Jeshion, Robin. Frege’s Notions of Self-Evidence
2001, Mind 110 (440):937-976
Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Alexander Yates
Abstract: Controversy remains over exactly why Frege aimed to estabish logicism. In this essay, I argue that the most influential interpretations of Frege's motivations fall short because they misunderstand or neglect Frege's claims that axioms must be self-evident. I offer an interpretation of his appeals to self-evidence and attempt to show that they reveal a previously overlooked motivation for establishing logicism, one which has roots in the Euclidean rationalist tradition. More specifically, my view is that Frege had two notions of self-evidence. One notion is that of a truth being foundationally secure, yet not grounded on any other truth. The second notion is that of a truth that requires only clearly grasping its content for rational, a priori justified recognition of its truth. The overarching thesis I develop is that Frege required that axioms be self-evident in both senses, and he relied on judging propositions to be self-evident as part of his fallibilist method for identifying a foundation of arithmetic. Consequently, we must recognize both notions in order to understand how Frege construes ultimate foundational proofs, his methodology for discovering and identifying such proofs, and why he thought the propositions of arithmetic required proof.
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Comment: A nice discussion of what sort of epistemic status Frege thought axioms needed to have. A nice historical example of foundationalist epistemology - good for a course on Frege or analytic philosophy more generally, or as further reading in a course on epistemology, to give students a historical example of certain epistemological subtleties.