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Essays on Reference, Language, and Mind$
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Keith Donnellan, Joseph Almog, and Paolo Leonardi

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199857999

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199857999.001.0001

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Reference and Definite Descriptions

Reference and Definite Descriptions

Chapter:
(p.3) [1] Reference and Definite Descriptions
Source:
Essays on Reference, Language, and Mind
Author(s):

Keith Donnellan

Joseph Almog

Paolo Leonardi

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199857999.003.0001

This chapter discusses definite descriptions, arguing that they have two possible functions and that failure to deal with this duality of function obscures the genuine referring use of definite descriptions. The first function is the referential use of definite description, in which the speaker uses it to refer to something. The second is the attributive use, in which the speaker asserts something about whatever or whoever fits the description. The chapter then examines the theories of Bertrand Russell and Peter Strawson regarding definite descriptions, saying that there is something wrong with their theories.

Keywords:   definite descriptions, reference, referential use, attributive use, Bertrand Russell, Peter Strawson

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