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The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 19.1 (2005) 22-41



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The Pragmatic Value of Frege's Platonism for the Pragmatist

Saint Louis University
All determinations of the place, the time, and the like, belong to the thought whose truth is in point; its truth itself is independent of place or time.
—Frege, The Basic Laws of Arithmetic

Introduction

This paper is divided into two main sections. In the first, I attempt to show that the characterization of Frege as a redundancy theorist is not accurate since he thinks that truth is a metaphysical property—albeit an utterly simple property—which accrues to propositions just in case these propositions are correct judgments. I argue that Frege countenances a realm of abstract objects including truth, and that his Platonist commitments inform his epistemology and embolden his antipsychologistic project. In the second section, contrasting Frege's Platonism with pragmatism, I show that even though Frege's metaphysical position concerning truth has been criticized as reproachable, thinkers seem nonetheless to act as if his methodology is the correct one. Further, I argue that it may be useful for people to think like Platonists while conducting their scientific and philosophical inquiries.

Frege and Deflationism

Two claims have been made in regard to Frege's theory of truth. The weaker is that it acts as the genesis of deflationist accounts of truth, specifically classical redundancy theories such as that of Ramsey (1927) and Strawson (1950; cf. Soames 1999, 228-34; Dummett 1981, 39; Dummett 1978, xx, 4). The stronger [End Page 22] claim has been made that Frege's theory of truth is itself a type of redundancy theory (e.g., Sluga 2002, 88; Horwich 2001, 931; Meixner 2001, 341-42). At the outset, it is important for me to demonstrate, in contrast, that Frege actually is a Platonist concerning his theory of truth since, in the second section of the paper I want to show how holding to a Fregean-style Platonism has pragmatic value for thinkers.

Commentators like Scott Soames (1999, 21-29) and Joseph Salerno (2001, 58-64) have shown that Frege rejects a correspondence theory of truth because truth neither is relational nor comes in degrees. This much is correct since Frege states that truth "is not a relative term and contains no indication of anything else to which something is to correspond," and that truth "does not admit of more or less" (1977, 3). Frege maintains, further, that truth is "indefinable" (4), as well as that it "is worth noticing that the sentence 'I smell the scent of violets' has just the same content as the sentence 'It is true that I smell the scent of violets.' So it seems, then, that nothing is added to the thought by my ascribing to it the property of truth" (6). This last quotation—coupled with the indefinability of truth and the rejection of the correspondence theory—has caused many commentators to conclude that Frege is a deflationist theorist of the redundancy stripe (Sluga 2002, 88; Horwich 2001, 931; Kenny 1995, 182-83; cf. Dummett 1978, xx; Soames 1999, 231).

Deflationist theorists all share the view that correspondence, coherence, and pragmatist theorists are wrong in believing there is truth in the first place; truth simply is not there to be investigated (Devitt 2002, 70; Williams 2000, 545; Soames 1999, 232). Whereas correspondence, coherence, and pragmatist theorists "inflate" the notion of truth by trying to explain truth as some mysterious metaphysical property (viz., correspondence with fact, coherence in a system of beliefs, and intellectual/practical fecundity respectively), deflationists think there is no added property that can be called "truth" over and above propositions or sentences and the corresponding events or circumstances in the world to which they refer (Field 1994; Horwich 1995, 1990; Price 1988).

The redundancy theory of truth is categorized as a type of deflationism. Redundancy theorists are committed to the apparent equivalency relationship entailed between some proposition and the certain set of conditions that obtain with respect to that proposition. The equivalency relationship is to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9383
Print ISSN
0891-625X
Pages
pp. 22-41
Launched on MUSE
2005-04-28
Open Access
No
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