Edited by Eliot Michaelson (McGill University)
|Summary||Descriptions are standardly divided into two types: definite descriptions (`the F') and indefinite descriptions (`a G'). Interest in these expressions dates back at least to Russell and Frege, who were interested both in what they mean and what role they play in thought and cognition. Subsequent debates on descriptions have centered on their truth-conditions and what they presuppose, whether they can properly be said to refer, whether other expressions (e.g. names) can be treated on the model of descriptions, how to extend accounts of definite descriptions to plurals and mass terms, and whether there really is a difference in what definite and indefinite descriptions mean, as opposed to what they otherwise communicate.|
|Key works||Contemporary debates on descriptions begin with Frege 1892 and Russell 1905. Strawson 1950 offers a classic response to Russell and stands as the other main precursor to the popular `Frege-Strawson' analysis of definite descriptions, on which definiteness is merely presupposed. Donnellan 1966 argues that definite descriptions are ambiguous between referring and non-referring uses, and Kripke 1977 responds with a defense of univocal Russellianism. In the course of extensive discussion of anaphora, Heim 1982 considers the possibility that there may be no semantic difference between definite and indefinite descriptions. Finally, Sharvy 1980 explores how to extend semantic accounts of descriptions to deal with plurals and mass terms.|
Descriptions, Misc (23)
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
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