Although Strawson’s main aim in “On Referring” was to argue that deﬁnite descriptions can be used referentially – that is, “to mention or refer to some individual person or single object . . . , in the course of doing what we should normally describe as making a statement about that person [or] object” (1950, p. 320) – he denied that definite descriptions are always used referentially. The description in ‘Napoleon was the greatest French soldier’ is not used referentially, says (...) Strawson, since it is used not to mention an individual, but only “to say something about an individual already mentioned” (p. 320). This is an example of what we may call a predicative use of a deﬁnite description, though such uses might be better illustrated by considering the false sentence.. (shrink)
If you’ve read the first five hundred pages of this book, you’ve read most of it (we assume that ‘most’ requires more than ‘more than half’). The set of natural numbers n such that the first n pages are most of this book is nonempty. Therefore, by the least number principle, it has a least member k. What is k? We do not know. We have no idea how to find out. The obstacle is something about the term ‘most’. It (...) is recognisably the same feature as the feature of ‘heap’ that prevents us from finding an answer to the question ‘How many grains make a heap?’ and the feature of many other expressions that prevents us from finding answers to similar questions involving them. Call this feature, whatever its underlying nature, vagueness. (shrink)
In “Descriptions as Predicates” (Graﬀ 2001) I argued that deﬁnite and indeﬁnite descriptions should be given a uniform semantic treatment as predicates rather than as quantiﬁer phrases. The aim of the current paper is to clarify and elaborate one of the arguments for the descriptions-as-predicates view, one that concerns the interaction of descriptions with adverbs of quantiﬁcation.