Contrary to a claim made by Kaplan (Mind 114:933–1003, 2005) and Neale (Mind 114:809–871, 2005), the readings available to sentences containing definitedescriptions embedded under propositional attitude verbs and conditionals do pose a significant problem for the Russellian theory of definitedescriptions. The Fregean theory of descriptions, on the other hand, deals easily with the relevant data.
This paper shows that Russell’s theory of descriptions gives the wrong semantics for definitedescriptions occurring in questions and imperatives. Depending on how that theory is applied, it either assigns nonsense to perfectly meaningful questions and assertions or it assigns meanings that diverge from the actual semantics of such sentences, even after all pragmatic and contextual variables are allowed for. Given that Russell’s theory is wrong for questions and assertions, it must be wrong for assertoric statements; for (...) the semantics of ‘the phi’ obviously doesn’t vary depending on whether it occurs in a question or an assertion or a command. (shrink)
Definitedescriptions, I shall argue, have two possible functions. 1] They are used to refer to what a speaker wishes to talk about, but they are also used quite differently. Moreover, a definite description occurring in one and the same sentence may, on different occasions of its use, function in either way. The failure to deal with this duality of function obscures the genuine referring use of definitedescriptions. The best known theories of definite (...)descriptions, those of Russell and Strawson, I shall suggest, are both guilty of this. Before discussing this distinction in use, I will mention some features of these theories to which it is especially relevant. (shrink)
The proper statement and assessment of Russell's theory depends on one's semantic presuppositions. A semantic framework is provided, and Russell's theory formulated in terms of it. Referential uses of descriptions raise familiar problems for the theory, to which there are, at the most general level of abstraction, two possible Russellian responses. Both are considered, and both found wanting. The paper ends with a brief consideration of what the correct positive theory of definitedescriptions might be, if it (...) is not the Russellian theory. (shrink)
As is well known, Russell assigned indefinite and definitedescriptions the interpretations represented schematically in (1) and (2) respectively, where “CNP” stands for “Common Noun Phrase” in the sense used by Montague (1973) – i.e. as standing for the constituent which a determiner combines with to form a noun phrase (NP). (1) a. …a/an CNP….
A distinction is developed between two uses of definitedescriptions, the "attributive" and the "referential." the distinction exists even in the same sentence. several criteria are given for making the distinction. it is suggested that both russell's and strawson's theories fail to deal with this distinction, although some of the things russell says about genuine proper names can be said about the referential use of definitedescriptions. it is argued that the presupposition or implication that something (...) fits the description, present in both uses, has a different genesis depending upon whether the description is used referentially or attributively. this distinction in use seems not to depend upon any syntactic or semantic ambiguity. it is also suggested that there is a distinction between what is here called "referring" and what russell defines as denoting. definitedescriptions may denote something, according to his definition, whether used attributively or referentially. (shrink)
Critics and champions alike have fussed and fretted for well over fifty years about whether Russell’s treatment is compatible with certain alleged acceptable uses of incomplete definitedescriptions, where a description (the F( is incomplete just in case more than one object satisfies its nominal F, as in (1).
This article reconsiders Kripke’s ( 1977 , in: French, Uehling & Wettstein (eds) Contemporary perspectives in the philosophy of language, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis) pragmatic, univocal account of the attributive-referential distinction in terms of a metalinguistic apparatus consisting of semantic reference and speaker reference. It is argued that Kripke’s strongest methodological argument supporting the pragmatic account, the parallel applicability of the apparatus to both names and definitedescriptions, is successful only if descriptions are treated as designators (...) in both attributive and referential uses. It is not successful if descriptions are treated à la Russell, contrary to what is often assumed. Thus a third theoretical option for the semantic analysis of definitedescriptions arises, neglected by both supporters and opponents of Russell: a univocal, referentialist analysis of descriptions in conjunction with a pragmatic account of the attributive-referential distinction. Contrary to Kripke, and to much of the literature, it is noted that not all so-called referential uses involve implicatures. In the course of the argument Kripke’s innovative apparatus is subjected to improvements and fine-tunings. Also, some general critical comments are made about analogical reasoning, on which Kripke’s argument is partly based. This leads to a clarification of the fundamental notion of speaker reference. The paper concludes with reflections on the challenge to and need of systematic empirical evidence in this field, a desideratum noted by Kripke and still not met. (shrink)
A unified theory is offered to account for three types of definitedescriptions: with singular, plural, & mass predicates, & to provide an account for the word the in descriptions. It is noted that B. Russell's analysis ("On Denoting," Mind, 1905, 14, 479-493) failed to account for plural & mass descriptions. The proposed theory differs from Russell's only by the substitution of the notation (less than or equal to) for Russell's =. It is suggested that for (...) every predicate G there is an appropriate "part of" or "some of" relation on the extension of G. For singular predicates, (less than or equal to) becomes just the identity relation =. The predicate G is formulated as "the G" & analyzed with the formula ((schwa)x) (Gx . (Gy (includes) yy (less than or equal to) x)), which accounts for all cases of definitedescriptions. It is suggested that the primary use of the is not to indicate uniqueness, but totality. C. Ornatowski. (shrink)
In this paper, I shall address the much-discussed issue of how definitedescriptions should be analysed: whether they should be given a quantificational analysis in the style of Russell’s theory of descriptions, or whether they should be seen instead, at least in some cases, as “genuine singular terms” or “genuine referring expressions”, whose function is to pick out a particular object in order to say something about that very object.
The paper revisits Sharvy's theory of plural definitedescriptions. An alternative account of plural definitedescriptions building on the ideas of plural quantification and non-distributive plural predication is developed. Finally, the alternative is extrapolated to account for generic uses of definitedescriptions.
This paper looks at an approach to Principle C in which the disjoint reference effect triggered by definite description arises because there is a preference for using bound pronouns in those cases. Philippe Schlenker has linked this approach to the idea that the NP part of a definite description should be the most minimal in content relative to a certain communicative goal. On a popular view about what the syntax and semantics of a personal pronoun is, that should (...) have the effect of favoring a pronoun over a definite description. This paper shows how that can be made the source of “Vehicle Change,” an effect in ellipsis contexts in which definitedescriptions seem to behave like pronouns. It requires, however, a way of distinguishing bound pronouns from non-bound pronouns, and the paper makes a proposal about how these two kinds of pronouns can be distinguished in the way needed. (shrink)
A sentence containing a number of definitedescriptions, each lying within the scope of its predecessor, is naturally read as asserting the uniqueness of a sequence of objects satisfying the descriptions. The project of providing a general uniform procedure for eliminating embedded definitedescriptions that gets this and other logical forms right is impeded by several puzzles.
I critically examine an argument, Due to howard wettstein, Purporting to show that sentences containing definitedescriptions are semantically ambiguous between referential and attributive readings. Wettstein argues that many sentences containing nonidentifying descriptions--Descriptions that apply to more than one object--Cannot be given a russellian analysis, And that the descriptions in these sentences should be understood as directly referential terms. But because wettstein does not justify treating referential uses of nonidentifying descriptions differently than attributive uses (...) of nonidentifying descriptions, His argument fails. (shrink)
A number of authors in favor of a unitary account of singular descriptions have alleged that the unitary account can be extrapolated to account for plural definitedescriptions. In this paper I take a closer look at this suggestion. I argue that while the unitary account is clearly onto something right, it is in the end empirically inadequate. At the end of the paper I offer a new partitive account of plural definitedescriptions that avoids (...) the problems with both the unitary account and standard Russellian analyses. (shrink)
Three views on definitedescriptions are summarized and discussed, including that of P. F. Strawson in which reference failure results in lack of truth value. When reference failure is allowed, a problem arises concerning Universal Instantiation. Van Fraassen solves the problem by the use of supervaluations, preserving as well such theorems as a=a, and Fa Fa, even when the term a fails to refer. In the present paper a form of relevant, quasi-analytic implication is set out which allows (...) reference failure to infect even a=a and Fa Fa with lack of truth-value. Reference failure causes lack of truth-value in a subwff to spread throughout any wff built up by the classical connectives. As a result none of the classical firstorder axiom schemes remain as axiom schemes in the system presented. (shrink)
Donnellan's distinction between the referential and attributive uses of definitedescriptions is shown not to cover exhaustive and exclusive alternatives but to fix the termini of a continuum of cases. in fact, donnellan's distinction rests on a mixed classification: the referential use, concerned with intended referents regardless of what speakers may say about them; the attributive use, concerned with definitedescriptions used in using sentences, that something or other may satisfy. given this feature of his account, (...) it is easy to construct counterexamples of a hybrid nature. related views (stalnaker's, kaplan's, stampe's) are briefly canvassed. (shrink)
Russell argued, famously, that definitedescriptions are not logical constituents of the sentences in which they appear. In neither of the following should we suppose that the definite description picks anything out: The King of France is bald The Prince of Wales is bald Since France is a republic, nothing could be picked out by the first; and if the semantic structures of each are the same, it cannot be the function of the second to pick anything (...) out either. On the alternative semantics developed in his 1905 article 'On Denoting', definitedescriptions do not have meaning in isolation; they have meaning only in the context of a whole sentence. Andrew Botterell and Robert Stainton have pointed out that this conclusion appears to be at odds with the phenomenon of unembedded definitedescriptions, in which definitedescriptions are uttered, meaningfully, without accompanying predicates. For example, it is possible to utter 'The last temptation' on its own and in doing so express a proposition (that a salient profiterole ought to be resisted, perhaps). Since definitedescriptions can be used in this way, how can it be right to claim, with Russell, that they lack meaning in isolation? The present paper seeks to show how a Russellian semantics for definitedescriptions (on a certain understanding of what is required for a semantics to be Russellian) is entirely compatible with the phenomenon of unembedded definitedescriptions. In particular, Botterell and Stainton are wrong to think that generalized quantifier semantics is better able to cope with the phenomenon than a more authentically Russellian syncategorematic semantics. (shrink)
Plural definitedescriptions (e.g. the things on the plate) and free relative clauses (e.g. what is on the plate) have been argued to share the same semantic properties, despite their syntactic differences. Specifically, both have been argued to be non-quantificational expressions referring to the maximal element of a given set (e.g. the set of things on the contextually salient plate). We provide experimental support for this semantic analysis with the first reported simultaneous investigation of children’s interpretation of both (...) constructions, highlighting how experimental methods can inform semantic theory. A Truth-Value Judgment task and an Act-Out task show that children know that the two constructions differ from quantificational nominals (e.g. all the things on the plate) very early on (4 years old). Children also acquire the adult interpretation of both constructions at the same time, around 6–7 years old. This happens despite major differences in the frequency of these constructions, according to our corpus study of children’s linguistic input. We discuss possible causes for this late emergence. We also argue that our experimental findings contribute to the recent theoretical debate on the correct semantic analysis of free relatives. (shrink)
A clarification of the role of the existential quantifier in russell's controversial 14.02. how should the existential quantifier be read? the starting point of the argument is one of the issues covered by woods. a look at russell's methods of deriving propositions from functions is a necessary preliminary. the first method involves substituting constants for variables, but the second involves the use of quantifiers. for russell's analysis of definitedescriptions, it is preferable to read the existential quantifier as (...) 'is sometimes true' because this reveals the way in which 14.02 was intended to be a definition of 'exists' and also makes explicit russell's crucial use of functions in dispensing with definitedescriptions as subjects of propositions. (shrink)
Definitedescriptions (e.g. 'The king of France in 1997', 'The teacher of Aristotle') do not stand for particulars. Or so I will assume. The semantic alternative has seemed to be that descriptions only have meaning within sentences: i.e., that their semantic contribution is given syncategorimatically. This doesn't seem right, however, because descriptions can be used and understood outside the context of any sentence. Nor is this use simply a matter of "ellipsis." Since descriptions do not (...) denote particulars, but seem to have a meaning in isolation, I propose that they be assigned generalized quantifiers as denotations — i.e. a kind of function, from sets/properties to propositions. I then defend the pragmatic plausibility of this proposal, using Relevance Theory. Specifically, I argue that, even taken as standing for generalized quantifiers, descriptions could still be used and understood in interpersonal communication. (shrink)
Russell's theory of descriptions has recently come under attack as being trivial and circular--Specifically, That it predicates uniqueness of definitedescriptions only after identifying those descriptions as phrases analysable via the uniqueness criterion in the first place. It is shown that this criticism is quite off target. The confusion results largely from failure to distinguish the class of denoting phrases from its sub-Set, Definitedescriptions. A few reminders are issued in hopes of facilitating the (...) study and teaching of the theory which will probably be remembered as russell's greatest contribution to philosophy. (shrink)
Paul Elbourne claims that Russellians cannot accommodate the behavior of certain embedded definitedescriptions. Since Fregeans can handle such descriptions, Elbourne urges theorists to reject Russell's theory in favor of Frege's. Here, I show that such descriptions pose no threat to Russellianism. These descriptions, I argue, are neutral between the two camps.
The present article contains a defense of the thesis that definitedescriptions can have referential meanings that include a descriptive component from the following objections contained in the preceding articles: (i) the idea that the thesis at stake cannot adequately account for cases of misdescriptions (Díaz Legaspe), (ii) the claim that referential descriptions should be considered to be purely referential, with no descriptive meaning component whatsoever (Skerk), and (iii) the alleged viability of a pragmatic approach according to (...) which definitedescriptions do not have referential meanings but can only be referentially used (Caso). As far as (i) is concerned, it is argued that misdescriptions can be clearly accounted for in pragmatic terms. Against (ii), it is pointed out that sentences of the form 'The/an F is not F' have a contradictory status -they are taken to be contradictory even when the descriptions involved have referential meanings. Finally, regarding (iii), it is argued that, in defending a very audience-directed stance, Caso confuses the epistemic and constitutive dimensions of reference determination, and as a consequence he is committed to an extreme form of linguistic pragmatism according to which the meaning of an expression is constitutively determined by the way in which hearers interpret utterances. El presente artículo contiene una defensa de la tesis según la cual las descripciones definidas pueden tener significados referenciales que incluyen un componente descriptivo frente a las siguientes objeciones contenidas en los artículos precedentes: (i) la idea según la cual la tesis en cuestión no explica adecuadamente los casos de descripciones fallidas (Díaz Legaspe), (ii) la tesis de que no hay razones para creer que los significados referenciales de las descripciones incluyan un componente descriptivo (Skerk), y (iii) la supuesta viabilidad de una perspectiva pragmática, desde la cual se considera que las descripciones no tienen significados referenciales sino que pueden ser usadas referencialmente (Caso). En relación con (i), se sostiene que las descripciones fallidas pueden ser claramente explicadas en términos pragmáticos. Contra (ii), se destaca que las oraciones de la forma 'El/un F no es F' tienen un carácter contradictorio -se considera que son contradictorias aun en los casos en los que las descripciones involucradas tienen significados referenciales. Finalmente, contra (iii), se argumenta que, al defender un acercamiento muy orientado hacia la audiencia, Caso confunde la dimensión epistémica de la determinación de la referencia con su dimensión constitutiva y, en consecuencia, resulta comprometido con una forma extrema de pragmatismo lingüístico según la cual el significado de una expresión se encuentra constitutivamente determinado por la manera en que los hablantes interpretan las emisiones. (shrink)
The logic of partial terms (LPT) is a variety of negative free logic in which functions, as well as predicates, are strict. A companion paper focused on nonconstructive LPTwith definitedescriptions, called LPD, and laid the foundation for tableaux systems by defining the concept of an LPDmodel system and establishing Hintikka's Lemma, from which the strong completeness of the corresponding tableaux system readily follows. The present paper utilizes the tableaux system in establishing an Extended Joint Consistency Theorem for (...) LPDthat incorporates the Robinson Joint Consistency Theorem and the Craig-Lyndon Interpolation Lemma. The method of proof is similar to that originally used in establishing the Extended Joint Consistency Theorem for positive free logic. Proof of the Craig-Lyndon Interpolation Lemma for formulas possibly having free variables is readily had in LPTand its intuitionistic counterpart. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the theory of definitions in LPD. (shrink)
This paper offers an explanation of the maj or traditions in the logical treatment of definitedescriptions as reactions to paradoxical naive definite descriptiontheory. The explanation closely parallels that of various set theories as reactions to paradoxical naive set theory. Indeed, naive set theory is derivable from naive definite description theory given an appropriate definition of set abstracts in terms of definitedescriptions.
The present work explores the possibility of conciliating the truth-conditional relevance of referential uses of definitedescriptions with the assignment of a univocal linguistic meaning to these constructions. It is argued that conciliation is possible if we reject the thesis, central to the debate between Russellians and ambiguity theorists, according to which referential uses are truth-conditionally relevant if and only if they constitute referential meanings. We sketch a framework within which the denial of that thesis has theoretical content, (...) by drawing on the conceptual resources of Relevance Theory and on a pragmatic conception of reference, following Strawson (1950). The linguistic meaning of definitedescriptions is analyzed as a procedural meaning (Blakemore 1987) that is semantically underdetermined with respect to both referential and attributive readings, and a pragmatic strategy for understanding this ambiguity is sketched. El presente trabajo explora una posible conciliación de la relevancia para las condiciones de verdad de los usos referenciales de descripciones definidas con la postulación de un significado lingüístico unívoco para tales construcciones. Se argumenta que dicha conciliación es posible si se abandona la tesis, central en el debate entre russellianos y teóricos de la ambigüedad, según la cual los usos referenciales son relevantes para las condiciones de verdad si y sólo si constituyen significados referenciales. Se esboza un marco dentro del cual la negación de esta tesis tiene contenido teórico, apelando a los recursos conceptuales de la Teoría de la Relevancia y a una concepción pragmática de la referencia en la línea de Strawson (1950). Se analiza el significado de las descripciones definidas como un significado procedimental (Blakemore 1987), semánticamente subdeterminado respecto de una lectura referencial o atributiva, y se esboza una manera pragmática de entender esta ambigüedad. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to discuss an idea that referentially used definitedescriptions are rigid designators or, at least, „weakly” rigid designators in some sense of this term. In the first part, the views of Nathan Salmon, Howard Wettstein and Michael Devitt are presented. The author observes that none of these positions provides a conclusive argument in the discussion on the issue in question. In the second part, it is argued that referentially used descriptions are (...) in some sense rigid. The main argument appeals to some observations concerning the scope ambiguity of modal constructions in which definitedescriptions are embedded, and applies in an essential way Kripke’s possible worlds-semantics. In particular, the author attempts to demonstrate that in a „de dicto” modal construction, a referential description is rigid in a sense that it designates the same object in all „accessible” worlds. Moreover, he observes that his conclusion can be accepted by someone who is a proponent of a unified semantic analysis of definitedescriptions, since his whole argumentation is based on the unified quantificational treatment of descriptions. (shrink)
In this paper I offer a defence of a Russellian analysis of the referential uses of incomplete (mis)descriptions, in a contextual setting. With regard to the debate between a unificationist and an ambiguity approach to the formal treatment of definitedescriptions (introduction), I will support the former against the latter. In 1. I explain what I mean by "essentially" incomplete descriptions: incomplete descriptions are context dependent descriptions. In 2. I examine one of the best (...) versions of the unificationist “explicit” approach given by Buchanan and Ostertag. I then show that this proposal seems unable to treat the normal uses of misdescriptions. I then accept the challenge of treating misdescriptions as a key to solving the problem of context dependent descriptions. In 3. I briefly discuss Michael Devitt’s and Joseph Almog’s treatments of referential descriptions, showing that they find it difficult to explain misdescriptions. In 4. I suggest an alternative approach to DD as contextuals, under a normative epistemic stance. Definitedescriptions express (i) what a speaker should have in mind in using certain words in a certain context and (ii) what a normal speaker is justified in saying in a context, given a common basic knowledge of the lexicon. In 5. I define a procedure running on contextual parameters (partiality, perspective and approximation) as a means of representing the role of pragmatics as a filter for semantic interpretation. In 6. I defend my procedural approach against possible objections concerning the problem of the boundaries between semantics and pragmatics, relying on the distinction between semantics and theory of meaning. (shrink)
What is the semantic contribution of anaphoric links in sentences like, ‘A physicist was late to the party. He brought some bongos’? A natural first thought is that the passage entails a wide-scope existential claim that there is something that both (i) was late to the party and (ii) brought some bongos. Intentional identity sentences are counter-examples to this natural thought applied to anaphora in general. Some have tried to rescue the thought and accommodate the counter-examples by positing mythical objects. (...) I present a new intentional identity sentence that cannot be so accommodated. I then propose a new account of intentional identity and other anaphoric sentences that does not appeal to mythical objects, but instead draws on traditional accounts of definitedescriptions. (shrink)
According to Donnellan the characteristic mark of a referential use of a definite description is the fact that it can be used to pick out an individual that does not satisfy the attributes in the description. Friends and foes of the referential/attributive distinction have equally dismissed that point as obviously wrong or as a sign that Donnellan’s distinction lacks semantic import. I will argue that, on a strict semantic conception of what it is for an expression to be a (...) genuine referential device, Donnellan is right: if a use of a definite description is referential, it has got to be possible for it to refer to an object independently of any attributes associated with the description, including those that constitute its conventional meaning. (shrink)
The principal question asked in this paper is: in the case of attributive usage, is the definite description to be analyzed as Russell said or is it to be treated as a referring expression, functioning semantically as a proper name? It answers by defending the former alternative.
Both proposals acknowledge that definitedescriptions differ from indefinites in their implications. (Two parenthetical clarifications: (i) "implication" is to be understood here and below as neutral between semantic and pragmatic conveyance; (ii) "semantic" is to be understood to mean "conventional", that is including, in addition to truth conditional impact, anything else that is linguistically encoded.) One of these implications is what is commonly termed "familiarity" ? an assumption that the denotation of the NP has already been introduced, as (...) such, to the addressee of the utterance. The other is uniqueness, or more properly exhaustive application, within the salient discourse context, of the descriptive content of the NP to the intended denotation. However both analyses attempt to derive one or both of these implications pragmatically. Ludlow & Segal propose that familiarity is a conventional implicature and uniqueness a conversational implicature. Szabó concurs with Ludlow & Segal that familiarity is more essential to definitedescriptions, but attempts to derive both implications pragmatically. (shrink)
This article explores Gareth Evans’s idea that there are such things as descriptive names, i.e. referring expressions introduced by a definite description which have, unlike ordinary names, a descriptive content. Several ignored semantic and modal aspects of this idea are spelled out, including a hitherto little explored notion of rigidity, super-rigidity. The claim that descriptive names are (rigidified) descriptions, or abbreviations thereof, is rejected. It is then shown that Evans’s theory leads to certain puzzles concerning the referential status (...) of descriptive names and the evaluation of identity statements containing them. A tentative solution to these puzzles is suggested, which centres on the treatment of definitedescriptions as referring expressions. (shrink)
Donnellan (1966) makes a convincing case for two distinct uses ofdefinite descriptions. But does the difference between the usesreflects an ambiguity in the semantics of descriptions? This paperapplies a linguistic test for ambiguity to argue that the differencebetween the uses is not semantically significant.
In ‘On Denoting’ and to some extent in ‘Review of Meinong and Others, Untersuchungen zur Gegenstandstheorie und Psychologie’, published in the same issue of Mind (Russell, 1905a,b), Russell presents not only his famous elimination (or contextual deﬁ nition) of deﬁ nite descriptions, but also a series of considerations against understanding deﬁ nite descriptions as singular terms. At the end of ‘On Denoting’, Russell believes he has shown that all the theories that do treat deﬁ nite descriptions as (...) singular terms fall logically short: Meinong’s, Mally’s, his own earlier (1903) theory, and Frege’s. (He also believes that at least some of them fall short on other grounds—epistemological and metaphysical—but we do not discuss these criticisms except in passing). Our aim in the present paper is to discuss whether his criticisms actually refute Frege’s theory. We ﬁ rst attempt to specify just what Frege’s theory is and present the evidence that has moved scholars to attribute one of three different theories to Frege in this area. We think that each of these theories has some claim to be Fregean, even though they are logically quite different from each other. This raises the issue of determining Frege’s attitude towards these three theories. We consider whether he changed his mind and came to replace one theory with another, or whether he perhaps thought that the different theories applied to different realms, for example, to natural language versus a language for formal logic and arithmetic. We do not come to any hard and fast conclusion here, but instead just note that all these theories treat deﬁ nite descriptions as singular terms, and that Russell proceeds as if he has refuted them all. After taking a brief look at the formal properties of the Fregean theories (particularly the logical status of various sentences containing nonproper deﬁ - nite descriptions) and comparing them to Russell’s theory in this regard, we turn to Russell’s actual criticisms in the above-mentioned articles to examine the extent to which the criticisms hold.. (shrink)
According to Russell, '... the phi ...' means: 'exactly one object has phi and ... that object ...'. Strawson pointed out that, if somebody asked how many kings of France there were, it would be deeply inappropriate to respond by saying '... the king of France ...': the respondent appears to be presupposing the very thing that, under the circumstances, he ought to be asserting. But it would seem that if Russell's theory were correct, the respondent would be asserting exactly (...) what he was asked to assert. So Russell's theory wrongly predicts that the respondent's answer will be appropriate. Russellians deal with this by saying that this anti-Russellian intuition embodies our reaction not to what is semantically encoded in the respondent's words, but to what is pragmatically imparted by them. So Russell's theory is correct: the fact that it appears wrong is due to the distorting effects of pragmatics. In this paper I show that pragmatic phenomena cannot possibly be responsible for the just mentioned anti-Russellian intuition. No matter how hard we try to put the blame on pragmatics, Russell's theory still falls short. It follows that defi nite descriptions really are what they appear to be: referring expressions. I argue that defi nite descriptions are complex demonstratives; and, within that framework, I deal with cases where defi nite descriptions appear to be functioning non-referentially. I also solve Frege's puzzle within the framework defi ned by my treatment of defi nite descriptions taken in conjunction with Kripke-Kaplan semantics. (shrink)
My original reaction to Yosh’s paper was to grumble. It seemed to me to contain a number of terminological infelicities, unpersuasive arguments, and counterintuitive implications. And while I think that some of my superficial complaints are worth pointing out (and I can’t help myself), a commentary consisting only of grumbling would be neither interesting nor helpful. Paul Viminitz would describe such a commentary as “unseemly”. And so I revisited Yosh’s paper with a more sympathetic eye. My second reaction was to (...) suppose that what Yosh had actually done was to provide a Russellian analysis of sentences containing descriptions but in a 2nd order logical system – a system in which quantification over properties is permitted and in which 1st order quantifiers are reinterpreted as 2nd order properties. This would be an interesting albeit modest contribution to the description literature. But as I reread Yosh’s paper in preparation for writing this commentary, I realized that given the account of individual kinds that was being developed this wasn’t right. Individual kinds are not properties at all, they are a new sort of individual – teams of one. Yosh’s proposal is hardly modest at all. So, in these comments, I am going to focus on the notion of an individual kind and whether or not we ought to endorse such entities in our semantic theorizing. But first, some preliminary grumbling – I really can’t help myself. (shrink)
This paper challenges the first Gettier counterexample to the tripartite account of knowledge. Noting that 'the man who will get the job' is a description and invoking Donnellan's distinction between their 'referential' and 'attributive' uses, I argue that Smith does not actually believe that the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket. Smith's ignorance about who will get the job shows that the belief cannot be understood referentially, his ignorance of the coins in his pocket (...) shows that it cannot be understood attributively. An explanation for why Smith appeared to have justified true belief is given by distinguishing between 'belief' and 'belief in truth'. Smith believes the sentence 'the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket' to be true (he mistakenly believes that Jones will get the job, of whom he knows that he has ten coins in his pocket) (hence his 'belief'), the sentence is true (hence 'truth'), and he has sufficient reason to assent to it (hence his 'justification'). But he does not believe the proposition expressed. Hence he does not know it either. (shrink)
Michael Devitt (2004, 2007) claims that the predicative material that constitutes complex referential expressions makes a semantic contribution to the proposition expressed. He thus deviates from direct referentialism, according to which every referential expression -either simple or complex- contributes just with an object to the proposition expressed, leaving the predicative material out of the semantic content. However, when dealing with misdescriptions, Devitt has suggested a pragmatic way out: the audience can understand what the speaker is referring to even if the (...) object does not fall under the corresponding description. From my perspective, this proposal questions the semantic validity of the predicative material, together with Devitt's original claim. In this paper, I propose a way to solve the problem posed by misdescriptions that appeals to the idea of epistemically relativized properties, according to which the properties ascribed to the object -by means of the predicative material- correspond to the way the speaker thinks of it and not to the way the object really is. Michael Devitt (2004, 2007) sostiene que el material predicativo que constituye las expresiones referenciales complejas hace un aporte semántico a la proposición expresada, alejándose así del referencialismo directo, para el cual toda expresión referencial -sea ésta simple o compleja- contribuye sólo con un objeto singular a la proposición expresada. Sin embargo, al enfrentarse al problema de las descripciones fallidas, Devitt ofrece una salida pragmática: el oyente comprende a qué se refiere el hablante aun cuando el objeto referido no caiga bajo la descripción utilizada. Esto pone en cuestión la validez semántica del material predicativo, desestimando la postura original de Devitt. En el trabajo propongo una solución a este problema, apelando a la idea de propiedades epistémicamente relativizadas, de acuerdo con la cual lo que se predica del objeto por medio del material predicativo corresponde a las creencias del hablante, y no a lo que el objeto realmente es. (shrink)
Saul Kripke’s thesis that ordinary proper names are rigid designators is supported by widely shared intuitions about the occurrence of names in ordinary modal contexts. By those intuitions names are scopeless with respect to the modal expressions. That is, sentences in a pair like (a) Aristotle might have been fond of dogs, (b) Concerning Aristotle, it is true that he might have been fond of dogs will have the same truth value. The same does not in general hold for (...) class='Hi'>definitedescriptions. If one, like Kripke, accounts for this difference by means of the intensions of the names and the descriptions, the conclusion is that names do not in general have the same intension as any normal, identifying description. However, this difference can be accounted for alternatively by appeal to the semantics of the modal expressions. On the account we suggest, dubbed ‘relational modality’, simple singular terms, like proper names, contribute to modal contexts simply by their actual world reference, not by their descriptive content. That account turns out to be fully equivalent with the rigidity account when it comes to truth of modal and non-modal sentence (with respect to the actual world), and hence supports the same basic intuitions. Here we present the relational modality account and compare it with others, in particular Kripke’s own. (shrink)
I want to discuss a certain argument for the claim that definitedescriptions are ambiguous between a Russellian quantificational interpretation and a predicational interpretation.1 The argument is found in James McCawley’s (1981) book Everything Linguists Have Always Wanted to Know about Logic (but were ashamed to ask). The argument has also been resuscitated by Richard Larson and Gabriel Segal in their more recent (1995) book Knowledge of Meaning.2 If successful, the argument would not only show that descriptions (...) have both quantificational and predicational interpretations, but would also provide confirmation for the commonly held view that the verb ‘to be’ is ambiguous in its interpretation—that it sometimes expresses the ‘‘‘is’ of identity’’ and sometimes the ‘‘‘is’ of predication.’’ But the argument is not successful; it contains an obvious flaw. What’s interesting is that when you try to correct the flaw, certain puzzles arise about the nature of propositional attitudes and the semantics of their ascriptions. (shrink)