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Frege–Geach problem

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L149-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2012
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Frege–Geach problem is an important and well-known obstacle to metaethical theories belonging to the broadly noncognitivist tradition, including emotivism, prescriptivism and expressivism. It is also sometimes called the embedding problem, the Frege–Geach–Searle problem or the problem of unasserted contexts.

Theories in the noncognitivist tradition share the view that the distinctive meaning of moral words does not concern what they are about, and it either does not require or is not exhausted by any answer to what makes moral sentences true. For example, according to A. J. Ayer, the word ‘wrong’ works more like ‘dammit’ than like ‘common’, so that ‘stealing money is wrong’ means something more like, ‘dammit, stealing money!’ than like ‘stealing money is common’. But standard ways of understanding the meanings of complex sentences, and of understanding the logical relationships between sentences, depend on an answer to what those sentences are about, or what would make them true. So noncognitivists need a different, nonstandard, answer to how the meanings of simple sentences give rise to the meanings of complex sentences. The problem of how to do so, and of whether it can even be done, has come to be known as the Frege–Geach problem.

Citing this article:
Schroeder, Mark. Frege–Geach problem, 2012, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L149-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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