Roundabout Semantic Significance of the “Attributive/referential” Distinction

Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):30-40 (2013)

Abstract

In this paper, I argue that contrary to the approach widely taken in the literature, it is possible to retain Russell's theory of definite descriptions and grant some semantic significance to the distinction between the attributive and the referential use. The core of the argumentation is based on recognition of the so-called "roundabout" way in which the use of a definite description may be significant to the semantic features of the sentence: it is a case where the use of a description contributes to the semantics of the sentence by affecting another expression of that sentence. I offer an appropriate example which illustrates the case in question and I demonstrate that the semantic difference between the two uses can be easily captured by Russell's account.

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References found in this work

Reference and Definite Descriptions.Keith S. Donnellan - 1966 - Philosophical Review 75 (3):281-304.
The Case for Referential Descriptions.Michael Devitt - 2004 - In Marga Reimer & Anne Bezuidenhout (eds.), Descriptions and Beyond. Oxford University Press. pp. 234--260.
Descriptions: Points of Reference.Kent Bach - 2004 - In Marga Reimer & Anne Bezuidenhout (eds.), Descriptions and Beyond. Clarendon Press. pp. 189-229.
Referential/Attributive: A Contextualist Proposal.Francois Recanati - 1989 - Philosophical Studies 56 (3):217 - 249.
Descriptions.Peter Ludlow - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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