Hesphouros

Now - it might be the case that John actually doesn’t know that Hesphorous and Phosphorous are the same planet. Therefore - it would be wrong to replace ‘Hesphorous’ with ‘Phosphouros’ in this context: ‘John believes that he is watching Phospherous’ is simply not true. However - it still seems coherent to state that the first statement is perfectly true. So - it would seem that ‘Hesphorous’ and ‘Phosphouros’ have different senses (meanings) despite having the same referent.

Another way of expressing the argument is to say that there are non-trivial statements of identity. For example: Bob Dillan is Robert Zimmerman seems to be an informative statement, whereas Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan is trivial. However, if ‘Robert Zimmerman’ and ‘Bob Dylan’ had exactly the same meaning (i.e. if their entire meaning was their referent) then ‘Robert Zimmerman is Bob Dylan’ would be as trivial as ‘Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan’ - which it isn’t Therefore, words must have senses (meanings) that are distinct from thier referents.

The extension of the theory is that referents determine the truth value of statements. But this is far too detailed to go in to here.

The locus classicus here is Frege’s ‘On Sense and Meaning’ (often translated ‘On Sense and Reference’) - it’s probably where you are expected to take quotes from. Its also, short, easily readable and available online. My old tutor, Alex Miller, wrote what I remember to be an excellent textbook on the philosophy of language which covers this area ( … 077351709X).

I have never heard of a link between this and any theory of mind. But I would suppose that the most notable feature of this is that it assumes an objective theory of meaning - that is, that it considers sentences to be either true or false according to how they correspond to the world. But really I think you need to do some reading on this. If your lecturer hasn’t supplied any speicifc reading on this topic I suggest you demand he does so - I have scanned the relevent stanford and routledge articles and nothing crops up which is a sure sign that its quite a speicific topic. I’ve mainly drawn the distinction in case others will have a better idea and contribute them - I’m quite interested to know.

Thanks Brevel Monkey

Well, that clearly sets up a classical objective (reference) / subjective (sense) dichotomy - which would have important implications for a theory of rationality …

how strict Frege might have intended that dichotomy to be, i obviously don’t know … seems like a theory that would be readily incorporable into a functionalist or behaviorist schema - Dennet tends to be a little more nuanced about these things, so i’m not sure how much use it would be to him - but i’m mostly just talking out of my ass - I imagine the professor is probably expecting the students to explore the dualistic implications of such a theory as they relate to other theories of mind …

i wonder what “anomalous monism” is? sounds like it would chafe against the above mentioned dichotomy …

Fo Frege, ‘sense’ is also considered objective. 'Frege would consider ‘Hesphorous’ to have precisely the same sense for me as it would for you.

I think maybe tigerboy needs to do his course reading!

oops, okay.

but how can “Hesphorous” have the same sense for the person who doesnt know it is the same star as “Phosphorous” that it has for the person who knows the two are the same?

The truth value of the statement hinges on what John believes he is looking at, doesn’t it? Is Frege’s “sense” independent of that? And, if so, then what again distinguishes it from the referent?

Where the hell is Imp? I thought ILP didn’t help little philosopher-wannabes with their homework!!!

Oh well. I guess that means I can “help” future requests then.

we help them all the time… when the question only rule is violated, the posts are placed in the hall of questions, as this one is …