David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Mind 114 (456):1069-1133 (2005)
A detailed interpretation is provided of the ‘Gray's Elegy’ passage in Russell's ‘On Denoting’. The passage is suffciently obscure that its principal lessons have been independently rediscovered. Russell attempts to demonstrate that the thesis that definite descriptions are singular terms is untenable. The thesis demands a distinction be drawn between content and designation, but the attempt to form a proposition directly about the content (as by using an appropriate form of quotation) inevitably results in a proposition about the thing designated instead of the content expressed. In light of this collapse, argues Russell, the thesis that definite descriptions are singular terms must accept that all propositions about a description's content represent it by means of a higher-level descriptive content, so that knowledge of a description's content is always ‘by description’, not ‘by acquaintance’. This, according to Russell, renders our cognitive grip on definite descriptions inexplicable. Separate responses on behalf of Fregeans and Millians are offered.
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Saul A. Kripke (2008). Frege's Theory of Sense and Reference: Some Exegetical Notes. Theoria 74 (3):181-218.
Joshua Armstrong & Jason Stanley (2011). Singular Thoughts and Singular Propositions. Philosophical Studies 154 (2):205 - 222.
Aaron Z. Zimmerman (2006). Self-Verification and the Content of Thought. Synthese 149 (1):59-75.
Kevin C. Klement (2014). The Paradoxes and Russell's Theory of Incomplete Symbols. Philosophical Studies 169 (2):183-207.
Graham Stevens (2010). Russell's Ontological Development Reconsidered. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18 (1):113-137.
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