Philosophical Studies

, Volume 168, Issue 1, pp 261–282 | Cite as

Number words and reference to numbers

  • Katharina Felka


A realist view of numbers often rests on the following thesis: statements like ‘The number of moons of Jupiter is four’ are identity statements in which the copula is flanked by singular terms whose semantic function consists in referring to a number (henceforth: Identity). On the basis of Identity the realists argue that the assertive use of such statements commits us to numbers. Recently, some anti-realists have disputed this argument. According to them, Identity is false, and, thus, we may deny that the relevant statements commit us to numbers. The present paper argues that the correct linguistic analysis of the relevant number statements supports the anti-realist view that Identity is false. However, as will further be shown, pace the anti-realist, this analysis does not establish that such statements do not commit us to numbers after all.


Ontological commitment Abstract objects Number words Frege Specificational sentences Nominalizations 



Thanks to an anonymous referee of this journal, Daniel Dohrn, Peter Fritz, Thomas Hofweber, Stephan Krämer, Benjamin Schnieder, Robert Schwartzkopff, and, most of all, Alexander Steinberg for helpful discussions and comments. Thanks also to audiences in Hamburg, Turin, Alghero, Berlin, and Cambridge (especially to Michael Potter who was my commentator) where I presented my paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nominalizations Research Group, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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