A Metasemantic Analysis of Gödel's Slingshot Argument

Abstract

Gödel’s slingshot-argument proceeds from a referential theory of definite descriptions and from the principle of compositionality for reference. It outlines a metasemantic proof of Frege’s thesis that all true sentences refer to the same object—as well as all false ones. Whereas Frege drew from this the conclusion that sentences refer to truth-values, Gödel rejected a referential theory of definite descriptions. By formalising Gödel’s argument, it is possible to reconstruct all premises that are needed for the derivation of Frege’s thesis. For this purpose, a reference-theoretical semantics for a language of first-order predicate logic with identity and referentially treated definite descriptions will be defined. Some of the premises of Gödel’s argument will be proven by such a reference-theoretical semantics, whereas others can only be postulated. For example, the principle that logically equivalent sentences refer to the same object cannot be proven but must be assumed in order to derive Frege’s thesis. However, different true (or false) sentences can refer to different states of affairs if the latter principle is rejected and the other two premises are maintained. This is shown using an identity criterion for states of affairs according to which two states of affairs are identical if and only if they involve the same objects and have the same necessary and sufficient condition for obtaining.

Author's Profile

Hans-Peter Leeb
University of Salzburg

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2021-04-06

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