Gottlob Frege was a German philosopher born in Wismar, Pomerania. He made a significant contribution in logic and philosophy that was later noticed by other philosophers like Bertrand among others. The basic discussion of the meaning of the Frege’s aspects is the distinction between the reference and the sense of a certain expression (Carl, 1995, p. 56). Frege came up with distinctions as ways to solve puzzles concerning empty names and statements. For instance, ‘the morning star is the morning star’ can be said to be uninformative and compared to ‘the morning star is the evening star,’ which is informative. This is because the terms ‘evening star’ and ‘morning star’ hold the same reference and thus, they cannot bear the results of both statements. Thus, the reference can be said to be what a certain term stands for or means.
Therefore, according to Frege, the difference between references as well as sense gives way to the usage of empty names to a meaningful result. For instance, the name ‘Santa Claus,’ has a certain sense but lacks reference. Again, it portrays those negative statements that exist never commit people to the existence of the things that people deny existing. The implication is that the problem of distinction is solved since one can clearly distinguish between those identity statements that contain terms with same reference and sense, and those with a different sense but same reference (Groden, Kreiswirth, & Szeman, 2005, p. 27). This brings the literal theory of sense and reference especially when trying to understand the meaning.
However, Russell, on the other hand, critically addressed the problem of existence as well as identity without the use of Frege entities like ‘sense.’ According to Russell, names are descriptions that are disguised (Fowler, 1981, p. 45). For instance, ‘present King of France,’ due to its grammatical form, it can be said to stand for something real. However, if their real or correct forms are revealed, the meaning does not refer to real as thought. Therefore, literally, according to Russell, reference can be achieved in a number of ways. There can be some instances of reference by acquaintance as well as direct reference. For example, the use of ‘this,’ ‘I’ and ‘now’ can be said to be used in direct reference, meaning they are references in acquaintance. Therefore, the other uses of references to terms including proper names reference can be accomplished through the use of associated descriptions having certain objects that are being referred.
Russell together with Frege set the Agenda for reference. However, there are other philosophers who disagreed with those speculations while believing that understanding and reference can only be explained through the relationship existing between the world and the language. These scientists were also opposed to certain philosophers who believed that only names give reference, but not the speakers who usually make use of names within specific contexts.
Other several critics of the theories brought about by Russell and Frege can be evident through the work by Hilary Putnam, and Saul Kripke; these are philosophers who made their contribution through the influence by Keith Donnellan. Donnellan originated with a view that in order to understand and explain reference, one should consider the connection between names with the object, through uses of that name by a couple of speakers through the time (Carl, 1995, p. 28). Therefore, it is through this idea that the causal theory came up; it was emphasized better by Putnam as well as Kripke, in critical explanation to Frege’s sense and reference.
The causal account criticizes Russell’s explanation on reference, through denying the reference of proper name that is fixed by a description. Causal theory also denies the Fregean theory that refers to the sense of the name as the determinant of reference as well as making us understand the meaning. The causal theory states that what determines the name’s reference is the first act of baptism. It can also be dubbing where a name is directly linked to an object or anything similar to an object. Thus, if a certain name is used to give meaning to the same object on subsequent times, the real meaning can be preserved. Therefore, it is the world, but not the intentions of the speakers or the beliefs that can determine meaning and reference. These elements of the theory became useful in pioneering the work of Ruth Barcan, a philosopher of logic. Ruth proposed that the certain semantic theories in name tags but act as a point of reference, but not to describe a certain individual, unlike the other philosophers. She foreshadowed Putnam and Kripke.
However, the philosophers would merge to one thing: the correlation of sense and reference. The sense of the name can be grasped by everyone familiar with the totality of the designation or the language that it belongs. On the other hand, this serves as an illumination to a single factor of reference, if it had one. Thus, comprehensive information about knowledge or reference requires people to immediately tell whether a particular sense belongs there. In such type of knowledge, people cannot attain what the philosophers critically explain. However, the most connection is sense, sign as well as reference; according to Frege the sign corresponds to a certain sense and it turns a given reference.
On the other hand, the philosophers’ literary points out that to a particular reference, or a given object cannot belong to a particular sign. This sense possesses various expressions within different languages and also in same languages. This is the reason the expectation to the regular behavior comes out or it is portrayed (Katz, 2003, p. 45).
Therefore, for all the expectations or expression belonging to a certain totality of signs, as definite sense, there should be of correspondent, though natural language never satisfies the condition; thus the learner should be satisfied in case same word exists in the same sense and also in the same context. Again, according to Russell, it might somehow be allowed that all grammatically well-formed expressions represent a file name that has a sense always.
However, this does not mean that to the sense, corresponding reference should be present. For example, when referring to some words like 'the celestial body that is far distant from the Earth' and that they have a sense, it is doubtful if the same words also bear a reference. Again, an expression like 'the more rapidly convergent series' bears a sense; although it is understood to bear no reference, because, for every scene of convergent series, there should be another convergent, though they are less rapidly convergent, the series could be seen. In getting a sense, one cannot be sure of the reference.
In conclusion, Frege’s theory on the meaning of the famous distinction existing between reference and sense of significant expression provides a baseline in understanding of the two terms. However, another philosophical scholar criticizes the two terms. These contributions are given by certain people like Russell. According to Frege, senses are the mode of presentation to explain the reference. However, people should not confuse the idea of a sense with the mental image related to the term. This is because senses are, usually, mind independent as well as inter-subjective to all philosophical thinkers, but the idea is subjective and private. Sense of name also fixes reference for everyone; therefore, names with same sense would have same reference but, on the other side, names with same reference might not have same sense like in the case given of ‘evening star’ and morning star.’
Critically, Russell defines names as often descriptions that are disguised. According to Russell, reference can be achieved through rare examples of direct references or by acquaintances like in ‘now,’ ‘I’ and ‘this.’ All the others provide proper terms. Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam came up with the causal theory on naming criticizing Frege’s and Russell’s descriptive theory. The theory criticizes Russell’s theory through denying explanation by stating that reference is not of the proper name fixed by description. The theory also denies Frege’s suggestion that sense of certain names determines reference as well as enabling people to know or understand the meaning. The theory states that the name can only be determined by the act of baptism through which name is directly linked to the object or the kind of object. Therefore, it states that it is the world, but not the intentions of the individual or the belief that determine meaning or sense and the reference.
Carl, W. (1995). Frege's Theory of Sense and Reference: Its Origin and Scope. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Fowler, R. (1981). Literature as social discourse: the practice of linguistic criticism. London:
Batsford Academic and Educational,.
Groden, M., Kreiswirth, M., & Szeman, I. (2005). The Johns Hopkins guide to literary theory &
criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Katz, J. J. (2003). Sense, Reference, and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.