Donnellan on neptune

Donnellan famously argued that while one can fix the reference of a name with a definite description, one cannot thereby have a de re belief about the named object. All that is generated is meta-linguistic knowledge that the sentence “If there is a unique F, then N is F” is true. Donnellan’s argument and the sceptical position are extremely influential. This article aims to show that Donnellan’s argument is unsound, and that the Millian who embraces Donnellan’s scepticism that the reference-fixer cannot secure the relevant de re belief faces a serious problem: Millianism about names plus scepticism about the reference-fixer’s de re belief conflicts with what seems to be an analytical thesis about the relationship between semantic content and understanding. The upshot is that the Millian has good reason to seek an alternative to scepticism.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2001.tb00094.x
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Michael Mckinsey (2009). Thought by Description. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (1):83-102.

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