The Logical Significance of Assertion: Frege on the Essence of Logic

Walter B. Pedriali


Assertion plays a crucial dual role in Frege's conception of logic, a formal and a transcendental one. A recurrent complaint is that Frege's inclusion of the judgement-stroke (the formal counterpart of assertion) in the Begriffsschrift is either in tension with his anti-psychologism or wholly superfluous. Assertion, the objection goes, is at best of merely psychological significance. In this paper, I defend Frege against the objection by giving reasons for recognising the central logical significance of assertion in both its formal and its transcendental role.

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The following abbreviations are used to refer to Frege’s works. Page numbering is to the German editions first:

BS: Begriffsschrift, eine der arithmetischen nachgebildete Formelsprache des reinen Denkens. Halle: L. Nebert, 1879. Translated as Conceptual Notation and Related Articles, edited by T. W. Bynum. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972.

GL: Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik. Breslau: W. Koebner, 1884. Translated as The Foundations of Arithmetic, translated by J. L. Austin. Oxford: Blackwell, 1953.

GG: Grundgesetze der Arithmetik, 2 vols., Jena: H. Pohle, 1893 and 1902. Translated as Frege (1893/2013).

BW: Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel Hamburg: Verlag, 1976. Translated as Philosophical and Mathematical Correspondence, translated by H. Kaal. Oxford: Blackwell, 1980.

NS: Nachgelassene Schriften. Hamburg: Verlag, 1983. Translated as Posthumous Writings, translated by Peter Long and Roger White. Oxford: Blackwell, 1979.

KS: Kleine Schriften. Hildesheim: Verlag, 2011. Translated as Collected Papers on Mathematics, Logic, and Philosophy, edited by B. McGuinness. Oxford: Blackwell, 1980.

Other abbreviations:

TLP: Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logicus Philosophicus, translated by C. K. Ogden. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1922.

PI: Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations, edited and translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell, 1953.

NB: Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Notebooks 1914–1916, edited by G. H. von Wright and G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell, 1961.

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Walter B. Pedriali
University of St Andrews
United Kingdom