Frege on Truths, Truth and the True

  • Wolfgang Künne Department of Philosophy, University of Hamburg
Keywords: truth-bearers, truth-values, timelessness


The founder of modern logic and grandfather of analytic philosophy was 70 years old when he published his paper 'Der Gedanke' (The Thought ) in 1918. This essay contains some of Gottlob Frege's deepest and most provocative reflections on the concept of truth, and it will play a prominent role in my lectures. The plan for my lectures is as follows. What is it that is (primarily) true or false? 'Thoughts', is Frege's answer. In §1, I shall explain and defend this answer. In §2, I shall briefly consider his enthymematic argument for the conclusion that the word 'true' resists any attempt at defining it. In §3, I shall discuss his thesis that the thought that things are thus and so is identical with the thought that it is true that things are thus and so. The reasons we are offered for this thesis will be found wanting. In §4, I shall comment extensively on Frege's claim that, in a non-formal language like the one I am currently trying to speak, we can say whatever we want to say without ever using the word 'true' or any of its synonyms. I will reject the propositional-redundancy claim, endorse the assertive-redundancy claim and deny the connection Frege ascribes to them. In his classic 1892 paper 'Über Sinn und Bedeutung' (On Sense and Signification) Frege argues that truth-values are objects. In §5, I shall scrutinize his argument. In §6, I will show that in Frege's ideography (Begriffsschrift) truth, far from being redundant, is omnipresent. The final §7 is again on truth-bearers, this time as a topic in the theory of intentionality and in metaphysics. In the course of discussing Frege's views on the objecthood, the objectivity of thoughts and the timelessness of truth(s), I will plead for a somewhat mitigated Platonism.


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How to Cite
Künne, W. (2008). Frege on Truths, Truth and the True. Studia Philosophica Estonica, 5-42.