Frege versus Davidson

This paper seeks to establish Frege versus Davidson thoughts on the question of what form Theory of Meaning should take. The two philosophers have different ideas on this subject of the system a theory of meaning should take. While, looking at it, the paper will analyze the Tarskian Truth Definition that explores Davidson’s notions on principles of meaning. In the next section of the paper, we will determine whether propositions are required according to the theories of the Davidson and Frege. The study will also determine whether in relation to form an opinion of meaning we can do without these propositions. Next, the paper will examine whether Frege’s thoughts are the right ones in accordance to the subject matter. In the following part, the paper will look at other alternative thoughts on what from a theory of meaning should take. Mostly these other theories are those that contradict the works of Davidson and Frege. The other proponents include Russellian and David Lewis. In the last part, we will determine whether we should be realists about such propositions.


The organization of Philosophy of Language is around wide-ranging questions of meaning and communication. Philosophers of all time have had different ideas on the nature of language, and most currently, it has become the center of empirical research in linguistics. The subject of species of language is concerned with most abstract and general aspects of language understanding and interpretation of both with more problems that come with understanding certain aspects of natural languages. The organization of theories of meaning can be in two aspects. The first science is a semantic theory that allocates semantic substances to expressions of a language. This can be in accordance to whether there is the allocation of propositions as the connotations of sentences, and if they do then what impression, they acquire of the character of these propositions. The second generation of theory is the foundational theory of meaning that states the facts in connection of which expressions have the semantic components that they have. An approach to the theory of meaning includes theories that create and those that do not provide details to the meaning of appearance of the language. This is the language that a group makes use of in terms of the components of the cognitive states of members of that faction.

The subject of what form a theory of meaning should take arises while answering the question of what constitutes the utterance- meaning. In this respect, the effort of Donald Davidson is most influential. According to Davidson, a theory of meaning for verbal communication is an experimental theory. In details, he links the definition of theory of meanings to sentences in particular a given language, which can be either English or French. Davidson’s philosophical work applies in the detailing of the structure of a theory of meaning for a language, which will take the character of verification that will reckon as authenticating it. In Davidson’s thinking, sorting out these issues will mean no further questioning as to whether meaning is or what meanings are. The most momentous question is what is the goal of a theory of meaning?

The purpose of a science of meaning is to affirm something knowledge of which would appear for interpreting utterances of speakers of the verbal communication to which it pertains. To construe a speaker is to say what the speaker means by her utterances. So what structure shall the theory of meaning adhere to according to the Davidsonian theories? Davidson says that the theory must provide the meanings of countless number of sentences. The knowledge must be finitely specifiable if any language is to be learnable. From this, it is evident that a theory of meaning cannot comprise of an infinite list of sentences and their meanings. The meanings need to be generated recursively. In his proposal, Davidson says that a theory of connotation should take the form of Tarskian truth explanation for a language.

The meaning of Tarskian truth is that there is no need to suppress the evident link between a meaning of truth of the nature Tarski has shown how to create, and the concept of meaning. The definition works by providing essential and sufficient conditions for the truth of each sentence, and to provide truth conditions is a way of providing the meaning of a sentence. In addition, knowing the semantic impression of truth for a language is to be familiar with what it is that makes a sentence to be true and this contributes more to understanding the language. The Tarskian truth definition will have two kinds of clauses, recursive clauses and base clauses. The function of the base clause is to figure out the truth conditions of intelligible sentences and recursive clauses tell one how to form the truth conditions of compound sentences in contexts of the truth conditions of their forms. Tarski recommends the use of satisfaction conditions as a substitute of truth conditions when dealing with languages that are complex.

The greatest Davidsonian thought is that the theory of meaning is a component of a larger section of rational psychology, the task of making sense of what individuals’ do- that is, of comprehending their reasons for what they do. Explaining people’s actions can be by advertising to their desires and beliefs. On Davidson’s observation, neither the theory of meaning nor belief-desire psychology is preceding the other; they are part of a single parcel that its test is only as a unit. In other words, Davidson’s says that an adequate theory of meaning for a certain language will be one that will fulfill the essentials for the interpretation of the orators of the verbal communication. In addition, he proposes that employing the Tarskian theory of truth as a satisfactory theory of meaning for natural languages. While the features of Davidson’s own explanation are the subject of much controversy, the thought that we should look at problems of language is influential even at the current times. This can in terms of the need to construct a compositional and systematic theory of meaning for problematic development has been immensely influential and its reflection is present in the way many philosophers both outline and attempt to settle the problems in the philosophy of language.

Gottlob Frege is also an intellectual giant in the field of Language. He was the first person to raise the issue of meaning by coming up with an outlined theory of meaning for a part of natural language. In his observations, he stresses that the meaning of a sentence directly relies on the meaning of its parts. For this reason, he has to break down the internal structure of sentence or compound expressions provided by logical syntax at the same time as the truth-value of such sentences, which reveals the logical semantics, which can be by treating these sentences as a whole. In order to understand the Frege’s theory of meaning clearly, the treatment of sentences will have to take both syntactically and semantically because in his proposal, there was no clear difference between the two. Frege wants to determine the truth in value of sentences that later on will help in understanding what form the theory of meaning should take.

The major reason of semantics for an original verbal communication is to assign to sentences semantic values that establish whether the sentences are false or true. In view of the fact that natural language includes contextually sensitive expressions, the assigning of semantics values to sentences is relative to contexts. These semantics values include propositions and they the most influential bearer of falsity and truth. It is in this aspect that the theory of meaning appears as being organized. The theory of meaning contains two components that are the theory of force and the other one are the theory of reference and sense. The fundamental nature of Frege’s philosophy of language is on the fact that he is concerned about coming up with a theory of meaning which is indifferently linked to the theories of reference and sense. The description of sentence structures that are in Frege’s works is to justify the truth-values that he assigns to them, and which set of laws of inference are in use in order to understand that these sentences are justifiable.

In connection to the Theory of Meaning, Frege recognizes two closely linked semantic properties that are meaning (Bedeutung) and Sense (Sinn). This discovery did not disagree with his earlier works; rather it made his works even more clear and plausible. Frege suggests a system, which provides the truth-value of the atomic sense with an ultimate objective of theory. For instance, in the sentence, Peter is wise; the singular expression “Peter” provides the function of introducing an object and so on. It is indispensable to present a split account for the theory of sense and reference relating to proper names to reveal the importance of each theory in segregation from another.

Frege is indulging in the notion of sense and reference applies to the proper name, which suggests many things in relation to form the theory of meaning should take. Frege presents a model in which referring expression maybe fitted for straight application to a formalized verbal communication like arithmetic. Another notable suggestion is that the theory of reference has its basis on the notion of appropriate names, which has an effect on the theory of sense. The theory of speech performances presents an evolutionary approach over Frege’s theory of meaning.

The paper will now focus on whether propositions are necessary to Davidson versus Frege’s theories or we can do without them. Propositions are particularly slippery philosophical entities. Most philosophers find the concept of a preposition useful, and that they are necessary to the form that theory of meaning should take. One can make a proposition without obligating himself to its truth or to anything at all. Expressing a proposition is whenever a person utters a sentence with content. Philosophers have held a variety of views about the thing a proposition is and, therefore, given that facts are true propositions. These propositions are necessary as in most cases they are true and thereby comprise of facts of external reality.

Frege’s speaks about thoughts and not propositions, which, however, he denies being among the constituents of anyone’s mind. For him, thoughts belong to an extraordinary realm of reality, which he refers to as the realm of sense and realm of reference.

In this part, we look at the question as to whether the thoughts of Frege on the form that theory of meaning should take are the right ones. In relation to Stephen Schiffer arguments, the proponents of Frege on the theory of meaning are not true. Schiffer says the Fregean model lacks a theory of concepts as basic components of propositions. He argues that the model does not explain how propositions gain their truth conditions. Further, on it seems that there a case where it seems that certain singular terms occurs in that-clauses cannot submit to their ordinary referents. Schiffer explains that the Fregean model develops a hierarchy of opinions. The explanation involves what such concepts are and what it means to grasp them. Another reason as to why Frege’s model of theory of meaning is not true is that about the reference to concepts. Sometimes these references to thoughts as building blocks of thoughts seems highly implausible as it entails that there are notions shared by most if not all thinkers.

We now focus on the alternative propositions and forms the Theory of Meaning should take. The first example is the Russellian propositions, which are propositions about an individual in reasonable worth of having that person as a direct constituent. In addition, known as Singular propositions, the contrasts are with particularized propositions and general propositions. Examples of Russellian propositions include Mont Blanc, which is more that 4000 meters high, she lives in New Jersey and Socrates was wise. Bertrand Russell describes his works a logical atomism that he means to approve both to a certain methodology for doing philosophy and metaphysical view. The metaphysical analysis amounts to the argument that the world comprises of a plurality of singularly showing things exhibiting characters and standing in relations.

The initial argument in support of singular proposition bases on Saul Kripke’s modal argument. Kripke presents an argument that proper names like Nixon are not synonymous with definite descriptions. They use his argument to conclude that it is obvious they are directly referential expressions and therefore, make use of this to show singular propositions. On the standard version, the logical form of a proposition is the constitution it has been accountable for its inferential relations. Russell forms the classic version of propositions. In his development of theories, he emphasizes the radical divergence that typically unlocks between logical form and logical form. Deeper in his works, Russell seeks to protect concerns not the substitution of propositional constituents of his proposition. His solution will only work if the orientations of such names are awarded to one who knows them in a way that is wholly aspect free.

Another alternative to form that Theory of Meaning should take is from David Lewis. He was one of the significant philosophers in the 20th century as he made noteworthy contributions to philosophy of mathematics, languages, science, meta-ethics, decision theory, and aesthetics. In his works, the crucial question is if the world is just one of an infinite number of possibilities. David Lewis makes use of the concept of possible world to put across modal claims. The individuals who make use of the concept of possible worlds put to mind the actual world to be among the many possible worlds. For each way in which the world can appear, there is a separate possible world. In the end, the actual world is the one we currently live. In many studies, they develop a close relation between possible worlds and propositions. It is evident that for every proposition to be either false or true, there have to be several possible worlds. In literary studies, the Possible World theory makes use of notions from possible world reasoning and relates them to the worlds made up by fictional texts. The theory provides a helpful conceptual framework and vocabulary with which to illustrate such worlds.

In the last section, we analyze whether basing on the above discussion we should be realists about such propositions. A realist is a person who tends to represent or view things as they are without changing a thing. Being realists in connection to the form that the Theory of Meaning should take will deter any further innovation. We can be realists but at the same time improve the propositions by coming up with ideas and opinions in relation to the propositions. We are leaving in a world that keeps on changing and so should the propositions. Questioning about the propositions and coming with ideas to cater for their shortfalls is necessary.


In conclusion, we can note that the explanations behind the form, which The Theory of Meaning should take, are varied but with almost the same notions. Looking at the theories of Donald Davidson and Frere, they have little difference but with significant issues. The two philosophers have substantially contributed to theory of meaning, and their works are still in use to date. Other philosophers like David Lewis and Russell have their contributions to the philosophy of language. These contributions are note worthy, and any user of language whichever it is: English; French etc will appreciate them. The propositions of these philosophers are significant in the language field, and we most certainly cannot do without. Their propositions have made language be what it is, and we can have a clear understanding of language.

These theories of meaning and other issues have brought about a great deal of controversy raising different discussions in the recent years. This subject has raised the following questions as to whether we need a sense as reference; do truth conditions determine meaning, does this devote us to realism, and many more. In response to this subject, many people have been critical of Frege’s propositions to the extent that they dismiss his focus on reasonable structures.

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