06/05 - Marco Ruffino

A Puzzle About Frege’s Singular Senses

In this paper I discuss what seems to be a puzzle for Frege’s notion of singular senses (i.e., the senses of singular terms) assuming the interpretation that, for him, every singular term is reducible to (or express the same sense as) some definite description. Singular senses are supposed to be complete (or saturated), but they are composed of the incomplete (unsaturated) senses of the concept-words of the descriptions. I ask how the definite article (or what it expresses) “transforms” an unsaturated sense into a saturated one, and review some attempted explanations in the literature. I argue that none of them is compatible with Frege’s broader views in semantics. Next I discuss one alternative that Frege himself endorses (the definite article indicating an attitude on the speaker’s part). This alternative, I argue, is also incompatible with his semantics. I conclude that Frege has no coherent view on singular senses.


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