Sense and Linguistic Meaning: A solution to the Burge-Kripke Conflict

Paradigmi 3:75-89 (2013)
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When “Sinning Against Frege” was published in 1979 I thought it should have given a real turn in the discussion on Frege’s ideas. Actually the impact was less then I imagined, and the problem was that – at the end of the story – Tyler Burge’s interpretation should have posed a shadow on the direct reference theories and the Millean criticism of descriptivist theories of proper names, based on the criticism of the identification of Frege’s notion of sense with linguistic meaning or connotation1. In fact Burge (1979) claims that the identification of Frege’s notion of sense with the notion of linguistic meaning is a «basic misunderstanding» of Frege’s work2. This claim implies that Fregean senses are not like Mill’s connotations; therefore many direct-reference criticisms against Frege, which are grounded on Mill’s claims that proper names have no connotation, lose their efficacy. Burge, in giving specifications3, apparently accepts at least the idea that sense is an aspect of meaning, in particular «the aspect of meaning relevant to fixing the truth value of sentences». This feature is the “harmless” part of the assimilation of sense and linguistic meaning; but this assimilation becomes dangerous when context dependence is concerned. Revisiting Burge (1979), after more than two decades of debate on indexicals, may help to better understand the originality and the limitation of his claims.
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