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Charles Travis

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199230334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199230334.001.0001

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On Concepts of Objects

On Concepts of Objects

(p.253) 11 On Concepts of Objects

Charles Travis (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Wittgenstein's views on Frege's view of referents. Wittgenstein argued that naming or reference underdetermines conditions for the correctness of wholes, notably, where relevant, conditions for their truth. Wholes with given referents, embedded in different language games, would be true under any of many very different sets of conditions. What Frege leaves out on Wittgenstein's view is that ‘true’ and ‘false’ are in the first instance evaluations of particular historical events — speakings of words on particular occasions, in particular circumstances — and of the fittingness of the words for those circumstances. Those issues do not reduce to facts about referents; nor can we make them do so by definition. There is nothing to play the role that reference would thus be assigned. The chapter supports Wittgenstein's view, and considers what is left open by references to ways for things to be — properties and relations. It argues that a term's having referred to such-and-such object is compatible with its having made any of many distinct contributions to the truth conditions of its whole, so that two wholes with parts thus alike in reference may nevertheless differ in their truth value. Such variation manifests itself, e.g., in identity statements — statements whose truth depends on their referring to one thing twice. In this case, it is difficult to make the Wittgensteinian view coherent. The chapter attempts to do this and suggests that once coherent, the view is eminently plausible.

Keywords:   Frege, truth, referents, Wittgenstein, false

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