Discriminatory Capacities, Russell's Principle, and the Importance of Losing Sight of Objects

European Journal of Philosophy 24 (3) (2016)
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Abstract

What capacities for discrimination must a subject possess in order to entertain singular thoughts? Evans has suggested that a subject must be able to discriminate his referent from all other entities in order to be able to do so; what he calls Russell's Principle. Evans' view has few followers, and he has been repeatedly accused of presenting no argument in its favour. In this paper I present what I take to be Evans' argument. I suggest that he has been misinterpreted as introducing Russell's Principle for the purpose of fixing reference. Rather, he introduces it in order to ensure that our conceptual capacities have the functional complexity to allow for objective thought. I suggest that the logical types of our thought are constituted by their inferential potential and argue that, even though singular thought may be possible without the satisfaction of Russell's Principle, singular thought that forms part of an objective world view is not.

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Johan Gersel
University of Copenhagen

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