A Cantorian argument against Frege's and early Russell's theories of descriptions

In Nicholas Griffin & Dale Jacquette (eds.), Russell Vs. Meinong: The Legacy of "On Denoting". Routledge. pp. 65-77 (2009)
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It would be an understatement to say that Russell was interested in Cantorian diagonal paradoxes. His discovery of the various versions of Russell’s paradox—the classes version, the predicates version, the propositional functions version—had a lasting effect on his views in philosophical logic. Similar Cantorian paradoxes regarding propositions—such as that discussed in §500 of The Principles of Mathematics—were surely among the reasons Russell eventually abandoned his ontology of propositions.1 However, Russell’s reasons for abandoning what he called “denoting concepts”, and his rejection of similar “semantic dualisms” such as Frege’s theory of sense and reference—at least in “On Denoting”—made no explicit mention of any Cantorian paradox. My aim in this paper is to argue that such paradoxes do pose a problem for certain theories such as Frege’s, and early Russell’s, about how definite descriptions are meaningful. My first aim is simply to lay out the problem I have in mind. Next, I shall turn to arguing that the theories of descriptions endorsed by Frege and by Russell prior to “On Denoting” are susceptible to the problem. Finally, I explore what responses a..



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Kevin Klement
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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References found in this work

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The Principles of Mathematics.Bertrand Russell - 1903 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 11 (4):11-12.

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