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Neo-Fregeanism Reconsidered

Agust n Rayo March 11, 2009

Platonism

Mathematical Platonism is the view that mathematical objects exist. Traditional Platonists believe that one can make sense of a world with no mathematical objects; subtle Platonists disagree. The easiest way of getting a handle on traditional Platonism is by imagining a creation myth. On the rst day God created light; by the sixth day, she had created a large and complex world, including black holes, planets and sea-slugs. But there was something left to be done. On the seventh day she created mathematical objects. Only then did she rest. On this view, it is easy to make sense of a world with no mathematical objects: it is just like the world we are considering, except that God rested on the seventh day. The crucial feature of this creation myth is that God needed to do something extra in order to bring about the existence of mathematical objects: something that wasnt already in place when she created black holes, planets and sea-slugs. According to subtle Platonists, this is a mistake. A subtle Platonist believes that for the number of the Fs to be eight just is for there to be eight planets. So when God created eight planets she thereby made it the case that the number of the planets was eight. More generally, subtle
For their many helpful comments I am grateful to Roy Cook and Matti Eklund, and to audiences at the University of Connecticut and the University of St Andrews.

Platonists believe that there is no sense to be made of a world without numbers. Suppose, for reductio, that there are no numbers. The subtle Platonist thinks that for the number of numbers to be zero just is for there to be no numbers. So the number zero must exist after all, contradicting our assumption. Essential to the subtle Platonists position is the acceptance of non-objectual identity statements: identity statements in which the identity-predicate takes formulas rather than singular terms in its argument places. For instance: For the number of the planets to be eight just is for there to be eight planets. [In symbols: #x (Planet(x)) = 8 !8 x(Planet(x)).] This is the sense of identity whereby most of us would wish to claim that for a wedding to take place just is for someone to get married [i.e. x(Wedding(x) TakesPlace(x)) x(Married(x))], that for something to be hot just is for it to have high mean kinetic energy [i.e. Hot(x) x HMKE(x)], and that for two people to be siblings just is for them to share a parent [i.e. Siblings(x, y ) x,y z (Parent(z, x) Parent(z, y ))]. It is also the sense of identity whereby some philosophers (but not all) would wish to claim that for there to be a table just is for there to be some particles arranged table-wise [i.e. x(Table(x)) X (ArrTw(X ))]. The non-objectual identity symbol (or its natural-language correlate just is) is meant to express a form of identity. So it had better be reexive, transitive and symmetric. In particular, there should be no dierence between saying, on the one hand, that for a wedding to take place just is for someone to get married and saying, on the other, that for someone to get married just is for a wedding to take place. From this it follows that is not meant to capture a relation of metaphysical priority. If you think that for a wedding to take place just is for someone to get married, you should think that there is a feature of reality that can be fully and accurately described by saying a wedding took place and can also be fully and accurately described by saying someone 2

got married. But you have not thereby committed yourself to the view that one of these descriptions is, in some sense, more fundamental than the other. First-order identities can be regarded as a special case of non-objectual identities. The standard rst-order identity-statement a = b is equivalent to the conjunction of the nonobjectual identity-statement to be a just is to be b [i.e. x = a x x = b] and a sentence asserting the existence of a [i.e. x(x = a)]. (The Kripkean reading of a = b, whereby a = b can be true at a world in which a fails to exist, is equivalent to x = a x x = b.) Semi-identity statements, such as part of what it is to be scarlet is to be red [in symbols: Scarlet(x)
x

Red(x)], can also be regarded as a special case of non-objectual identities.


x

In general, Fx

Gx is equivalent to Fx x (Gx Fx). In light of these connections,

I will use identity-statement in what follows to refer to any statement equivalent to a sentence of the form (x1 , . . . , xn ) x1 ,...,xn (x1 , . . . , xn ) (n 0). Identity-statements pervade our pre-theoretic, scientic and philosophical discourse. Yet they have been given surprisingly little attention in the literature, and are in much need of elucidation. I think it would be hopeless to attempt an explicit denition of , not because true and illuminating equivalences couldnt be foundI will suggest some belowbut because any potential deniens can be expected to contain expressions that are in at least as much need of elucidation as . The right methodology, it seems to me, is to explain how our acceptance of identities interacts with the rest of our theorizing, and use these interconnections to inform our understanding of . (I make no claims about conceptual priority: the various interconnections I will discuss are as well-placed to inform our understanding of on the basis of other notions as they are to inform our understanding of the other notions on the basis of .)

1.1

Identity

In this section I will suggest four dierent ways in which our acceptance of identitystatements interacts with the rest of our theorizing. (I have developed these connections in far greater detail, and addressed some potential objections, in An Account of Possibility and Towards a Trivialist Account of Mathematics.)

1.1.1

Truth-conditions

A sentences truth-conditions are usefully thought of as imposing a requirement on the world. Specically: the requirement that the world be such as it would need to be in order for the truth-conditions to be satised. The truth-conditions of snow is white, for example, impose the requirement that snow be white, and the truth conditions of grass is green the requirement that grass be green. Suppose you think that for something to be composed of water just is for it to be composed of H2 O. Then you should think that what is required of the world in order for the truth-conditions of the sentence A is composed of water to be satised is precisely what is required of the world in order for the truth-conditions of the sentence A is composed of H2 O to be satised. In particular, you should think that all that is required of the world in order for the truth-conditions of A is composed of water to be satised is for A to be composed of H2 O, and that all that is required of the world in order for the truth conditions of A is composed of H2 O to be satised is that A be composed of water. Conversely: suppose you think that what is required of the world in order for the truthconditions of A is composed of water to be satised is precisely what is required of the world in order for A is composed of H2 O to be satised. Then you should think that for something to be made of water just is for it to be made of H2 O.

1.1.2

De re intelligibility

Let a story be a set of sentences in some language we understand. I shall assume that stories are read de re : that every name used by the story is used to say of the names actual bearer how it is according to the story, and that every predicate used by the story is used to attribute the property actually expressed by the predicate to characters in the story. Accordingly, in order for a story that says Hesperus is covered with water to be true it must be the case that Venus itself is covered with H2 O. (I shall ignore names that are actually empty, such as Sherlock Holmes, and predicates that are actually empty, such as . . . is composed of phlogiston or . . . is a unicorn.) Sometimes we describe a story as unintelligible on the grounds that it is too complicated for us to understand. That is not the notion of unintelligibility I will have in mind here. I will say that a story is de re unintelligible for a subject if her best eort to make sense of a scenario verifying the story would yield something she regards as incoherent. (De re intelligibility is the contradictory of de re unintelligibility.) Here is an example. Consider a story that says Hesperus is not Phosphorus. My best eort to make sense of a scenario verifying this story ends in incoherence. For a scenario in which the story is true would have to be a scenario in which Hesperus itself (i.e. Venus) fails to be identical with Phosphorus itself (i.e. Venus), and the nonseldentity of Venus is something I regard as incoherent. Another example: consider a story that says a wedding took place, but nobody got married. For a wedding to take place just is for someone to get married. So a scenario verifying a wedding took place, but nobody got married would have to be a scenario in which a wedding takes placei.e. a scenario in which someone gets marriedbut nobody gets married, which is something I regard as incoherent. (Of course, it would be easy enough to make sense of a scenario in which language is used in such a way that the expression Hesperus is not Phosphorus or a wedding took place, but nobody got married is true. But that wont help with the question of whether the original 5

story is de re intelligible.) There is an intimate connection between identity and de re intelligibility: a story is de re unintelligible for a subject just in case she is in a position to derive something she regards as incoherent from the result of adding the story to the set of identities she accepts, using inferences she takes to be logically valid. Three clarications: (1) The notion of de re intelligibility is deeply non-a priori. For whether or not one takes a story to be de re intelligible will depend on whether one believes that, say, Hesperus is Phosphorusand this is not the sort of thing that one could come to know a priori. (2) Perhaps you think there is a sense of intelligibility (distinct from de re intelligibility) with respect to which it would be right to say that Hesperus is not Phosphorus is an intelligible story. You could claim, for example, that Hesperus is not Phosphorus is intelligible in the following sense: it would be veried (in a special sense of verify) by a scenario in which the rst heavenly body to be visible in the evenings is not the last heavenly body to be visible in the mornings. I myself am skeptical that the needed notion of vericationwhich is, in eect, an implementation of the idea that our sentences have primary intensionsis in good order. But nothing in this paper will turn on my skepticism. If you think you can understand a notion of intelligibility distinct from de re intelligibility, thats ne. Just keep in mind that its not the notion under discussion here. (3) So far we have talked about the intelligibility of stories, but not the intelligibility of the scenarios that the stories depict. When a scenario is picked out by a story, we shall say that the scenario is intelligible just in case the story used to pick it out is de re intelligible.

1.1.3

Why-closure

Suppose someone says: I can see that Hesperus is Phosphorus; what I want to understand is why. It is not just that one wouldnt know how to comply with such a requestone is unable to make sense of it. The natural reaction is to reject it altogether. One might 6

reply, for instance, What do you mean why ? Hesperus just is Phosphorus. Contrast this with a case in which someone says: I can see that the window is broken; what I want to understand is why, or I can see that the radioactive isotope decayed at time t rather than a second later; what I want to understand is why , or even I can see that there is something rather than nothing; what I want to understand is why . In all three of these cases, one can at least make sense of the request. In the rst case, one may even have a satisfying reply (e.g. The window is broken because it was hit by soccer ball). In the second case, it is harder to think of a good reply, but one can at least think of a bad one (e.g. because God willed it so). Potential replies are even scarcer in the third case (even bad ones), but one can at least state that there is no good answer to be given without refusing to make sense the question (e.g. Well, thats just the way things turned out.). Contrast this with the initial Hesperus/Phosphorus case, where it isnt even appropriate to say Well, thats just the way things turned out. Say that a sentence is treated as why-closed just in case one is unable to make sense of Why is it the case that ? . (Here it is important to stipulate that the question is not to be read as a grounding question. In other words: (1) it is not to be read as a request for justication, as when someone asks Why is Hesperus is Phosphorus? in an eort to acquire grounds for believing that Hesperus is Phosphorus; (2) it is not to be read as a request for insight about what the truth of would consist in, as when one reads Why are elephants mammals? as a request for better understanding what it takes to be a mammal; and (3) it is assumed not to be a case in which someone is able to see that has the truth-conditions that it actually has, but does not fully understand why this is so, as when one reads Why are there innitely many primes? as a request for a more illuminating proof of the theorem.) There is an intimate connection between identity and why-closure: the sentences one treats as as why-closed are those one regards as logical consequences of the identity7

statements one accepts.

1.1.4

Possibility

When one looks at the philosophical literature on possibility (or metaphysical possibility, as it is sometimes called), one is left with the impression that there are two schools of thought. According to the metaphysical school of thought, there is a gap between intelligibility and possibility. It might be thought to be intelligible, for instance, that Hesperus fail to be Phosphorus, or that I be a sea-slug. But such rogue scenarios are to be counted as impossible nonetheless, on the grounds that they are, in some sense, metaphysically untoward. They violate the metaphysical laws, as it were. (For an example of this sort of approach, see Kment (2006); for useful discussion, see Rosen (2006).) This picture strikes me as doubly objectionable. Firstly, I think one should be weary of a notion of intelligibility according to which it is intelligible that Hesperus fail to be Phosphorus or that I be a sea-slug. It is certainly not de re intelligibilitynot, at least, on the assumption that one believes that Hesperus is Phosphorus and that part of what it is to be me is to be a human and not a sea-slug. The view, presumably, is that is intelligible is to be cashed out in terms of something along the lines of is not analytic or has a non-empty primary intension. Notice, however, that each of these proposals relies on the assumption that one can factor the requirement that a sentences truth-conditions impose on the world into two parts: an a priori component and a non-a priori component. And I see no good reason for thinking that this is true in general, even if it seems plausible when one focuses on toy examples such as Hesperus is Phosphorus. Secondly, and more importantly, the notion of a metaphysical law strikes me as both obscure and unhelpful. It strikes me as obscure because I have never been able to nd a use for it outside Deep Metaphysicsmetaphysics of the kind only a metaphysician would understand (and only a metaphysician would care about). It strikes me as unhelpful 8

because it drives a wedge between the notion of possibility and one of its most useful applications: the representation of content. For in stating a metaphysical law one would presumably be saying something non-trivial about the way the world is. But if every possible scenario is a scenario which veries the metaphysical laws, one cannot hope to represent the non-trivial requirement that the world must meet in order for a metaphysical law to hold by dividing up the possibilities into those that meet the requirement and those that do not. The right way of thinking about possibility, it seems to me, is by refusing to allow a gap between possibility and intelligibility: possibility just is de re intelligibility. To see a de re story as describing a possible world is to take the story to be de re intelligible. By appealing to de re intelligibility, one is able to steer clear of the analytic/synthetic distinction and its siblings. One works with a notion which is non-a priori to begin with, rather than construing necessity as a marriage between a priori truths and non-a priori Kripkean necessities. The result is that one gets a distinction between necessity and contingency without having to forego the Quinean insight that conceptual questions cannot be cleanly separated from questions of fact. In addition, the alternative strategy has the advantage of not severing the connection between possibility and content. To see this, think of a sentences truth-conditions as a requirement imposed on the world: a requirement that the world be a certain way. Knowing whether a scenario we regard as intelligible must fail to obtain in order for the requirement to be met is valuable because it gives us an understanding of how the world would need to be in order for the requirement to be satised. But knowing whether a scenario we dont regard as intelligible must fail to obtain in order for the requirement to be to be met is not very helpful. For when one is unable to describe a scenario in a way one nds intelligible, the claim that the scenario must fail to obtain gives one no understanding of how the world would need to be in order for the requirement to be satised. The 9

result is that one can model a sentences truth-conditions as a partition of the space of scenarios one regards as intelligible. So the notion of possibility that is useful for modeling truth-conditions is precisely the notion that is correlated with intelligibility. (Earlier I had described connections between truth-conditions and identity, on the one hand, and identity and intelligibility, on the other. The present connection between truth-conditions and intelligibility closes the circle.) A third advantage of the alternative way of thinking about possibility is that it removes some of the mystery surrounding modal knowledge. For if the stories we regard as describing a possible world are the stories we regard as de re intelligible, and if the stories we regard as de re intelligible are the stories we take to be logically consistent with the identities we accept, then our modal knowledge should be no more mysterious than our knowledge of identities. And, in some cases at least, our knowledge of identities is relatively unmysteriouswitness our knowledge of the fact that to be hot just is to have high mean kinetic energy. I would like to end this section by mentioning a complication that I have been ignoring to simplify the exposition. In discussing the connections between identity, truth-conditions, intelligibility, why-closure and possibility, I have tacitly assumed that attention is restricted to the sorts of sentences that are best formalized in a (non-modal) rst-order language. I am happy to the claim, for example, that one will treat Agust n has a mustache as possibly true (and de re intelligible) just in case one takes it to be logically consistent with the set of identities one accepts. But I do not wish to be committed to the claim that one will treat, e.g. mustached individuals are essentially mustached [in symbols: (x(Mustached(x) (y (y = x Mustached(x)))))] as possibly true (and intelligible de re ) just in case one takes it to be logically consistent with the set of identities one accepts. For mustached individuals are essentially mustached will only be true if dierent worlds are in agreement about who has a mustache and who does not, and two worlds can fail to display such 10

agreement even if each of them, taken in isolation, is consistent with the set of identities one accepts. Happily, there is a way of extending the proposal to encompass every sentence of a rst-order modal language. And when the enriched proposal is combined with a suitable list of identity statements, one gets a non-revisionary list of modal truths, including all of the standard Kripkean necessities. (The results are made possible by a supervenience theorem, which shows that by xing the truth-value of every identity-statement, every conditional identity statement and every sentence in the language containing no boxes or diamonds, one xes the truth-value of every sentence in the modal language. See my An Account of Possibility for details. )

1.2

The Resulting Picture

In the preceding section I suggested several dierent ways in which our acceptance of identity-statements interacts with the rest of our theorizing. In doing so, I hope to have shown that the notion of non-objectual identity is not a creature of Deep Metaphysics. It is at the center of our theorizing about content, intelligibility, explanation and possibility. The aim of the present section is to make some brief remarks about the philosophical picture that emerges from these theoretical connections. In theorizing about the world, we do three things at once. First, we develop a language within which to formulate theoretical questions. Second, we endorse a family of identitystatements, and thereby classify the questions that can be formulated in the language into those we take to be worth answering and those we take to be pointless. (For instance, by accepting to be composed of water just is to be composed of H2 O, we resolve that why does this portion of water contain hydrogen? is not the sort of question that is worth answering; had we instead accepted to be composed of water just is to be an odorless, colorless liquid with thus-and-such properties, we would have taken why does this portion of water contain hydrogen? to be an interesting question, deserving explanation.) Third, 11

we set forth theoretical claims that address the questions we take to be worth answering. (For instance, having accepted to be composed of water just is to be composed of H2 O, we set forth theoretical claims as an answer to the question why is this portion of water an odorless, colorless liquid with thus-and-such properties?.) In light of the connection between identity and possibility, when one endorses a set of identity-statements one is, in eect, endorsing a space of possible worlds. And in light of the connection between possibility and intelligibility, a space of possible words can be regarded as a framework for ascertaining the limits of intelligibility. In other words: by endorsing a set of identity-statements one is, in eect, endorsing a framework for ascertaining the limits of intelligibility. It is against the background of such a framework that it makes sense to distinguish between factual sentencesi.e. sentences that are veried by some intelligible scenarios but not othersand necessary truthsi.e. sentences that are veried in every intelligible scenario. What one gets is a post-Quinean revival of the position that Carnap advanced in Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology. Carnaps frameworks, like ours, are devices for distinguishing between factual sentences and necessary truths. The big dierence is that whereas Carnaps distinction was tied up with the analytic/synthetic distinction, ours is not. (Is there an objective fact of the matter about which choice of identity-statements i.e. which choice of frameworkis correct? Nothing in the paper will turn on the answer to this question. My own view, for what its worth, is that there is not. All one can say is that dierent choices are more or less amenable to the development of a successful articulation of ones methods of inquiry, given the way the world is. The empirical facts make it the case that acceptance of to be composed of water just is to be composed of H2 O leads to particularly fruitful theorizing, and one has strong reasons to accept it on this basis. But there is no more to be said on its behalf. And when it comes to other 12

identity-statements, the empirical pressures are even milder. For example, whether it is a good idea to accept to be a reptile is to have a certain lineage rather than to be a reptile is to have a certain phenotype might to a large extent depend on the purposes at hand. But, to insist, nothing in this paper turns on whether one favors a pragmatic attitude towards identity-statements. And if you think there is an objective fact of the matter about which identities are true you can use it to convert the subject-relative characterizations of de re intelligibility, why-closure and possibility that I set forth in the preceding section into objective ones: a story is de re intelligible just in case it is logically consistent with the true semi-identity statements; is why-closed just in case it is a logical consequence of the true semi-identities; a story describes a possible world just in case it is de re intelligible.)

1.3

Back to Platonism

I introduced the dierence between traditional and subtle Platonism by saying that whereas traditional Platonists believe that one can make sense of a world with no mathematical objects, subtle Platonists think one cannot. But if one is prepared to identify possibility and intelligibility, as I suggested in section 1.1.4, one can also state the dierence as follows: traditional Platonists believe that mathematical objects exist contingently; subtle Platonists believe that they exist necessarily. This way of characterizing the debate might strike you as suspect. If so, it may be because you have a dierent conception of possibility in mindsomething akin to the metaphysical conception of possibility I described in section 1.1.4. (See also Rosen (2006).) You may be thinking of necessary existence as a special kind of metaphysical status. It is, of course, open to traditional Platonists to claim that numbers enjoy necessary existence in this sense. But notice that in doing so they would be engaging in Deep Metaphysics. For whether or not an object enjoys this special metaphysical status is the sort of question that only a metaphysician would be in a position to ascertain, and only a metaphysician 13

would care about. In contrast, the claim that numbers exist necessarily in the sense of necessity that is at issue here has consequences far beyond metaphysics. It delivers the result that the existence of numbers is no longer a factual question: nothing is required of the world in order for the truth-conditions of a truth of pure mathematics to be satised. Satisfaction is guaranteed by the framework with respect to which we have chosen to carry out our theoretical investigation of the world. And this, in turn, has non-trivial epistemological consequences. Non-factuality, in our sense, does not entail a priori knowability. (To be composed of water just is to be composed of H2 O will count as non-facutal even though it is not knowable a priori.) But there is still room for mathematical truths to enjoy a privileged epistemological status. For in adopting a frameworki.e. in adopting a family of identitystatementsone makes decisions that are closely tied to empirical considerations, but also decisions that are more organizational in nature. This is because a delicate balance must be struck. If one accepts too many identities, one will be committed to treating as unintelligible scenarios that might have been useful in theorizing about the world. If one accepts too few, one opens the door to a larger range of intelligible scenarios, all of them candidates for truth. In discriminating amongst these scenarios one will have to explain why one favors the ones one favors. And although the relevant explanations could lead to fruitful theorizing, they could also prove burdensome. Logic and mathematics play an important role in nding the right balance between these competing considerations. Consider, for example, the decision to treat p p as a logical truth (i.e. the decision to accept every identity-statement of the form for p to be the case just is for p to be the case). A friend of intuitionistic logic, who denies the logicality of p p, thinks it might be worthwhile to ask why it is the case that p even if you fully understand why it is not the case that p. In the best case scenario, 14

making room for an answer will lead to fruitful theorizing. But things may not go that well. One might come to see the newfound conceptual space between a sentence and its double negation as a pointless distraction, demanding explanations in places where there is nothing fruitful to be said. The result is that even if none of the decisions one makes in adopting a family of identity-statements is wholly independent of empirical considerations, some decisions are more closely tied to empirical considerations than others. And when it comes to identitystatements corresponding to logic and mathematics, one would expect the focus to be less on particular empirical matters and more on questions of framework-organization. So there is room for a picture whereby an epistemically responsible subject can believe that numbers exist even if her belief isnt grounded very directly in any sort of empirical investigation.

Neo-Fregeanism

Humes Principle is the following sentence: F G(#x (F (x)) = #x (G(x)) F (x) x G(x)) [Read: the number of the Fs equals the number of the Gs just in case the Fs are in one-one correspondence with the Gs.] Neo-Fregeanism is the view that when Humes Principle is set forth as an implicit denition of #x (F (x)), one gets the following two results: (1) the truth of Humes Principle is knowable a priori, and (2) the referents of number-terms constitute a realm of mind-independent objects which is such as to render mathematical Platonism true. (Neo-Fregeanism was rst proposed in Wright (1983), and has since been championed by Bob Hale, Crispin Wright and others. For a collection of relevant essays, see Hale and Wright (2001).) Just like one can distinguish between two dierent varieties of mathematical Platonism, one can distinguish between two dierent varieties of neo-Fregeanism. Traditional and 15

subtle neo-Fregeanism agree that numbersthe referents of numerical-termsconstitute a realm of mind-independent objects. But they disagree about whether it is intelligible that this realm of objects fail to exist Subtle neo-Fregeans go beyond mere acceptance of Humes Principle; they accept an identity-statement corresponding to Humes Principle: #x (F (x)) = #x (G(x)) F,G F (x) x G(x) [Read: for the number of the Fs to equal the number of the Gs just is for the Fs to be in one-one correspondence with the Gs.] A consequence of this identity-statement is that it is unintelligible that there be no numbers. For it is trivially true that, e.g. the planets are in one-one correspondence with themselves. But for the planets to be in one-one correspondence with themselves just is for the number of the planets to be self-identitcal. So numbers exist after all. Traditional neo-Fregeans, in contrast, accept Humes Principle, but shy away from accepting the corresponding identity-statement. Accordingly, they take themselves to be able to make sense of a world with no numbers. It seems to me that there is some confusion in the literature about which of the two version of the neo-Freganism is being discussed. Critics of neo-Fregeanism have

sometimes interpreted the program as a version of traditional neo-Fregeanismthe author of Rayo (2003) and Rayo (2005), for instance. (For a survey of the literature, see MacBride (2003).) But it is not clear that this is what proponents of neo-Fregeanism have in mind. There are strong indications that the subtle variety is closer to the mark. One such indication is the use of neo-Fregeanism as a name for the programfor there is good reason to think that Frege himself was a proponent of subtle Platonism. When Frege claims, for example, that the sentence there is at least one square root of 4 expresses the same thought as the concept square root of 4 is realized, and adds that 16

a thought can be split up in many ways, so that now one thing, now another, appears as subject or predicate (Frege (1892) p. 199), it is natural to interpret him as embracing the identity-statement: For the concept square root of 4 to be realized just is for there to be at least one square root of 4. And when he claims, in Grundlagen 64, that in treating the judgement line a is parallel to line b as an identity, so as to obtain the direction of line a is identical to the direction of line b, we carve up the content in a way dierent from the original way, it is natural to interpret him as embracing the identity-statement: For the direction of line a to equal the direction of line b just is for a and b to be parallel. In both instances, Frege puts the point in terms of content-recarving, rather than as an identity-statement. But, as emphasized above, ones views about truth-conditions are tightly correlated with the identities one accepts. Neo-Fregeans are evidently sympathetic towards Freges views on content-recarving. (See, for instance, Wright (1997).) And even though talk of content-recarving has become less prevalent in recent years, with more of the emphasis on implicit denitions, a version of neo-Fregeanism rooted in subtle Platonism is clearly on the cards. In the remainder of the paper I will argue that such an interpretation of the program would be decidedly advantageous.

2.1

Objects

Suppose you introduce the verb to tableize into your language, and accept for it to tableize just is for there to be a table (where the it in it tableizes is assumed to play

17

the same dummy role as the it in it is raining). Then you will think that it tableizes and there is a table have the same truth-conditions. In each case, what is required in order for the truth-conditions to be satised is that there be a table (equivalently: that it tableize). So you will think thatfor the purposes of stating that there is a table object-talk is optional. One can state that there is a table by employing a quantier that binds singular term positionsas in there is a tablebut also by employing an essentially dierent syntactic structureas in it tableizes. If object-talk is optional, what is the point of giving it a place in our language? According to the non-metaphysical view, as I shall call it, the answer is compositionality. A language involving object-talkthat is, a language including singular terms and quantiers binding singular term positionsis attractive because it enables one to give a recursive specication of truth-conditions for a class of sentences rich in expressive power. But there is not much more to be said on its behalf. If one could construct a language that never indulged in object-talk, and was able to do so without sacricing compositionality or expressive power, there would be no immediate reason to think it inferior to our own. Whether or not we choose to adopt it should turn entirely on matters of convenience. (For an example of such a language, and illuminating discussion, see Burgess (2005).) Proponents of the non-metaphysical view believe that it takes very little for a singular term to be in good order. All it takes is a compositional specication of truth-conditions for whichever sentences involving the term one wishes to make available for use. The reason there is nothing more that needs to be done is that there was nothing special about using singular terms to begin with. In setting forth a language, all we wanted was the ability to express a suitably rich range of truth-conditions. If we happened to carry out this aim by bringing in singular terms, it was because they supplied a convenient way of specifying the right range of truth-conditions, not because they had some further virtue. Proponents of the metaphysical view, in contrast, believe that that object-talk is subject 18

to a further constraint: there needs to be a certain kind of correspondence between the semantic structure of our sentences and the metaphysical structure of reality. In particular, they presuppose the following: (1) there is a particular carving of reality into objects which is more apt, in some metaphysical sense, than any potential rivalthe one and only carving that is in accord with realitys true metaphysical structure; (2) to each legitimate singular term there must correspond an object carved out by this metaphysical structure; and (3) satisfaction of the truth-conditions of a sentence of the form P (t1 , . . . , tn ) requires that the objects paired with t1 , . . . , tn bear to each other the property expressed by P . (For an example of this sort of view, see Sider (typescript).) A consequence of the metaphysical view is that one cannot accept for it to tableize just is for there to be a table. (Since it tableizes and there is a table have dierent semantic structures, there cant be a single feature of reality they are both accurate descriptions of when it is presupposed that correspondence with the one and only structure of reality is a precondition for accuracy.) For similar reasons, one cannot accept for some things to be arranged tablewise just is for there to be a table, or for the property of tablehood to be instantiated just is for there to be a table, or, indeed, any identity statement where and are atomic sentences with dierent semantic structures. Accordingly, proponents of the metaphysical view takes themselves to be in a position to make distinctions that a proponent of the non-metaphysical view would be unable to understand. For instance, they might take themselves to be in a position to make sense of a scenario in which some things are arranged tablewise but there is no table. I am ignoring a complication. Friends of the metaphysical view might favor a moderate version of the proposal according to which only a subset of our discourse is subject to the constraint that there be a correspondence between semantic structure and the metaphysical structure of reality. One could claim, for example, that the constraint only applies when one is in the ontology room. Accordingly, friends of the moderate view would be free to 19

accept a version of, e.g. for there to be some things arranged tablewise just is for there to be a table by arguing that only there are some things arranged tablewise is to be understood in an ontology-room spirit. Ignoring this version of the view allows me to simplify the exposition with no loss in generality: everything I will say about the nonmoderate view applies to the moderate view when attention is restricted to ontology-room discourse. The dierence between the non-metaphysical and the metaphysical view is subtle but important. First, the metaphysical view indulges in Deep Metaphysics where the nonmetaphysical view does not. For the metaphysical structure of reality is a paradigm example of the sort of thing only a metaphysician could understand, and only a metaphysician would care about. (For arguments to the contrary, see Sider (typescript).) Second, and more importantly for our purposes, the non-metaphysical view leaves room for meaninglessness where the metaphysical view does not. Suppose it is agreed on all sides that the singular terms t1 and t2 are both in good order, each of them guring meaningfully in sentences with well-dened truth-conditions. A proponent of the metaphysical view is, on the face of it, committed to the claim that it must be possible to meaningfully ask whether t1 = t2 is true. For she believes that each of t1 and t2 is paired with one of the objects carved out by the metaphysical structure of reality. So the question whether t1 = t2 is true can be cashed out as the question whether t1 and t2 are paired with the same such object. (Friends of the metaphysical view could, of course, deny that this is a meaningful question. But such a move would come at a cost, since it it would make it hard to understand what is meant by carving reality into objects.) For a proponent of the non-metaphysical view, in contrast, there is no tension between thinking that t1 and t2 gure meaningfully in sentences with well-dened truth conditions and denying that one has asked a meaningful question when one asks whether t1 = t2 is true. For according to the non-metaphysical view, all it takes for a singular term to be in 20

good order is for there to be a compositional specication of truth-conditions for whichever sentences involving the term one wishes to make available for use. And there is no reason one couldnt have a compositional specication of truth-conditions for a large range of sentences involving t1 and t2 without thereby specifying truth-conditions for t1 = t2 . Arithmetic is a case in point. The subtle Platonist has a straightforward way of specifying a compositional assignment of truth-conditions to arithmetical sentences. (See appendix A.) On this assignment, every arithmetical sentence a non-philosopher would care about gets well-denied truth-conditions, as does every sentence in the non-arithmetical fragment of the language, but no truth-conditions are supplied for mixed identity-statements, such as the number of the planets = Julius Caesar. And for good reason: there is no natural way of extending the relevant semantic clauses to cover these cases. Proponents of the metaphysical view will claim that something important has been left out. For in the absence of well-dened truth-conditions for the number of the planets = Julius Caesar, it is unclear which of the objects carved out by the metaphysical structure of reality has been paired with the number of the planets. But proponents of the nonmetaphysical view would disagree: it is simply a mistake to think that such pairings are necessary to render a singular term meaningful. If the non-metaphysical view is rightyou might be tempted to askin what sense are we committed to the existence of numbers when we say that the number of the planets is eight? In the only sense of existence and numbers that non-metaphysicians are able to understand, say I. In order for the truth-conditions of the number of the planets is eight to be satised the number of the planets must be eight, and in order for the number of the planets to be eight there have to be numbers. What else could it take for someone who asserts the number of the planets is eight to be committed to the existence of numbers? Of course, the subtle Platonist will make a further claim. She will claim that it is also true that all it takes for the truth-conditions of the number of the planets is eight to be 21

satised is that there be eight planets. To think that this contradicts what was said in the preceding paragraph is to fail to take seriously the idea that for the number of the planets to be eight just is for there to be eight planets. It is true that the number of the planets is eight carries commitment to numbers, but it is also true that commitment to numbers is no commitment at all. (If you have trouble getting your head around this, consider the following. The subtle Platonist accepts For the number of the planets to be zero just is for there to be no planets. She also accepts For the number of the planets to be distinct from zero just is for there to be planets. Putting the two together, she accepts For the number of planets to be either identical to or distinct from zero just is for there to be some planets or none; equivalently: For the number of the planets to exist just is for there to be some planets or none. But there are be some planets or none has trivial truth-conditionstruth-conditions whose non-satisfaction would be unintelligibleso the number of the planets exists must also have trivial truth-conditions.) Perhaps you think that even if the subtle Platonist is right and there is a single feature of reality that is fully and accurate described by both the number of the plants is eight and there are exactly eight planets, one of these descriptions is more fundamental then the other: one of them carves reality at the joints. Believe this if you wish, but keep in mind that the distinction you seek to make is a creature of Deep Metaphysics. You have, in eect, endorsed what I earlier called the moderate version of the metaphysical view whereby one of the two descriptions picks out objects that are carved up by the metaphysical structure of reality, and is thereby t for the ontology room, and the other hooks up with the world in a way that has lesser metaphysical pedigree, and is therefore not t for the ontology room. The moral I hope to draw from the discussion this section is that subtle Platonists have reason to adopt the non-metaphysical view of singular-terms. This goes, in particular, for subtle neo-Fregeansneo-Fregeans who favor subtle Platonism. But once one 22

embraces the non-metaphysical view, there is no pressure for thinking that a mixed identitystatement such as the number of the planets = Julius Caesar should have well-dened truth-conditions. So there is no reason to thinkin spite of what Frege suggests in 66 of the Grundlagen and what proponents of neo-Fregeanism tend to presupposethat a characterization of the concept of number will be unacceptable unless it settles the truthvalue of mixed identity-statements. In short: if you are a subtle neo-Fregean, you should be resolute about it, and stop worrying about mixed identities.

2.2

Abstraction Principles

I have never been able to understand why a traditional neo-Fregean would think it important to use Humes Princple to characterize the meaning of arithmetical vocabulary, instead of using, e.g. the (second-order) Dedekind Axioms. In the case of subtle neo-Fregeans, on the other hand, I can see a motivation. Humes Principle, and abstraction principles more generally, might be thought to be important because they are seen as capturing the difference between setting forth a mere quantied biconditional as an implicit denition of mathematical terms: (f () = f ( ) R(, )) and setting forth the corresponding identity-statement:

f () = f ( ) , R(, ).

And this is clearly an important dierence. Only the latter delivers subtle Platonism, and only the latter promises to deliver an account for the special epistemic status of mathematical truths. If thats whats intended, however, it seems to me that there are better ways of doing the job. Consider the case of Humes Principle. In order to convince oneself that it succeeds 23

in characterizing the meaning of our arithmetical vocabulary, one needs to prove a certain kind of completeness result: one needs to show that setting forth Humes Principle as an implicit denition of numerical terms is enough to pin down the truth-conditions of every arithmetical sentence one wishes to have available for use. This, in turn, involves proving the following two results: 1. Given suitable denitions, every true sentence in the language of pure arithmetic is a logical consequence of Humes Principle. [This result has come to be known as Freges Theorem. It was originally proved in Frege (1893 and 1903), by making what Heck (1993) identied as a non-essential use of Basic Law V. That the result could be established without using Basic Law V was noted in Parsons (1965) and proved in Wright (1983).] 2. Given suitable denitions, every true sentence in the (two-sorted) language of applied arithmetic is a logical consequence of Humes Principle, together with the set of true sentences containing no arithmetical vocabulary. Both of these results are true, but neither of them is trivial. Now suppose that one characterizes the meaning of arithmetical vocabulary by using the compositional semantics in appendix A. The assignment of truth-conditions one gets is exactly the same as the one one would get by setting forth the identity-statement corresponding to Humes Principle as an implicit denition of arithmetical termsbut with the advantage that establishing completeness, in the relevant sense, turns out to be absolutely straightforward. One can simply read it o from ones semantic clauses. (In fact, the easiest method I know of for proving the second of the two results above, and thereby establishing the completeness of Humes Principle, proceeds via the appendix A semantics.) None of this should come as a surprise. When one uses the method in the appendix to specify truth-conditions for arithmetical sentences one avails oneself of all the advantages 24

of a compositional semantics. Not so when one sets forth Humes Principle as an implicit denition. There is, however, a much more important reason for preferring the method in the appendix over specications of truth-conditions based on abstraction principles. NeoFregeans have found it dicult to identify abstraction principles that can do for settheory what Humes Principle does for arithmetic. (For a selection of relevant literature, see Cook (2007).) But if one waives the requirement that the meaning-xation work be done by abstraction principles, the diculties vanish. The subtle Platonist has a straightforward way of specifying a compositional assignment of truth-conditions to set-theretic sentences. (See appendix B for details.) As in the case of arithmetic, one gets the result that every consequence of the standard set-theoretic axioms has well-dened truth-conditions. And, as in the case of arithmetic, one gets subtle Platonism. In particular, it is a consequence of the semantics that for the set of Romans to contain Julius Caesar just is for Julius Caesar to be a Roman. Perhaps there is some other reason to insist on using abstraction principles to x the meanings of set-theoretic terms. But if the motivation is simply to secure subtle Platonism, it seems to me that neo-Fregeans would do better by using a compositional semantics instead.

25

A Semantics for the Language of Arithmetic

Consider a two-sorted rst-order language with identity, L. It contains arithmetical variables (n1 , n2 , . . .), constants (0) and function-letters (S, + and ), and non-arithmetical variables (x1 , x2 , . . .), constants (Caesar and Earth) and predicate-letters (Human(. . . ) and Planet(. . . )). In addition, L has been enriched with the function-letter #v (. . .) which takes a rst-order predicate in its single argument-place to form a rst-order arithmetical term (as in #x1 (Planet(x1 )), which is read the number of the planets). If is a variable assignment and w is a world, truth and denotation in L relative to and w can be characterized as follows: Denotation of arithmetical terms: 1. ,w ( ni ) = ( ni ) 2. ,w (0) = 0 3. ,w ( S (t) ) = ,w (t) + 1 4. ,w ( (t1 + t2 ) ) = ,w (t1 ) + ,w (t2 ) 5. ,w ( (t1 t2 ) ) = ,w (t1 ) ,w (t2 ) 6. ,w ( #xi ((xi ), nj ) ) = the number of z s such that Sat( (xi ) , z/
xi

, w)
ni

7. ,w ( #ni ((ni ), nj ) ) = the number of ms such that Sat( (ni ) , m/ Denotation of non-arithmetical terms: 1. ,w ( xi ) = ( xi ) 2. ,w (Caesar) = Julius Caesar 3. ,w (Earth) = the planet Earth 26

, w)

Satisfaction: Where []w is read it is true at w that , 1. Sat( t1 = t2 , , w) ,w (t1 ) = ,w (t2 ) (for t1 , t2 arithmetical terms) 2. Sat( t1 = t2 , , w) [,w (t1 ) = ,w (t2 )]w (for t1 , t2 non-arithmetical terms) 3. Sat( Human(t) , , w) [,w (t) is human]w (for t a non-arithmetical term) 4. Sat( Planet(t) , , w) [,w (t) is a planet]w (for t a non-arithmetical term) 5. Sat( ni , , w) there is a number m such that Sat(, m/
ni

, w)
xi

6. Sat( xi , , w) there is a z such that ([y (y = z )]w Sat(, z/ 7. Sat( , , w) Sat(, , w) Sat(, , w) 8. Sat( , , w) Sat(, , w)

, w))

Philosophical comment: As argued in the main text, a sentences truth-conditions can be modeled by a set of intelligible scenarios. Accordingly, when w is taken to range over intelligible scenarios as is intended abovethe characterization of truth at w yields a specication of truthconditions for every sentence in the language. The proposed semantics makes full use of arithmetical vocabulary. So it can only be used to explain the truth-conditions of arithmetical sentences to someone who is already in a position to use arithmetical vocabulary. What then is the point of the exercise? How is it an improvement over a homophonic specication of truth-conditions? The rst thing to note is that the present proposal has consequences that a homophonic specication lacks. Conspicuously, a homophonic specication would be compatible with

27

both traditional and subtle Platonism, but the present proposal is only compatible with subtle Platonism (since it entails that there is no intelligible scenario with no numbers). And unlike a homophonic specication, the present proposal can be used to go from the assumption that every sentence in the purely mathematical fragment of ones metalanguage is either true or false to the assumption that every sentence in the purely mathematical fragment of the object-language is either necessarily true or necessarily false. The reason the present proposal has non-trivial consequences is that mathematical vocabulary never occurs within the scope of [. . .]w . So even though mathematical vocabulary is used to specify the satisfaction clauses, the worlds in the range of w can be characterized entirely in non-mathematical terms. As a result, the formal semantics establishes a connection between mathematical and non-mathematical descriptions of the world. It entails, for example, that the intelligible scenarios at which the number of the planets is eight are precisely the intelligible scenarios at which there are eight planetsfrom which it follows that for the number of the planets to be eight just is for there to be eight planets. Why not make this connection more explicit still? Why not specify a translationfunction that maps each arithmetical sentence to a sentence such that (i) contains no mathematical vocabulary and (ii) the sublte Platonist would accept ? Although doing so would certainly be desirable, it is provably beyond our reach: one can show that no such function is nitely speciable. (See Rayo (2008) for details.) Technical comments: 1. Throughout the denition of dentation and satisfaction I assume that the range of the metalinguistic variables includes merely possible objects. This is a device to simplify the exposition, and could be avoided by appeal to the technique described in Rayo (2008) and Rayo (typescript b). 2. In clause 5 of the denition of satisfaction I assume that number includes innite 28

numbers. This is done in order to ensure that there are no empty terms in the language. If one wanted to restrict ones attention to the natural numbers one could do so by working in a free logic.

A Semantics for the Language of Set-Theory

Consider a two-sorted rst-order language with identity, L. It contains set-theoretic variables (1 , 2 , . . .), and non-set-theoretic variables (x1 , x2 , . . .), and predicate-letters (Human(. . . ) and Planet(. . . )). If is a variable assignment and w is a world, truth in L relative to and w can be characterized as follows: 1. Sat( xi = xj , , w) [ ( xi ) = ( xj )]w 2. Sat( xi j , , w) ( xi ) ( j ) 3. Sat( i j , , w) ( i ) ( j ) 4. Sat( Human(xi ) , , w) [ ( xi ) is human]w 5. Sat( Planet(xi ) , , w) [ ( xi ) is a planet]w 6. Sat( i , , w) there is a set such that (Goodw ( ) Sat(, / 7. Sat( xi , , w) there is a z such that ([y (y = z )]w Sat(, z/ 8. Sat( , , w) Sat(, , w) Sat(, , w) 9. Sat( , , w) Sat(, , w) where a set is goodw just in case it occurs at some stage of the iterative hierarchy built up from objects x such that [Urelement(x)]w . (For philosophical and technical comments, see appendix A.) 29
xi xi

, w))

, w))

References
Beaney, M., ed. (1997) The Frege Reader, Blackwell, Oxford. Benacerraf, P., and H. Putnam, eds. (1983) Philosophy of Mathematics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, second edition. Black, M., ed. (1965) Philosophy in America, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. Bueno, O., and . Linnebo (forthcoming) New Waves in Philosophy of Mathematics, Macmillan. Burgess, J. (2005) Being Explained Away, Harvard Review of Philosophy 13, 4156. Carnap, R. (1950) Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology, Analysis 4, 2040. Reprinted in Benacerraf and Putnam (1983), 241-257. Cook, R., ed. (2007) The Arch e Papers on the Mathematics of Abstraction, The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science, Springer, Dordrecht. Demopoulos, W., ed. (1995) Freges Philosophy of Mathematics, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Frege, G. (1884) Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik. English Translation by J.L. Austin, The Foundations of Arithmetic, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL, 1980. Frege, G. (1892) On Concept and Object, Vierteljahrsschrift f ur wissenschaftliche Philosophie 16, 192205. The English translation by Peter Geach is reprinted in Beaney (1997). Frege, G. (1893 and 1903) Grundgesetze der Arithmetik. Vol 1 (1893), Vol 2 (1903). English Translation by Montgomery Furth, The Basic Laws of Arithmetic, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1964. Hale, B., and C. Wright (2001) The Reasons Proper Study: Essays towards a Neo-Fregean Philosophy of Mathematics, Clarendon Press, Oxford. 30

Heck, R. (1993) The Development of Arithmetic in Freges Grundgesetze der Arithmetik, Journal of Symbolic Logic 58, 579163. Reprinted in Demopoulos (1995). Heck, R., ed. (1997) Language, Thought and Logic, Clarendon Press, Oxford. Kment, B. (2006) Counterfactuals and the Analysis of Necessity, Philosophical Perspectives 20, 237302. MacBride, F. (2003) Speaking with Shadows: A Study of Neo-Fregeanism, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54, 103163. MacBride, F., ed. (2006) Identity and Modality, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Parsons, C. (1965) Freges Theory of Number. In Black (1965), pp 180203. Reprinted with a postscript in Parsons (1983), pp. 150175. Parsons, C. (1983) Mathematics in Philosophy, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. Rayo, A. (2003) Success by Default? Philosophia Mathematica 305322. Rayo, A. (2005) Logicism Reconsidered. In Shapiro (2005), pp. 203235. Rayo, A. (2008) On Specifying Truth-Conditions, The Philosophical Review 117. Rayo, A. (forthcoming) Towards a Trivialist Account of Mathematics. In Bueno and Linnebo (forthcoming). Rayo, A. (typescript-a) An Account of Possibility. Rayo, A. (typescript-b) An Actualists Guide to Quantifying In. Rosen, G. (2006) The Limits of Contingency. In MacBride (2006), pp. 1339. Shapiro, S., ed. (2005) The Oxford Handbook for Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics, Clarendon Press, Oxford. Sider, T. (typescript) Writing the Book of theWorld. Wright, C. (1983) Freges Conception of Numbers as Objects, Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen. 31

Wright, C. (1997) The Philosophical Signicance of Freges Theorem. In Heck (1997), 201-244.

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