Frege and Napoleon

At the truth conference in Munich this week, Michael Glanzberg and Martin Rechenauer reminded me that Frege’s Sense and Reference has some nice examples about Napoleon. They asked me, however, which battle Frege’s examples are about, and I hadn’t thought about that before. But after revisiting the text, the answer is pretty obvious. Here is the examples Frege uses:

   (1) Napoleon, who recognized the danger to his right flank, himself led the guards against the enemy position.

The Guard doesn’t see that much action in the Napoleonic battles, so that already narrows it down quite a bit. But the second example clinches it:

   (2) Napoleon was already more than 45 years old.

Napoleon was born August 15th, 1769. In other words, he’s 45 in 1814. That eliminates most of the famous Napoleonic battles, and in particular the once fought on Prussian ground. It’s evident, in other words, that Frege has the battle of Waterloo in mind. Not surprising really, since it was the Prussians who threatened Napoleon’s right flank, and who ultimately forced him to commit his Guard. The French frontal attack against the British position behind La Haye Sainte was repelled without backup, and soon the British could advance.

Where else did Frege use Napoleonic examples?

3 thoughts on “Frege and Napoleon

  1. Sundholm (Hist Phil Log 22: 57–73) invokes the August Bebel example for confirmation of his dating of the Sinn–Bedeutung distinction; that is perhaps not Napoleonia, but it is at least a piece of military history.

    In the First Logical Investigation sec. 12 Husserl illustrates the fact that “two names may mean different things, yet name the same thing” with the example “der Sieger von Jena — der Besiegte von Waterloo.”
    If such things appeal to them, Norwegians may take pride in the fact that two of their countrymen appear in other examples of the same work, to wit, Henrik Ibsen and Fridtjof Nansen (LI V secs. 20 and 21 respectively)

      • Well, the Investigations were published in 1901 (the Prolegomena in 1900), so it must have been written around year 1900; perhaps the Husserl–Chronik could supply more details…

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