The Metaphysicians of Meaning: Russell and Frege on Sense and Denotation

By Gideon Makin | Go to book overview

Appendix A

The text of the obscure passage from ‘On Denoting’
(A) The relation of the meaning to the denotation involves certain rather curious difficulties, which seem in themselves sufficient to prove that the theory which leads to such difficulties must be wrong.
(B) When we wish to speak about the meaning of a denoting phrase, as opposed to its denotation, the natural mode of doing so is by inverted commas. Thus we say:

The centre of mass of the Solar System is a point, not a denoting complex;

The centre of mass of the Solar System’ is a denoting complex, not a point.

Or again,

The first line of Gray’s Elegy states a proposition.

The first line of Gray’s Elegy’ does not state a proposition.

Thus taking any denoting phrase, say C, we wish to consider the relation between C and ‘C’, where the difference of the two is of the kind exemplified in the above two instances.

(C) We say, to begin with, that when C occurs it is the denotation that we are speaking about; but when ‘C’ occurs, it is the meaning. Now the relation of meaning and denotation is not merely linguistic through the phrase: there must be a logical relation involved, which we express by saying that the meaning denotes the denotation. But the difficulty that confronts us is that we cannot succeed in both preserving the connexion of meaning and denotation and preventing them from being one and the same; also that the meaning cannot be got at except by means of denoting phrases. This happens as follows.

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