Indeterminate Descriptions

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 14 (2):257 - 276 (1984)


One of the most important insights that Russell had in presenting his philosophy of language was his view of singular definite descriptions. Russell held that singular phrases of the form ‘the so-and-so’ should not be viewed as names, but rather incomplete symbols which can be said to have meaning only in a context. We should not represent the sentence The inventor of bifocals is a simple subject-predicate sentence of the form ‘Fa.’ but rather as a complex existential sentence. According to Russell we should analyze as There is a unique x such that x invented bifocals and x is bald.Moreover, if Russell's analysis is correct then the proposition expressed by will be true in a given circumstance provided that there is a unique inventor of bifocals who is bald in that circumstance.

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References found in this work

Reference and Definite Descriptions.Keith S. Donnellan - 1966 - Philosophical Review 75 (3):281-304.
On Referring.Peter F. Strawson - 1950 - Mind 59 (235):320-344.
Uehling, and Howard K. Wettstein, Editors.Peter A. French & E. Theodore - 1979 - In Peter A. French, T. E. Uehuling Jr & Howard K. Wettstein (eds.), Contemporary Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language. University of Minnesota Press.

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