Prolegomena 12 (1):121-140 (2013)

Donnellan’s recently published Essays on Reference, Language, and Mind collect his seminal papers from 1960s and 1970s. In most of them, he introduces and defends two major, related views in the theory of reference. The first one concerns the functioning of definite descriptions, and the second one the nature of singular reference. Donnellan argues that definite descriptions are ambiguous between their referential and their attributive use, and that descriptions used referentially function more or less as other referring expressions, proper names and indexicals. All referential expressions, Donnellan further argues, do not function according to the principle of identifying descriptions, as most philosophers from Frege onward thought, but rather on the ground of being appropriately historically connected to a thing, which is their referent. Such a referent, Donnellan thinks, does not have to fit the descriptive content or identifying descriptions associated with these expressions. As such, the referential expressions are directly referring, contributing its referent, not the descriptive material, to the propositional content of sentences they occur within. In my paper I reflect on some important, but controversial points in Donnellan’s papers, having to do with his understanding of the functioning of definite descriptions and proper names, and I relate these points to some subsequent discussions about the matters
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References found in this work BETA

Reference and Definite Descriptions.Keith S. Donnellan - 1966 - Philosophical Review 75 (3):281-304.
Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again.Keith S. Donnellan - 1968 - Philosophical Review 77 (2):203-215.
Demonstrative Reference and Definite Descriptions.Howard K. Wettstein - 1981 - Philosophical Studies 40 (2):241--257.

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