Frege, Singularism, and Thinking Episodes

In Jean Philippe Narboux & Denis Perrin (eds.), New Essays On Frege’s Logical Investigations. São Paulo, State of São Paulo, Brazil: pp. 167-198 (2020)

Ludovic Soutif
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro
Logical Investigations (notably, The Thought) is one of the works wherein Frege voices his hostility to psychologism in logic, science, and semantics. Such hostility lies, arguably, behind his threefold conceptual distinction between thought (Gedanke), thinking (Denken), and ideas (Vorstellungen). In this essay I investigate, to begin with, Frege’s motivations for drawing the distinction and keeping thinking episodes (one of the meanings of ‘thoughts’ in English) out of the picture. It turns out, or so I argue, that psychologism threatens, on Frege’s view, to destroy the objectivity requirement by which thoughts are defined as answerable contents. I then draw a connection between this feature in Frege’s view and an on-going debate in philosophy of mind and language over the nature of world-directed thoughts and show that the feature lies at the heart of the singularist stance. Finally, I show that, despite Frege’s own hostility to all that bears the mark of the subjective in logic, science, and semantics, a psychological argument can be mounted in support of singularism (i.e. the view that some of our thoughts are about particulars qua particulars) using his disparaged notion of idea (Vorstellung) and that, appearances notwithstanding, the argument is compatible with the objectivity requirement on answerable thought-contents.
Keywords Frege  Singularism  Episodicity
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