Talk:Sense and reference

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Larry's sense and reference essay[edit]

In an edit from 23:36, 25 Apr 2004 User:BoNoMoJo added an extract from a text by Larry Sanger to this article, which still survives. Does anyone know where I can obtain the whole text? Thanks ---- Charles Stewart 14:48, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I think the translation of "Bedeutung" as "reference" is unwarranted and misleading. Frege was using a word already in use (it was not a neologism), but applied a "function change" by altering the semantics of the word, i.e. using it in a new way. In his essays, he does not once explicitly define the word, although in Function and Object he writes "Now what is the content, the Bedeutung of...", hinting at a possible definition. Indeed, he states in another essay (Concept and Object) that fundamental logical terms are undefiniable, and thus can only be "hinted" at. Bedeutung is one such word. It is unfair and inaccurate to present Sinn and Bedeutung as "sense and reference", since the latter is untranslatable, and in Frege's mind undefinable! Carnaptime 19:36, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Furthermore, it is true that the Bedeutung of a word refers to an object, and the Bedeutung of a sentence refers to a truth value (which Frege calls an "object"), but the sense does not have to do with "cognitive significance". Rather, it has to do with a thought. "Cognitive value", as Frege puts it, only applies to those statements of identity or equivalence where both terms (before and after the "is", which is functionally equivalent to the "=" in arthmetic, since there is no predicative part) share the same Bedeutung but have different Sinnen, such as A is B. This is a statement with cognitive value, since the thoughts connected with the Sinnen differ; in contrast to A is A, which is "trivial". Carnaptime 19:52, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

"The morning star" vs. "Phosphorus"[edit]

I think that it's of great importance to keep the distinction between these two terms straight. One is a description, the other a name. Although the essential points about sense and reference can be made using "the morning star" instead of "phosphorus" this usage may confuse people who do not already understand Frege's distinction, especially if they are learning about Russell's theory of descriptions at the same time. Moreover, it is more accurate to make the point about names rather than descriptions. --Patrickr 05:52, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Kripke thought terms like "The morning star" functioned like names because of their idiomatic status. The danger with moving to Greek names is the risk of some loss of accessibility. --- Charles Stewart 07:50, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Literal and Liberal Interpretation[edit]

  • Literal : Are you going to the party? (Liberal is supposed to know the party.)
  • Liberal : I have to sleep. (Liberal is doing something better than that, Ha!)
  • Literal : The present king of France is bald. (So joked literalist Russell.)
  • Liberal : It makes sense though no reference! (So poked liberalist Frege.)

BTW, I only suggest Frege looks more liberal than Russell. --ishiakkum 02:34, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

German Link[edit]

PDF of S und B in German seems to require a password....Pliny 13:30, 19 July 2006 (UTC)

Provisional criticism[edit]

The morning star and the rising sun exist only at dawn; the evening star and the setting sun exist only at twilight; neither exists at noon. But the planet Venus and the sun in themselves always exist indeed in any mode, even if out of sight. And all these similar ideas are more or less different from one another, however much any two may share the same attributes.

That is to say, the denotation, referent or reference of "the morning star" for instance should not be Venus but the morning star itself that exists only at dawn. Such a reference is simply as unavailable at other times of the day, as that of "the present king of France" at other times than the kingdom. Meanwhile, the morning star may take on connotations, or senses, if you like, such as an early riser, sun seductress, thief, or whatever.

The common noun "sun" is more proper than many proper nouns, say, Mill, which should lie in context such as "James Mill" or "John Mill" so as to refer to anyone at all. The noun phrase "John Mill" is as referential, denotative or descriptive as "the rising sun." On the other hand, the reference or meaning of "John Mill" or any expression is well known by virtue of convention rather than invention or "baptism." Perhaps, then, we should bother neither descriptivist nor causalist theory to explain (away) the reference or meaning of "John Mill" as well as "the rising sun," for example.

Either John Stuart Mill or "John Stuart Mill" may have connoted the rising sun within utilitarianism at least after his father James Mill and their hero Jeremy Bentham. Then, he was wrong to argue that the proper name had no connotation, which in practice is whatever side effect some people may have in mind in addition to its denotation. Why should "George W. Bush" not take on as many connotations as it deserves in his virtue, say, the U.S. welfare or warfare faring presidency.

Gottlob Frege was right to disagree with John Stuart Mill as such. But he was wrong to argue that Venus was the reference of the morning star and the evening star, which in turn were the senses or modes of Venus. He would refer neither "the rising sun" nor "the setting sun" to the sun at noon when there is simply no such reference valid and available. Then, the most reasonable mode he disagrees with John Mill would be to equate Sinn with connotation, and Bedeutung with denotation, as Mill began with.

Note: This provisional Criticism or its modification may be included in the article, perhaps a week later, depending on the state of discussion. --KYPark (talk) 09:54, 21 November 2007 (UTC)


I have a couple of remarks to the terminolgy-section. First: The definition of "Sinn" diverges from the definition in the introduction, and is in conflict with the section below, where the possibility of sense without reference is discussed. "The sense of a proper name is whatever meaning it has, when there is no object to be indicated." The explanation in the introduction, which links sense to the way extensions are thought of, is much closer to Frege.

In my opinion it is also a bit misleading to say that "Bedeutung" and "extension" are synonymous. The bedeutung of a predicate would be a function from objects to truth-value. The extension would be a class of objects. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:28, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

It's not just misleading, it's wrong to say that "Bedeutung" in Freges usage and "extension" are synonymous. In Ausfuehrungen ueber Sinn and Bedeutung (Posthumous Writings) Frege explicitly warns the reader not to confuse the Bedeutung of a predicate with the Begriffsumfang of a predicate (i.e. the set of objects of which it holds true). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:01, 31 August 2010 (UTC)


(Frege applied "Bedeutung" mainly to proper names and, to a lesser extent, sentences) --- this is plain wrong. Frege applied "Bedeutung" to proper names, predicates and sentences. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:38, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

side track?[edit]

"Although the term "the greatest integer" has no reference in the conventional arithmetic, in the ultra-intuitionistic arithmetic suggested by Alexander Esenin-Volpin (1960), it has a reference because one of the axioms of this arithmetic is that there is "the greatest integer." So, in one universe, an expression can have sense without reference, while in another universe, the same expression can have both sense and reference."

This is certainly interesting but it appears to me as a side track. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:23, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

I agree! I'm especially not happy that this gives the impression that this "ultra-intuitionism" holds true in one universe but not in another. That's not how mathematics works.... ILikeThings (talk) 21:27, 3 May 2010 (UTC)
That's exactly how mathematics works. You start off with assumptions and logically derive consequences from them. Also note that "ultra-intuitionistic arithmetic" does not uniquely identify a particular arithmetic, (contrary to the quoted article segment) but is instead a term applied by various people in various ways to arithmetics which, broadly speaking, reject the reality of extremely large numbers.Nbrader (talk) 03:50, 15 December 2012 (UTC)

Relation to connotation and denotation[edit]

This section does not cite any sources. Cailean VIII 00:58, 18 July 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cailean8 (talkcontribs)

  • @Cailean8: Is there anything stopping you from taking a whack at fixing that problem, or did you just want to hear yourself vocalize that complaint? Nice to snipe from the perimeter, eh?--ColonelHenry (talk) 02:40, 18 July 2013 (UTC)
  • @ColonelHenry: Wasn't meant to be an attack. I'm not sure where the information comes from, and I wondered if it was original research. I was just flagging it for now. Is that frowned upon? Cailean VIII (talk) 15:27, 19 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Not frowned upon, at all--tag all you wish. But, tagging suffices--I found your sniping from the perimeter a little sanctimonious and dismissive...i.e. the critics' malady of just wanting to hear yourself talk without adding anything worthwhile. --ColonelHenry (talk) 15:38, 19 July 2013 (UTC)
  • Noted, and it wasn't intended to be that way. Cheers. Cailean VIII (talk) 22:40, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

last sentence of 'motivation' section[edit]

This has been removed from the first section:

"Because they figure into the meanings of terms in a public language and can be communicated, senses must be objective."

It's uncited and invalid. We haven't established that anything is objective, and we don't all use public language the same way. You can argue that words are blueprints for reconstructing a scene that will differ from others' reconstructions more easily than you can argue that words are conduits delivering objective content, especially given how often what's sent isn't what's received. (talk) 00:36, 12 August 2014 (UTC)

What is this article even about? Sense or Sinn? Frege's article or the distinction itself?[edit]

Is this entry about Frege's article, or the distinction between sense and reference. As it stands, it's very confused. I suggest it should be about the distinction, with a prominant discussion of Frege's article. The lead should be rewritten, and Sinn should be unbolded—it is neither an English word nor a philosophical term of art. — J D (talk) 01:01, 14 August 2015 (UTC)

What does the article mean by "descriptivist"?[edit]

In the section "Relation to connotation and denotation", it is written:

Under a descriptivist reading of Frege, sense and reference are probably the same as connotation and denotation.

What does "descriptivist" mean in this context? The hyperlink is to the article on descritptivism/prescriptivism in linguistics, which makes little sense. --- — Charles Stewart (talk) 10:16, 16 March 2016 (UTC)

What a mess[edit]

This article is very confused. Part of the problem is whether the subject is Frege's disctinction, or whether about a widely accepted distinction. This is a useful guide to different theories of sense. I will try to tackle it later. Peter Damian (talk) 11:10, 23 March 2016 (UTC)