, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 51-72
Date: 10 May 2011

Frege on Identity as a Relation of Names

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Abstract

This essay offers a detailed philosophical criticism of Frege’s popular thesis that identity is a relation of names. I consider Frege’s position as articulated both in ‘On Sense and Reference’, and in the Grundgesetze, where he appears to take an objectual view of identity, arguing that in both cases Frege is clearly committed to the proposition that identity is a relation holding between names, on the grounds that two different things can never be identical. A counterexample to Frege’s thesis is considered, and a positive thesis is developed according to which, in contradistinction to the Fregean position, identity is a reflexive, symmetric, and transitive relation holding only between a thing and itself which can be expressed as a relation between names.