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  1. #21
    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    What do you think about GS's reply in #6: The author could have used the definite article, but would have lost the transition from discussing a specific thinker to discussing the general case of any thinker.

    It seems GS thinks both variants make sense.
    Yes, it seems so. I'll let GS respond to this, if he wants to.

    And as a side note, I'd like to notice that reference issues are more or less universal. Although Russian doesn't have articles, if somebody told me I saw cat. Cat was black, I would easily discern the indefiniteness of the first cat and the definiteness of the second one and understand that the second cat was referring to the first one. When I translate Frege's sentences into Russian, I clearly see three referential possibilities with regard to the third thinker: a) an aforementioned person (anaphorically definite) b) a unique role (inherently definite -> its definiteness doesn't depend on a particular situation -> can be used in a general context), c) any person (indefinite/general). And it's surprising to me that only the last one makes sense to you. By default, I would choose a).
    Yes, only the last one really works in that particular context. If the text did say the thinker instead of a thinker, I'd take your possibility a) as the intended meaning.

  2. #22
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    However, I do think your justifications for using the instead of a do make some sense now that you've explained your thinking to me, but that's not the way a native speaker would be thinking.
    Would you elaborate on that, please? How is it that the most obvious choice to me (anaphoric) is the least acceptable to you? Maybe it's not the native vs non-native difference but rather Frank's vs Alexey's way of thinking difference.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 19-Jan-2021 at 08:58.
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  3. #23
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Okay, let's try to get to the bottom of it. I think your misunderstanding is probably more down to my confusing explanations and our slightly different ways of reading the text than to your lack of awareness of article use. Let's look at it closer. For convenience, I've written the text out below with the relevant reference words in bold. I've labelled the three thinkers T1, T2, T3. and identified a corresponding question for each one. The bolded words in black all refer to the topic noun Thoughts.

    Thoughts are by no means unreal but their reality is of quite a different kind from that of things. And their effect is brought about by an act of the thinker (T1) without which they would be ineffective, at least as far as we can see. And yet the thinker (T2) does not create them but must take them as they are. They can be true without being apprehended by a thinker (T3) and are not wholly unreal even then, at least if they could be apprehended and by this means be brought into operation.

    The passage starts off with the topic noun Thoughts. The zero article is used because we're talking about thoughts generally. There's no reference made. With T1, the text could equally have used the indefinite a thinker, in my opinion. In fact, I think that would make more sense because it would be more in keeping with the generalisation of the topic noun Thoughts. So why did the writer use a definite article here? (Q1)

    With T2, I think an indefinite phrase does not make sense. It has to be the thinker. Why? (Q2)

    T3 seems to be the main issue to discuss here. If I can summarise your point of view, you're saying that when you read the text originally, you were surprised that T3 was indefinite a thinker when you would expect to read a definite the thinker. So the question is why is this indefinite? (Q3) I think the answer depends on what has come before, so I suggest we answer Q1 and Q2 first.

    Do you agree with what I've said? Shall we discuss those three questions?
    Last edited by jutfrank; 19-Jan-2021 at 11:03.

  4. #24
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Do you agree with what I've said? Shall we discuss those three questions?
    Yes to both questions.
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  5. #25
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Good. Let's start with Q1. We'll move onto Q2 only when we've exhausted Q1. I'm going to paste the text into each of my posts, just because it makes it a hell of a lot easier for me to focus.

    Thoughts are by no means unreal but their reality is of quite a different kind from that of things. And their effect is brought about by an act of the thinker (T1) without which they would be ineffective, at least as far as we can see. And yet the thinker (T2) does not create them but must take them as they are. They can be true without being apprehended by a thinker (T3) and are not wholly unreal even then, at least if they could be apprehended and by this means be brought into operation.

    Q1: Why did the writer use a definite article here (T1)?

    As I said, I would equally expect an indefinite phrase here. In fact, I think an indefinite phrase makes more sense because: a) there is as yet no reference to any thinker in the text, and b) it would fit better with the indefiniteness of the topic noun Thoughts. The statement is a general statement, akin to Thinkers think thoughts. Do you agree?

    So why a definite phrase? The reference is obviously exophoric, which means that the writer assumes we understand that the thinker is the the thinker of the mentioned thoughts. I think that's a fair assumption, right? Do you think you can use your idea of 'roles' to explain this?

  6. #26
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    As I said, I would equally expect an indefinite phrase here. In fact, I think an indefinite phrase makes more sense because: a) there is as yet no reference to any thinker in the text, and b) it would fit better with the indefiniteness of the topic noun Thoughts. The statement is a general statement, akin to Thinkers think thoughts. Do you agree?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    So why a definite phrase? The reference is obviously exophoric, which means that the writer assumes we understand that the thinker is the the thinker of the mentioned thoughts. I think that's a fair assumption, right?
    You said earlier when the relation is clear enough from the text, we call it endophor. The relation between thoughts and the thinker is quite clear. I mean there's nothing else in the text that the latter could relate to.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    we understand that the thinker is the thinker of the mentioned thoughts. I think that's a fair assumption, right? Do you think you can use your idea of 'roles' to explain this?
    I think to Frege, the relation between thoughts and the thinker was like this: Ships are separate states in a sense. The captain has practically presidential power. I'm not sure the word role is good enough. Maybe you can suggest a better option. Anyway, the captain is not (and cannot be) the captain of the mentioned ships, but only of any/one particular ship. Just like the thinker is the thinker of a/any particular thought(s), but not of thoughts in general.

    But again, I agree that a thinker would make more sense. I just tried to explain how I understand what Frege meant by the thinker.
    Last edited by Alexey86; 20-Jan-2021 at 12:25.
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  7. #27
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Can I step in to avoid starting a new thread? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
    I'm not a teacher, but I agree T1 and T2 are referred to these particular Thoughts mentioned in the passage, and T3 respresents any other thinker.
    Am I right? (sorry for my plain English)

  8. #28
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Quote Originally Posted by Alexey86 View Post
    You said earlier when the relation is clear enough from the text, we call it endophor. The relation between thoughts and the thinker is quite clear. I mean there's nothing else in the text that the latter could relate to.
    I take your point.

    I think to Frege, the relation between thoughts and the thinker was like this: Ships are separate states in a sense. The captain has practically presidential power.
    Yes, that's an equivalent relation. I agree.

    I'm not sure the word role is good enough. Maybe you can suggest a better option.
    No, I think 'role' is fine.

    Anyway, the captain is not (and cannot be) the captain of the mentioned ships, but only of any/one particular ship. Just like the thinker is the thinker of a/any particular thought(s), but not of thoughts in general.
    Yes.

    But again, I agree that a thinker would make more sense. I just tried to explain how I understand what Frege meant by the thinker.
    I think I agree with everything you've said.

    I've been trying to look for a copy of the original German, just to see what Frege himself actually used. You can't happen to access a copy by any chance, can you?

    Shall we move onto Q2? Feel free to go ahead and answer first, if you like.

  9. #29
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Quote Originally Posted by Morgan View Post
    Can I step in to avoid starting a new thread? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
    I'm not a teacher, but I agree T1 and T2 are referred to these particular Thoughts mentioned in the passage, and T3 respresents any other thinker.
    Am I right? (sorry for my plain English)
    You're very welcome to step in and join us, Morgan. If you continue to follow our discussion, it should be more or less clear (I hope!) what each of us think about that.

  10. #30
    Alexey86 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: the thinker vs a thinker

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    I've been trying to look for a copy of the original German, just to see what Frege himself actually used. You can't happen to access a copy by any chance, can you?
    I've found it here http://www.gavagai.de/HHP32.htm#buch. Here's our excerpt: Die Gedanken sind nicht durchaus unwirklich, aber ihre Wirklichkeit ist ganz anderer Art als die der Dinge. Und ihr Wirken wird ausgelöst durch ein Tun der Denkenden, ohne das sie wirkungslos wären, wenigstens soweit wir sehen können. Und doch schafft der Denkende sie nicht, sondern muß sie nehmen, wie sie sind. Sie können wahr sein, ohne von einem Denkenden gefaßt zu werden, und sind auch dann nicht ganz unwirklich, wenigstens wenn sie gefaßt und dadurch in Wirksamkeit gesetzt werden können.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Shall we move onto Q2? Feel free to go ahead and answer first, if you like.
    Q2: Why is T2 definite? I think it's a classic case of anaphoric reference. T2 refers to T1.
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