Chapter

Definite Descriptions I: Vindicating Russell

Kent Bach

in Thought and Reference

Published in print February 1994 | ISBN: 9780198240778
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680267 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198240778.003.0006

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks

Definite Descriptions I: Vindicating Russell

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Russell's theory of descriptions has remained influential even though it has long been out of favour. It's influence may be due to the absence of a generally accepted alternative, or perhaps to the fact that it was Russell's. This chapter defends his theory against some familiar and seemingly forceful objections (e.g., Strawson's objection, Donnellan's objection, incomplete description objection) using the strategy of the previous chapter. It argues that each objection is based on a misconstrual of Russell's theory and thereby imposes unreasonable demands on it. This is viewed merely as a semantic account of definite descriptions, and as such it should not be expected to explain pragmatic phenomena not within its province. The trouble with these objections is that they expect it to do what it does not even purport to do.

Keywords: Russell; theory of descriptions; Strawson; Donnellan; definite descriptions; pragmatic phenomena

Chapter.  7352 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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