Definite Descriptions by Paul Elbourne

By Paul Elbourne

This booklet argues that certain descriptions ('the table', 'the King of France') check with participants, as Gottlob Frege claimed. This it appears uncomplicated end flies within the face of philosophical orthodoxy, which includes Bertrand Russell's conception that sure descriptions are units of quantification. Paul Elbourne provides the 1st fully-argued defence of the Fregean view. He builds an particular fragment of English utilizing a model of state of affairs semantics. He makes use of intrinsic points of his process to account for the presupposition projection behaviour of certain descriptions, a number modal houses, and the matter of incompleteness. whilst, he attracts on an strangely wide variety of linguistic and philosophical literature, from early paintings via Frege, Peano, and Russell to the most recent findings in linguistics, philosophy of language, and psycholinguistics. His penultimate bankruptcy addresses the semantics of pronouns and provides a brand new and extra radical model of his past thesis that they too are Fregean certain descriptions.

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Definite Descriptions

This publication argues that yes descriptions ('the table', 'the King of France') check with members, as Gottlob Frege claimed. This it appears uncomplicated end flies within the face of philosophical orthodoxy, which contains Bertrand Russell's thought that certain descriptions are units of quantification.

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And sentences which contain proper names without reference will be of this kind. The sentence ‘Odysseus was set ashore at Ithaca while sound asleep’ obviously has a sense. But since it is doubtful whether the name ‘Odysseus’, occurring therein, has a reference, it is also doubtful whether the whole sentence has one. 5 We can perhaps generalize this conclusion to the whole category of improper definite descriptions and obtain a treatment that is Fregean in spirit. Given the catastropic semantic consequences of proper names (including compound ones) not having a referent, it is not surprising that declarative sentences used assertively introduce a presupposition to the effect that the names in them do have referents (Frege 1892: 40): If anything is asserted there is always an obvious presupposition that the simple or compound proper names used have reference.

If Mary yawns, the sky always falls. b. 18 (27) sometimes = Îp s,t . Îq s,t . Îs . there is a situation s such that s is a minimal situation such that s ≤ s and p(s ) = 1, such that there is a situation s such that s is a minimal situation such that s ≤ s and s ≤ s and q (s ) = 1 (28) always = Îp s,t . Îq s,t . Îs . for every minimal situation s such that s ≤ s and p(s ) = 1, there is a situation s such that s is a minimal situation such that s ≤ s and s ≤ s and q (s ) = 1 (29) the sky falls = Îs .

3 I follow Chomsky (1986, 2000), Pietroski (2003, 2010), and numerous others, in believing that meanings are internal mental structures. But there is no need, on this view, to abandon revealing formalism like that provided by possible worlds semantics and situation semantics. We can take it that in using this formalism we are taking advantage of what Wigner (1960) called ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences’: theories in physics, biology, and other areas already use mathematics very successfully to show the structure of the natural world, even though it is not entirely clear why mathematics should be so revealing.

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