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On Frege's Notion of Predicate Reference

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Frege's extension of his distinction between Sinn and Bedeutung to predicate terms is widely considered to be problematic. Interpreters generally assume that the notion of Bedeutung comprises the name/bearer relation as a prototype and that the extension is justified only in so far as the relation of predicate terms to their alleged referents is analogous to the relation of names to their bearers. However, interpreters have generally paid insufficient attention to Frege's own dealing with the issue. By examining the relevant passages in Frege's writings, I show that the standard ways of talking about Frege's ascription of Bedeutung to predicates as optional, less evident than the ascription of Sinn, and in need of justification are not in accord with Frege's own conception of predicate reference. There is no textual evidence that the extension takes place for analogical reasons and, in particular, no evidence for the claim that the name/bearer relation is used as a prototype. Frege is visibly not concerned with the relation between predicate terms and their referents, but applies the notion of Bedeutung for reasons of principle. There is indeed the invocation of an analogy, but if we consider the argument in which it occurs it appears that it does not play the justificatory role interpreters attribute to it. In sum, Frege's ascription of Bedeutung to predicates does not imply any mysterious or dubious referentiality of predicate terms.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science,University of Gothenburg, Box 200, SE,. 405 30, Gothenburg, Sweden

Publication date: November 1, 2013

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