The Gray's Elegy Argument: Denoting Concepts, Singular Terms, and Truth-Value Dependence

Prolegomena 8 (2):207-232 (2009)
In the notoriously obscure “Gray’s Elegy Argument” (GEA) of “On Denoting”, Russell argues against the theory of denoting concepts which he had set out in his earlier work The Principles of Mathematics (PoM). Nathan Salmon has argued that the GEA is intended to demonstrate the falsity of the thesis that definite descriptions are singular terms, a view which he attributes to the Russell of PoM. In a similar vein, Peter Hylton has argued that we can make sense of the GEA by attributing to the early Russell the principle of truth-value dependence. In this paper I argue that Russell was committed to neither of these positions. If Salmon and Hylton mischaracterise Russell’s position in PoM, then they also, I suggest, mischaracterise the GEA. I close, therefore, by suggesting how my account of the relation between the theory of denoting concepts and Russell’s position in “On Denoting” can guide our approach to the GEA
Keywords definite description  denoting  denoting concept  Gray’s Elegy Argument  incomplete symbol  proposition  singular term  truth-value dependence
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