- Gareth Evans begins The Varieties of Reference with three chapters devoted to what he calls 'Historical Preliminaries'.' The first of these, entitled 'Frege', serves to introduce a strikingly unconventional interpretation of Frege's semantic theory and, in particular, of Frege's account of how the sense (Sinn) and the reference (Bedeutung) of singular terms are related to one another.
- The gist of Evans's reading is that 'Frege held both before the distinction between sense and [reference] and, despite appearances, after it, a highly Russellian view of singular terms' (p. 38). A theory of singular terms is Russellian, we are told, to the extent that it involves a denial that lack of reference is compatible with possession of sense; and he defines 'Russellian singular term' to mean 'a singular term whose significance depends upon its having a referent' (p. I2). An immediate consequence of these stipulations is that a sentence containing (i.e. using) a Russellian term without reference will itself be without sense: that sentence will fail to express a thought, and so will be simply unintelligible (cf. pp. 35, 29, 7I, etc.). Evans accordingly introduces a convenient extension of terminology, and allows that the term 'Russellian' may also characterize thoughts: a 'thought is Russellian if it is of such a kind that it simply could not exist in the absence of the object or objects which it is about' (p. 71).
- In short, then, Evans ascribes to Frege not only a Russellian theory of singular terms, but also a theory of sense compatible with the existence of Russellian thoughts. As an interpretation of Frege this strikes me as indefensible. The purpose of the present note is to explain why.
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