Thought and predication in Frege and Russell

  • Jose Mestre

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This dissertation offers a reappraisal of how Russell’s views about thought and predication around the time of his Principles of Mathematics relate to Frege’s own theorizing about those topics. It does so by telling a story about the encounter of Russell’s world with Frege’s logic. The main protagonist in that story is Russell. Briefly, the story is as follows.
Russell inherited from Moore the elements of the largely atomistic worldview that he upheld around 1903. Underlying that worldview was a model of term combination that we may call the building blocks model. That model was primarily targeted at the composition of atomic propositions (chapter 3). In one respect, the model proved advantageous, in that it prevented Russell from mistaking propositional functions (or what they stand for) for properties in the traditional sense (chapters 1 and 4). In other respects, it had a deleterious effect on Russell’s theorizing. In fact, it would break down even in the case of atomic propositions themselves (chapter 4). However, it was as a model for the kinds of complexity introduced by propositional functions (chapter 5) and that-clauses (chapter 6) that it proved seriously inadequate. By contrast, Frege’s model of complexity derived entirely from his account of generality, and was therefore perfectly suited to functions (chapter 2). Yet, Frege’s relative indifference towards ontological questions, or at any rate his lack of a developed picture of the world comparable to Russell’s, meant that he could avoid any deep commitments with regard to the other two cases (chapters 2 and 7).
Date of Award12 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorPeter M. Sullivan (Supervisor) & Colin Johnston (Supervisor)


  • Frege
  • Russell
  • Thoughts
  • Simple predicates
  • Complex predicates

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