Conversational implicature and the referential use of descriptions

Philosophical Studies 125 (1):1 - 25 (2005)
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Abstract

This paper enters the continuing fray over the semantic significance of Donnellan’s referential/attributive distinction. Some holdthat the distinction is at bottom a pragmatic one: i.e., that the difference between the referential use and the attributive use arises at the level of speaker’s meaning rather the level of sentence-or utterance-meaning. This view has recently been challenged byMarga Reimer andMichael Devitt, both of whom argue that the fact that descriptions are regularly, that is standardly, usedto refer defeats the pragmatic approach. The present paper examines a variety of issues bearing on the regularity in question: whether the regularity would arise in a Russellian language, whether the regularity is similar to the standard use ofcomplex demonstratives, and whether the pragmatic approach founders on the problem of dead metaphors. I argue that the pragmatic approach can readily explain all of these facets ofthe referential use of descriptions.

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Thomas Bontly
University of Connecticut

Citations of this work

The Argument From Convention Revisited.Francesco Pupa - 2018 - Synthese 195 (5):2175-2204.
Descriptions: An Annotated Bibliography.Berit Brogaard - 2010 - Oxford Annotated Bibliographies Online.

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References found in this work

On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 2005 - Mind 114 (456):873 - 887.
Reference and Definite Descriptions.Keith S. Donnellan - 1966 - Philosophical Review 75 (3):281-304.
Thought and Reference.Kent Bach - 1987 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

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