Focus restored: Comments on John Macfarlane

Bob Hale (Corresponding Author), Crispin Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In “Double Vision Two Questions about the Neo-Fregean Programme”, John MacFarlane’s raises two main questions: (1) Why is it so important to neo-Fregeans to treat expressions of the form ‘the number of Fs’ as a species of singular term? What would be lost, if anything, if they were analysed instead as a type of quantifier-phrase, as on Russell’s Theory of Definite Descriptions? and (2) Granting—at least for the sake of argument—that Hume’s Principle may be used as a means of implicitly defining the number operator, what advantage, if any, does adopting this course possess over a direct stipulation of the Dedekind-Peano axioms? This paper attempts to answer them. In response to the first, we spell out the links between the recognition of numerical terms as vehicles of singular reference and the conception of numbers as possible objects of singular, or object-directed, thought, and the role of the acknowledgement of numbers as objects in the neo-Fregean attempt to justify the basic laws of arithmetic. In response to the second, we argue that the crucial issue concerns the capacity of either stipulation—of Hume’s Principle, or of the Dedekind-Peano axioms—to found knowledge of the principles involved, and that in this regard there are crucial differences which explain why the former stipulation can, but the latter cannot, play the required foundational role.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-482
Number of pages26
Issue number3
Early online date30 Oct 2007
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


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