Science and Fiction: A Fregean Approach

  • Gottfried GabrielEmail author
Part of the Nordic Wittgenstein Studies book series (NRWS, volume 3)


In Frege’s analysis of the relationship between science and fiction there are two important aspects, which the paper will discuss. It shows that Frege makes a strict distinction between Dichtung und Wissenschaft on the level of object language but not on the level of metalanguage. (1) In his “On Sense and Reference” and in scattered remarks elsewhere Frege explains the semantics (and pragmatics) of scientific and everyday discourse. As a kind of side product he presents an explication of the concept of fictional discourse concerning questions of illocutionary force and reference. Here Frege anticipates J. R. Searle’s speech-act-theory of fictional discourse, which allows to understand works of fiction as consisting (at least partly) of fictional discourse. On the basis of Frege’s distinctions this approach is defended against ontological arguments, which make use of terms like ‘fictive entities’ or ‘non-existent objects’ in the Meinongian tradition. (2) Frege excludes the connotative or figurative elements of language, called “colourings and shadings” (Färbungen und Beleuchtungen) of sense or thought, from the scientific use of language and assigns such elements to “the art of poetry” or “eloquence”. The fact that the expression ‘colouring’ is itself a figurative term, raises a paradoxical question: To what extent does understanding Frege’s own explanation of the difference between sense and colouring depend on the poetic or at least rhetoric use of language? There are reasons to believe that Frege was—even if only reluctantly—aware of this paradox. Otherwise he would not have repeatedly emphasized that explanations of categorial logical distinctions (particularly such as those between ‘function’ and ‘object’) cannot dispense with “figurative expressions” (like ‘unsaturated’ and ‘saturated’). Insofar as such distinctions are “reliant upon the accommodating understanding of the reader”, they pay tribute to a rhetoric of cognition. While Frege denies that colourings contribute to cognitive content, he must still admit that they make an indispensable protreptic contribution to conveying cognition.


Cognitivism Emotivism Fiction Figurative language Frege Science 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Friedrich Schiller UniversityJenaGermany

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