The tractatus theory of descriptions

Theoria 75 (4):252-271 (2009)

Abstract

In this article I construe Russell's definite description notation as a fragment of an "ideal language"– a language in which, as Russell puts it in the "Logical Atomism" lectures, "the words in a proposition correspond one by one with the components of the corresponding fact." Russell's notation – containing as it does variables, quantifiers and the identity sign – commits him to an ontology that is lavish indeed. It thus conflicts with the spirit of the theory of descriptions, which is developed in the service of ontological frugality. I make use of arguments derived from the Tractatus to show that an ideal language need not contain logical signs. I thus defend the spirit of the theory of descriptions while departing from its letter

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Max Rosenkrantz
California State University, Long Beach

References found in this work

Philosophical Papers.J. L. Austin - 1961 - Oxford University Press.
A World of States of Affairs.D. Armstrong - 1993 - Philosophical Perspectives 7:429-440.
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits.Bertrand Russell - 1948 - London and New York: Routledge.

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