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Frege on identities

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The idea underlying the Begriffsschrift account of identities was that the content of a sentence is a function of the things it is about. If so, then if an identity a b is about the content of its contained terms and is true, then a a and a b have the same content. But they do not have the same content; so, Frege concluded, identities are not about the contents of their contained terms. The way Frege regarded the matter is that in an identity the terms flanking the symbol for identity do not have their ordinary contents, but instead have themselves as their contents. In 'Uber Sinn und Bedeutung' Frege became convinced that if an identity a b is about the signs a and b, then it expresses no proper knowledge. So, since it is evident that many such identities do express proper knowledge, Frege concluded that identities are not about their contained signs. So he became convinced that his Begriffsschrift account was incorrect. What was the error in the argument that led Frege to that account? It was thinking that the content of a sentence is a function of the contents of its constituent signs, that is, the things it is about.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2000

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