Descriptivism, Pretense, and the Frege-Russell Problems

Philosophical Review 113 (1):1-30 (2004)

Frederick Kroon
University of Auckland
Contrary to frequent declarations that descriptivism as a theory of how names refer is dead and gone, such a descriptivism is, to all appearances, alive and well. Or rather, a descendent of that doctrine is alive and well. This new version—neo-descriptivism, for short—is supposedly immune from the usual arguments against descriptivism, in large part because it avoids classical descriptivism’s emphasis on salient, first-come-to-mind properties and holds instead that a name’s reference-fixing content is typically given by egocentric properties specified in terms of broadly causal relationships between a speaker and his environment: properties like being the actual individual called ‘Aristotle’ referred to by my informants’ use of the name, being the actual individual called ‘George Bush’ whom I have seen/heard described as the U.S. President who started the second Gulf War, and so on. names is not in contention.) What these neo-descriptivists claim is that the usual modal, semantical, and epistemological arguments against classical descriptivism don’t get much of a foothold against this new version, especially if we don’t insist that speakers be able to state these properties on demand. It is enough that these are properties implicit in the semantic judgments of speakers. Recent attacks notwithstanding, such a neo-descriptivism has struck many philosophers as a credible and worthy successor to classical descriptivism.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108  
DOI phr200411314
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Fictionalism in Metaphysics.Frederick Kroon - 2011 - Philosophy Compass 6 (11):786-803.

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