The tractatus theory of descriptions

Theoria 75 (4):252-271 (2009)
Abstract
In this article I construe Russell's definite description notation as a fragment of an "ideal language"– a language in which, as Russell puts it in the "Logical Atomism" lectures, "the words in a proposition correspond one by one with the components of the corresponding fact." Russell's notation – containing as it does variables, quantifiers and the identity sign – commits him to an ontology that is lavish indeed. It thus conflicts with the spirit of the theory of descriptions, which is developed in the service of ontological frugality (the elimination of denoting concepts, senses and non-existent objects). I make use of arguments derived from the Tractatus to show that an ideal language need not contain logical signs. I thus defend the spirit of the theory of descriptions while departing from its letter.
Keywords Russell  ideal language  Tractatus  theory of descriptions  Wittgenstein
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    D. M. Armstrong (1993). A World of States of Affairs. Philosophical Perspectives 7:429-440.
    Gustav Bergmann (1964). Logic and Reality. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.
    Gustav Bergmann (1960). Meaning and Existence. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.

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