Organon F

Volume 28, February 2021, Issue 1, Pages 198–222

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article | Special issue on Names and Fictions

Frege’s Equivalence Thesis and Reference Failure

Nathan Hawkins


Frege claims that sentences of the form ‘A’ are equivalent to sentences of the form ‘it is true that A’ (The Equivalence Thesis). Frege also says that there are fictional names that fail to refer, and that sentences featuring fictional names fail to refer as a result. The thoughts such sentences express, Frege says, are also fictional, and neither true nor false. Michael Dummett argues that these claims are inconsistent. But his argument requires clarification, since there are two ways The Equivalence Thesis has been formulated, according as the thesis equates the senses or the referents of the relevant sentences. I have two aims in this paper. The first is to demonstrate that a sameness of sense thesis is inconsistent with Frege’s other theses. The second is to argue that a sameness of reference thesis is consistent with them. Thus, all else being equal, Frege ought to endorse a sameness of reference, rather than a sameness of sense thesis.


Dummett; equivalence; fiction; Frege; true; reference.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Nathan Hawkins 


Cambridge University


Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University Trinity St, Cambridge, United Kingdom, CB2 1TA


About this article


25 February 2020


20 November 2020

Published online

28 February 2021


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Hawkins, N. (2021). Frege’s Equivalence Thesis and Reference Failure. Organon F, 28(1), 198–222.


Hawkins, Nathan. 2021. "Frege’s Equivalence Thesis and Reference Failure." Organon F 28 (1): 198–222.


Hawkins, N. (2021). Frege’s Equivalence Thesis and Reference Failure. Organon F, 28(1), pp. 198–222.

Copyright information

© Nathan Hawkins

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