Hi there, I have a very basic question about Frege's object/concept distinction. Please don't make fun of me as I'm new to early analytic philosophy. This question has been bugging me for a while, so I'd appreciate a thorough answer. In sentences like "the cat is grey" or "the cat is in the park," do the words 'the cat' designate an object? If you were to formalize these sentences, I would think it would go as something like: there is some x such that x is a cat and x is grey/in a park. There wouldn't be a uniqueness clause, I would think. If the words that designate an object have to pick out something unique, does that mean the words 'the cat' cannot designate an object (since they are not specified enough)? If they don't designate an object, then what is their logical status? Thanks.

Frege did think that definite descriptions, such as "the President of the United States" or "the cat," are (what he called) proper names, or what are more usually now called singular terms. And he thought that singular terms do denote objects. So I think he did believe that "the cat" refers to an object. The logical structure of the sentence "the cat is in the park" would be something like: Pc. The formalization you offer, "there is some x such that x is a cat and x is in the park," would schematize rather the sentence: some cat is in the park. Perhaps Frege would suggest that "the cat," used properly, is really elliptical for something like "the cat my mother owns." If the definite description really doesn't designate anything, then (in Frege's terminology), it might have a sense but lack a reference. Any sentence containing it might express a thought but would lack a truth value. (The latter claim needs to be qualified to deal with non-extensional contexts.) Hope this helps a bit!

Struggling with Wittgenstein. "The World is all that is the case". Does this mean both positive facts ("Paris is the capitol of France") AND negative facts ("Lyon is not the capitol of France") I can say "It IS the case that Lyon is not the capitol of France". Or does Wittgenstein mean only the pos. facts, i.e what has been actualized? Thanks.

I am not confident about all that Wittgenstein is trying to get at, but one thing he's reaching for might be made clearer by recalling the contrast he sets up: the world is not a collection of things, but of facts. Perhaps the root idea is that if we had to describe the world, we could not do so by simply listing all the objects that there are. Rather, we'd find ourselves saying that this is the case, and that is the case, and so on. We'd find ourselves making a series of that-claims, rather than merely naming objects. That is, we'd list all the facts that obtain.

Does Quine's argument that there is no real boundary between analytic and synthetic statements include purely mathematical statements such as 1 + 2 = 3? Granted, sentences in everyday languages contain both analytic and synthetic elements, but cannot formal languages support purely analytical statements? Or does mathematics, being a human creation, inextricably model the natural world around us, and thus contain synthetic information? I'm trying to understand the short and (very difficult for me) book "Knowledge and Reality: A Comparative Study of Quine & Some Buddhist Logicians" by Kaisa Puhakka, which seems to represent Quine's thinking faithfully, but my training as a scientist leaves me ill-prepared for much of it. Thank you.

Richard's response is helpful and interesting, but perhaps I would put matters a bit differently. He makes it sound as if Quine accepts the distinction between analytic and synthetic truth and goes on to argue that nothing counts as a truth of the first kind (perhaps "mellowing" his view about this later on). But Quine's position (early, middle, and late) is rather that he can make no sense of the distinction at all. His challenge isn't to the analyticity of logical or mathematical truth; it's rather to the intelligibility of sorting truths into these categories – to the very categories themselves – as the traditional philosopher conceives of them. Your thought that the distinction can be given some sense in the context of an artificial language is a natural one. Quine explicitly turns to this suggestion in section 4 of "Two Dogmas of Empiricism."

My question concerns the 20th Century doctrine of "logical postivism" and its apparent refutation. Its distinction between analytic and synthetic statements seems to me straight forward and an important one. Wittgenstein's quote seems appropriate: "On what cannot be spoken of one must remain silent." I understand that logical positivism has been successfully refuted by Quine and others. I cannot grasp that refutation. One of those arguments seems to be the "indeterminacy of translation"); an argument I understand and accept. I also understand that ALL language has different connotations to different people. However, it seems impossible to make an understandable "synthetic" statement about metaphysics. That is, if we cannot verify the existence of something empirically, such as a concept (God, for instance), we cannot come to any agreement about it. In other words what I find valuable about logical positivism, as a materialist, is that metaphysics is simply speculation and cannot be...

Yes, many of the logical positivists drew a sharp line between analytic truths and synthetic ones, respectively, those that owe their truth merely to the rules of language that determine meaning and those that also owe their truth to how the world is. The distinction seems to turn on acknowledging that sentences have determinate meanings in the first place - in some cases, those meanings settle the truth of the sentence (the analytic ones) and in other cases they do not (the synthetic ones). Quine's thesis of the indeterminacy of translation claims that sentences do not have such determinate meanings: in addition to facts like how many moons the Earth has, there are no facts about what some string of words means. (This can sound outrageous and much care needs to be taken about the thesis being advanced and the reasons for it - no time for that here!) And so the thesis of indeterminacy rejects a presupposition of the distinction between analytic and synthetic truths. You say there's clearly...

A famous philosopher is coming to visit my university. Would it be inappropriate to ask for his autograph?

Well, a book would be a natural thing to ask someone to sign. But it needn't be that (without being ridiculous): I don't think he would take it amiss if you asked him to sign an article he's written. Or perhaps even simply a small blank card. (Many autograph collections consist of such signed cards.) And I don't think you have to worry about being unobtrusive or to wait for an informal reception: I can see nothing wrong with approaching the individual after his talk and politely requesting an autograph.

Does Rawls consider inborn abilities an important determinant of social status? I haven't read his entire text in A Theory of Justice, but when he mentions the veil of ignorance, is he considering social status more or less a matter of fate?

If by "fate" you mean out of your control, then I think Rawls would have answered your first question: "Yes and no". Your social status is determined by elements out of your control such as the aptitudes you are born with, the lucky or unlucky breaks that come your way, and the manner in which the society into which you are born values certain talents or activities over others. But it's also true that your social status is partly determined by your efforts: it's always up to you whether to give everything you own away. I agree with Allen that the reason those behind the veil of ignorance do not know their social status is that this knowledge would influence which principles of justice they would favor, and indeed "that misses the point of the veil." But what is its point? Well, one thing to say is that it's designed to make sure that those behind the veil do not make use of morally irrelevant information when selecting principles of justice. One's social status is morally irrelevant precisely...

I believe that Kant defended the "law of cause and effect" by stating this argument: (P) If we didn't understand or acknowledge the law of cause and effect, we couldn't have any knowledge. (Q) We have knowledge. Therefore: (P) we acknowledge the law of cause and effect. Isn't this line of reasoning a fallacy? P implies Q, Q, : P

It seems to me you haven't reported the inference accurately. The conclusion, "We acknowledge the law of cause and effect," is the negation of the antecedent of (P) and not, as you report, (P). (That is, your premise (P) is of the form: if not-X, then not-Y. And the conclusion of your argument is X.) So, the argument really has the form "If not-X, then not-Y" and "Y", therefore "X". This is a correct form of inference in classical logic. You're right that "If X, then Y" and "Y" do not imply "X"; that is indeed a fallacy. But this argument is rather of the form: "If X, then Y" and "not-Y", therefore "not-X". And that is a correct inference.

Wittgenstein said that anything that can be said can be said clearly; how should we view this contention in light of the fact that Wittgenstein's own writing is famously enigmatic (or at least aphoristic)?

That's a good question and a really good answer would have to involve getting into the details of Wittgenstein's thought. But perhaps one thing that might be said at the outset is that saying something clearly and saying something that's easy to understand are not the same thing. A good textbook in advanced mathematics contains many clear statements – but that doesn't mean it's easy for anyone to understand them. Whether something's easy to understand depends in part on the clarity of the thought's expression, but also on the subtlety or complexity of the thought being expressed.