The loss of uniqueness

Mind 114 (456):1185 - 1222 (2005)
Philosophers and linguists alike tend to call a semantic theory ‘Russellian’ just in case it assigns to sentences in which definite descriptions occur the truth-conditions Russell did in ‘On Denoting’. This is unfortunate; not all aspects of those particular truth-conditions do explanatory work in Russell's writings. As far as the semantics of descriptions is concerned, the key insights of ‘On Denoting’ are that definite descriptions are not uniformly referring expressions, and that they are scope-bearing elements. Anyone who accepts these two claims can account for Russell's puzzle cases the way he did. Russell had no substantive argument for the claim that ‘The F is G’ entails ‘There is at most one F’; in fact, he had important misgivings about it. I outline an argument against this claim, and I argue that by holding on to uniqueness contemporary semanticists make a momentous mistake: they keep the illusion alive that there is a way to account for linguistic meaning without addressing what linguistic expressions are for.
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzi1185
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Referential/Attributive: A Scope Interpretation.Richard L. Mendelsohn - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 147 (2):167-191.
On the Russellian Reformation.Francesco Pupa - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 147 (2):247-271.
Major Parts of Speech.Zoltán Gendler Szabó - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (1):3-29.
Against Structured Referring Expressions.Arthur Sullivan - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (1):49 - 74.

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