David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 95:67 - 81 (1995)
Aims. Saul Kripke’s (1977) argument defending Russell’s theory of (definite) descriptions (RTD) against the possible objection that Donnellan’s (1966) distinction between attributive and referential uses of descriptions marks a semantic ambiguity has been highly influential.1 Yet, as I hope you’ll be persuaded, Kripke’s line of reasoning— in particular, the ‘thought-experiment’ it involves—has not been duly explored. In section II, I argue that while Kripke’s argument does ward off a fairly ill-motivated ambiguity theory, it is far from clear whether it would succeed against more realistic candidates. If the central point I make in this regard is correct, it tells not only against Kripke’s argument but also against what has become a fairly orthodox line against the ambiguity thesis (as I shall call it). In section III, I compare Kripke’s defence of Russell with his ‘schmidentity’ argument (1980, p. 108), which involves essentially the same kind of thought-experiment. But, as I shall show, the latter argument contains an added twist which converts what otherwise would be merely a defence of one semantic theory into an attack against its rival. In section IV, I argue that the offensive strategy is unsound and attempt to locate its error. I conclude by drawing a (not unfamiliar) moral concerning the semantics—pragmatics distinction.
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