It’s almost proverbial that it is difficult to win an argument. That is, if we take successfully changing the opponent’s mind as the condition for victory. Most arguments end up with all parties involved becoming frustrated that their opponent is incapable of agreeing with them. Worse, both parties are often just as likely to become even more convinced of the beliefs they held when the argument began.
When it comes to changing our minds about some issue, the is/ought dichotomy once again comes into play. The former is the question: what conditions actually obtain when a given person changes their mind? The latter is the question: what conditions ought to obtain for a given person to change their mind?
The late 19th / early 20th century philosopher and mathematician Gottlob Frege famously came up with the Sense and Reference distinction in order to clarify issues in his logical system. Briefly put, the reference of a word (I’ll use my favorite example of “table”) is the actual object that the word signifies: the referent of the word “table” is the actual, physical table existing out there in the real world. The sense of a word is the way in which it exists as a psychological representation: the sense of “table” is how I conceive the table in my mind. This was important to Frege because examples where we have two (or more) words that signify a single referent can have a different sense, and therefore lead to different inferences, even if the referent is the same. How, though, might we relate these ideas?