Analytic Philosophy All Up In Da Hizzy!
The politics-type people are getting abuzz over the potential indictments from the Plamegate leak case, and the word today is that certain people who might or might not be named Karl Rove have tried to squiggle out of it by saying that they didn't refer to Valerie Plame specifically, but rather that they referred to "Joe Wilson's wife." This has, naturally, led into conversations about 19th-century German logician/mathematician Gottlobb Frege
who was the father of analytic philosophy and the person who came up with the sense/meaning distinction in language. The example which keeps being given is his most famous, "The morning star is the evening star." Both the morning star and the evening star are Venus, by two different names. The sense/meaning distinction is that meaning is a kind of harder concept - Venus, in this case, refers to a specific object. Sense is the reference that we get in our heads when we think of something. In this case, we might think of the sense of "the morning star" being the visual impression of Venus, while the meaning is Venus itself.
The problem here is that later analytic philosophers who had worked with the sense/meaning distinction realized that it was basically flawed. One of them (and I always forget the name but I think it might have been Kripke) eventually demolished the distinction by claiming that all language was sense, and there is not "meaning." To take the morning and the evening star once again, the statement "The morning star is the evening star" is true, in the sense of the physcial body of the planet Venus being referred to by both terms. However, the terms can be used to refer to different things which makes the statement incorrect. If I say to you "Meet me next Monday when the evening star rises" I'm not just being cliche, but I'm giving you a specific astronomical time to meet - when the planet Venus is visible on Monday evening. If you show up Monday morning, and not in the evening, and then we try to figure out how we missed one another, and you say "but the morning star is the evening star!" you will be wrong. And I will never date you again.
What does this mean to Karl Rove? Probably nothing. I doubt the trial is going to hinge on linguistic philosophy. But he does have an out.