Why Incomplete Definite Descriptions do not Defeat Russell’s Theory of Descriptions

Soames, Scott (2005) Why Incomplete Definite Descriptions do not Defeat Russell’s Theory of Descriptions. Teorema: Revista internacional de filosofía, 24 (3). pp. 7-30. ISSN 0210-1602


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For Russell, a simple sentence containing a description, the F, is true only if a single object satisfies F. Sentences containing incomplete descriptions pose problems because they are often used to express truths, even though more than one thing in the discourse satisfies F. It is argued (i) that non-Russellian analyses cannot solve these problems, and (ii) that Russellian analyses can, provided that a new conception of meaning and assertion is adopted. On this conception, the meaning of S is what is common to what is asserted by utterances of S in all normal contexts, and the propositions asserted by particular utterances are required to be pragmatic enrichments of the semantic content of S. These pragmatic enrichments are the propositions speakers primarily intend to assert. The proposition semantically expressed by S counts as asserted only when it is a necessary, a priori consequence of the speaker’s primary assertion, plus presuppositions of the conversation. The problem of incomplete descriptions is solved by noting that the false propositions semantically expressed are not consequences of the true, pragmatically enriched propositions the speaker asserts.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Philosophie > Philosophische Journale, Kongresse, Vereinigungen > Teorema. Revista internacional de filosofia > Volume XXIV (2005)
Depositing User: Sissi Kemp
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2013 17:00
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2013 17:00
URI: http://sammelpunkt.philo.at/id/eprint/2359

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