Topoi (2):413-423 (2020)

Andrei Moldovan
Universidad de Salamanca
One challenge that the proponent of the Fregean theory of definite descriptions has to meet is to account for those truth-value intuitions that do not match the predictions of her theory. What needs an explanation is why sentences such as ‘The king of France is sitting in that chair’ [pointing at an empty chair] are intuitively false, while semantically truth-valueless. The existence of such cases was pointed out by Strawson :216–231, 1954) and Russell :385–389, 1957), and much discussed in the subsequent literature. The standard pragmatic explanation that Fregeans have proposed :113–122, 1993; von Fintel, Descriptions and beyond, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004; Elbourne, Definite descriptions, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013) invokes an epistemic strategy of verification of the utterance of the sentence. I raise three objections to this strategy, two concerning its descriptive adequacy, and one concerning the motivation offered for the approach. Finally, I propose an alternative account that relies on an inferential pattern that leads to the relevant truth-value judgements in certain contextually specified conditions.
Keywords definite descriptions  presupposition  Frege  pragmatics  non-denoting
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DOI 10.1007/s11245-017-9536-y
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References found in this work BETA

Knowledge and Lotteries.John Hawthorne - 2003 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
On Denoting.Bertrand Russell - 1905 - Mind 14 (56):479-493.
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On Referring.Peter F. Strawson - 1950 - Mind 59 (235):320-344.
Knowledge and Lotteries.John Hawthorne - 2005 - Philosophical Quarterly 55 (219):353-356.

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