I'm reading Frege's "On Sense and Nominatum" and he uses "Cognitive significance", "Genuine Cognition"...

I kind of infer from the context of each paragraph what he means with those kinds of phrases but I would like to know precisely what he is speaking about.

  • Thanks! at this level, I should pay tuition to you @MauroALLEGRANZA. You've answered 95% of my questions in the past six months. Mar 5 '18 at 16:35
  • 1
    @MauroALLEGRANZA: Would you mind putting the very same content into an answer instead of comments? Apart from ego-flattering internet points, the main reason would be better site-statistics and the question being shown as "answered" for people actually searching for an answer the moment the OP hits the tick. I mean, it's basically the same effort as your excellent comments are usually exhaustive and excellently sourced anyways.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Mar 5 '18 at 17:18

You can see Frege's The Thought: A Logical Inquiry (1918-19):

Without wishing to give a definition, I call a thought something for which the question of truth arises. [...] Two things must be distinguished in an indicative sentence: the content, which it has in common with the corresponding sentence-question, and the assertion. The former is the thought, or at least contains the thought.

You can see also:

as well as:


Just as a rider to the above :

'I' presents me as (roughly) 'the speaker', and this 'mode of presentation' is, of course, very different than that associated with 'he'. The two sentences, 'I am about to be attacked' and 'He is about to be attacked' thus differ in cognitive significance. They can express the same proposition, but, even when they do so, each presents that proposition in a distinctive way, by means of a distinctive cognitive perspective. (Howard Wettstein, 'Cognitive Significance without Cognitive Content', Mind, New Series, Vol. 97, No. 385 (Jan., 1988), p.23, fn.46.)

And to ampllify 'distinctive cognitive perspective' by means of 'associated information' :

We can make the same point - that cognitive significance is not a matter of associated information - with names that ... co-refer. Someone might acquire the names 'Cicero' and 'Tully', associating with them precisely the same information, say 'a famous Roman'. Still the names may differ in 'cognitive value'. It may never strike the speaker that only one person may be in question, and so he may react very differently to sentences that contain one name, than to those that contain the other. (Wettstein, op. cit., 24-5.)

I offer this just as a small addition that may marginally help.


We call lots of things true or false: pictures, sentences, sounds. But, as he says, we call these things true or false only insofar as they express something. This something that they express is their sense. For Frege a sentence gains "sense" when it makes sense to the person who provides the sentence.

In simple words cognitive significance means that it's my cognitive brain that gives sense to the things I experience. Hence I call them true or false.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.