Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Indexical expressions--e.g., 'I', 'here', 'yesterday', 'this', etc.--pose a serious challenge for a Fregean theory of meaning. A Fregean theory holds that the meaning of an expression is its sense, and that this sense determines the reference of the expression independently of context. The most notable feature of indexicals, however, is their sensitivity to context. David Kaplan and John Perry argue that there can be no Fregean solution to this issue. They assume (falsely) that the Fregean sense of a singular term is given by a definite description, and argue that this picture cannot work. Kaplan and Perry advance a theory of indexicals according to which the contribution an indexical makes to a proposition is the referent itself, and the meaning of the indexical is a context-sensitive rule associated with it. However, neither sort of meaning accounts for what a hearer understands. Frege's view on 'I' involves a 'special and primitive' mode of presentation of self, so that thoughts involving this mode of presentation are incommunicable. Gareth Evans bases an interpretation on Frege's remarks according to which the notion of sense is understood as a 'way of thinking' of the reference. Frege's remarks on 'I', however, violate his own strictures against psychologism. Hence, the view Evans builds on these remarks fails as an interpretation of Frege and is for the same reason unattractive as an account of indexicals.;The proper way to construe Frege's expression 'mode of presentation' is the way Frege himself did: namely, as a criterion of identity. The appeal of the direct reference theory rests largely on the seeming transparency of indexical reference; but the idea that we have a language-independent grasp of concrete objects is an illusion. Reference requires a criterion of identity. The meaning of a particular utterance of an indexical is a Fregean sense, which is to be understood as a criterion of identity.;Frege's few, tentative remarks on indexicals have been persistently neglected in the secondary literature. The writings of Michael Dummett are an exception in this regard. Nevertheless Dummett has never marshalled a full response to criticism of Frege on indexicals. Drawing on Frege's writings and Dummett's commentary on them, it is shown that Frege's antagonists do not present an attractive alternative theory, and that an account of indexicals consistent with Frege's theory of sense and reference can and must be given.



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