Download The Theory of Descriptions: Russell and the Philosophy of by Dr Stevens Graham, Michael Beaney PDF

By Dr Stevens Graham, Michael Beaney

This e-book combines a ancient and philosophical examine of Russell's concept of descriptions. It defends, develops, and extends the idea as a contribution to common language semantics whereas additionally arguing for a reassessment of the significance of linguistic inquiry to Russell's philosophical undertaking.

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Extra resources for The Theory of Descriptions: Russell and the Philosophy of Language (History of Analytic Philosophy)

Example text

But this clearly need not be the case. The guest simply expected the yacht to be larger than it turned out to be: he almost certainly did not have a specific size in mind that he believed to be the size of the yacht. Thus, as Salmon (2009) puts it in his recent discussion of Kripke’s objection, ‘In that case, the description, “the size I thought your yacht was” is improper. Russell’s distinction of primary and secondary occurrence therefore appears to be of no help in removing the misunderstanding.

This pragmatic turn marks a fundamental division between Russell and Strawson. Whereas the theory of descriptions assigns to every descriptive sentence a truth-value in accordance with truth-conditions that are determined solely by the form and constituents of the sentence, Strawson’s pragmatic analysis assigns truth-values to utterances. This introduces additional complexities that Strawson takes Russell to have overlooked at his cost. Utterances must conform to communicative rules and conventions if they are to be successful devices of communication.

If ‘a’ is an empty name, then there is nothing for the property F to be paired with as the thing expressed by ‘Fa’. Perhaps the most obvious response is to deny that ‘Fa’ expresses a proposition, and hence to deny that it has a truth-value. But, as objectors are quick to point out, this is clearly unsatisfactory. Sentences like ‘Gollum was one of Tolkien’s finest creations’ can certainly be used to say something, and arguably they can be used to say something true or false. And the negative existential ‘Gollum does not exist’ is certainly true, and true because there is no actual entity named by ‘Gollum’.

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