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Topic: Definite description

In the News (Mon 17 Jun 19)

 Theory of descriptions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Theory of Descriptions is one of the philosopher Bertrand Russell's most significant contributions to the philosophy of language.
RTD is a theory about how to understand statements using definite descriptions, that is, descriptions that are particularly suited to referring to single things.
The Theory of Descriptions is discussed in more detail in definite description and Bertrand Russell.
en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Theory_of_descriptions   (217 words)

 Descriptivism Distilled
Reference to a contextually definite bearer of ‘N’ is assimilated to the more general phenomenon of using an incomplete definite description to refer to a specific individual, a phenomenon that does not have to be represented at any linguistic level.
Consider the use of the description ‘the bottle,’ as it occurs in the sentence ‘The bottle is empty.’ There may be some completion of the description (e.g., ‘the whiskey bottle in my hip pocket’) that the speaker intends the hearer to read into the utterance.
The meaning of a sentence containing a proper name or a definite description is a general, uniqueness proposition, but if the use is referential, the speaker’s thought is indexical in character, involving a contextual relation between the speaker and the referent.
online.sfsu.edu /~kbach/oldies/descriptivism.htm   (11500 words)

 Reference+Comm. 20Jan97
For if the description theory of reference is correct, there is manifestly an obvious natural semantic kind in common between definite descriptions and proper names: they are all associated with properties in the minds of their users, and hence share a special, worth-giving-a-name-to relation to whatever it is that possesses the associated properties.
Hence, on the description theory, `beech' in their mouths refers to whatever has the property the experts associate with the word `beech'--which ensures, as it should, that `beech' in the mouths of the ignorant has the same reference as it has in the mouths of the experts.
But, as we have just been emphasising, the description theory is committed to `water' in our mouths referring to whatever has the property we associate with `water', and the test for being the property we associate with `water' is that it is the, possibly disjunctive, feature common to the possible cases we describe as water.
philrsss.anu.edu.au /people-defaults/fcj/ref.html   (10080 words)

 UCR CHASS: Department of Philosophy
Definite descriptions don't really exist for him, at least not at the level of, as he likes to say, logical form.
Definite descriptions may not really function to pick something out, but it is harmless enough to speak as if they did, since, in the felicitous case at least, there will be a unique individual particularly relevant to the truth or falsity of the perspicuous formulation.
I'm not sure why Russell, of all people, says that this description "must apply to some man." If two men share the honor of being longer lived than anyone else, so that there is no unique most long lived man, then the description lacks a denotation, as Russell's famous theory of definite descriptions reminds us.
www.philosophy.ucr.edu /people/wettstein/frege-russell.html   (9590 words)

 Answer Template for Midterm: Philosophy of Language, 730:210
Such improper definite descriptions are very common: "The luncheon is at noon", "The conference is in December", "The cat is on the mat".
In particular, the suggestion is that attributive uses of definite descriptions are really just de dicto occurrences (i.e, the variable bound by 'the' in the logical form of the sentence is de dicto), and referential uses of definite descriptions are de re (i.e., the variable bound by 'the' is de re).
The definite description 'the girl who stole my backpack' is clearly being used attributively, since I don't mean to be picking anyone out in particular, but the second occurrence of 'she' is de re (with respect to the context created by 'know that'.
ruccs.rutgers.edu /faculty/Answers.html   (6811 words)

 Comparing Frege and Russell
Definite descriptions in turn, according to Russell's famous Theory of Descriptions, function not as referring expressions but as quantificational phrases.
A proper name, like a definite description, contributes its sense to that of a sentence in which it occurs regardless of which individual actually is its referent and even if it has no referent at all.
For Russell, what distinguishes both definite descriptions and ordinary proper names from genuine, "logically" proper names, like the individual constants of logic, is not that they do have senses but that they do not have references (they do have denotations, but these are not their semantic values).
userwww.sfsu.edu /~kbach/FregeRus.html   (2369 words)

 [No title]
Definite NPs refer to given information in discourse; information that the speaker can assume to be familiar to the hearer (Chafe 1974; Givón 1984).
Russell suggested that a sentence with a non-denoting definite description is meaningful.
The description is not part of the content of a de re belief, and so the description has wide scope over the belief predicate.
www.ku.edu /~pyersqr/Ling331/Kearns5.htm   (3094 words)

 QUANTUM-MIND Archives -- April 1999 (#170)
The reason we use the definite thing/time terms of classical physics is because those are the only terms we know for unambiguous communication about what we have done and learned.
The "classical description of the quantum object" is the definite state the "object" was seen to be in, or more precisely, the only state compatible with the definite state of the measuring instrument which was seen by the observer.
The definite classical description would no longer be appropriate except as the starting point for the quantum superposition that immediately begins evolving.
listserv.arizona.edu /cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9904&L=QUANTUM-MIND&P=R21137&I=-3   (1211 words)

 Bertrand Russell's Theory of Definite Descriptions -- Keith Wilson, University of York, 2005   (Site not responding. Last check: 2007-11-06)
A definite description is a phrase, typically starting with the word ‘the’, that refers to something by describing rather than simply naming it.
It is tempting to conclude that definite descriptions are therefore singular terms, like proper names and demonstratives such as ‘this’ or ‘that’, which introduce some particular object into the truth conditions of a sentence.
Although Russell’s theory may be the best solution to the problem of how to represent definite descriptions in formal logical notation, it fails to explain the natural richness and complexity of language as it is actually used.
homepage.mac.com /keith.wilson/philosophy/logic/definite-descriptions.html   (1968 words)

 Definite description - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Since there is no present King of France, the phrase fails to refer, and so the sentence is neither true nor false.
According to Keith Donnellan, there are two distinct ways we may use a definite description such as "the present King of France," and thus makes his distinction (to be illustrated below) between the "referring" and the "nonreferring" use of a definite description.
Kripke defends Russell's analysis of definite descriptions, and argues that Donnellan does not adequately distinguish meaning from use, or, speaker's meaning from sentence meaning.
en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Definite_description   (867 words)

But at a later time, this definite description may come to be used by language-users in a purely referential way, to refer to that individual, regardless of whether or not it has the property of being the first heavenly body visible in the evening.
Marcus correctly characterizes the sort of referential descriptions that are discussed in her [1961], but it is not strictly correct to say that her referential descriptions foreshadow the sort of referential descriptions in Donnellan’s [1966].
The genus is the referential use of a definite description (the use of it to refer directly to something, not necessarily the object that meets the descriptive conditions belonging to the description).
www.qsmithwmu.com /direct,_rigid_designation_and_a_posteriori.htm   (15989 words)

 Facts Tell the Story
An important feature is the use of definite descriptions to retrieve the individual about which an assertion should be made.
In Algernon, a definite description is an access path that is believed to be adequate, in context, to specify a unique individual.
The definite description ``he'' can retrieve the description of Miles from context because he is the only recently mentioned male.
www.cs.utexas.edu /~qr/algy/algy-expsys/node15.html   (772 words)

 [No title]
In short, when I have knowledge by description of the existence of some object or person, this knowledge is based on a uniquely definite description of that object or person.
When I say "he is the so-and-so," I am really using two definite descriptions: one represented by the "so-and-so" (which was just discussed) and another represented by the word "he." In other words, proper names and pronouns are also disguised definite descriptions.
The fact remains, however, that Russell believes that the pronoun "he" must be represented by some definite description, if we are to meaningfully say, "I know that he is short." It is important to note here that the predicate "is short" is not a definite description of Michael J. Fox.
www.utm.edu /staff/jfieser/vita/teaching/russtud.txt   (4131 words)

 Meaning and Naming
The "definite" of the "definite description" is that of the definite article: the President of the United States.
Having demolished description theories and their variations, Devitt and Sterelny then introduce their alternative, a "causal" theory in which an actual individual is "dubbed" with a name ("reference fixing"), and then a causal chain of transmission ("reference borrowing") transfers the name to new users [pp.66-67].
The descriptions of description theories thus in reality will often be ill informed or wrong, but the names still manage to refer to the referents.
www.friesian.com /naming.htm   (3630 words)

 [No title]
His reason is that ordinary proper names abbreviate definite descriptions, and definite descriptions (on Russell’s view) are semantically like quantifier phrases, such as ‘all dogs’ and ‘some cats’, which do not refer to individuals.
For instance, a sentence containing a definite description, such as (12), expresses a complex proposition that is more perspicuously articulated by sentences (12a) and (12b).
It does not have a constituent that corresponds to the definite description ‘the author of Huckleberry Finn’; the contribution of the definite description to the proposition that (12) expresses is “scattered” among various constituents of the proposition.
www.ling.rochester.edu /~braun/Teaching/247/frege-russell.htm   (1728 words)

 Donnellan: Reference and Definite Descriptions   (Site not responding. Last check: 2007-11-06)
Strawson’s view, I believe, allows us to speak of the referential function of a definite description in a sentence even when it is not being used.  This, I hope to show, is a mistake.
A speaker who uses a DD referentially in an assertion… uses the description to enable his audience to pick out whom or what he is talking about and states something about that person or thing.
I conclude, then, that neither Russell’s nor Strawson’s theory represents a correct account of the use of definite descriptions—Russell’s because it ignores altogether the referential use, Strawson’s because it fails to make the distinction between the referential and the attributive and mixes together truths about each (together with some things that are false).
spruce.flint.umich.edu /~simoncu/325/donnellan   (1073 words)

NDT sticks to its guns and treats shared names on the model of incomplete definite descriptions: the fact that a name is ordinarily used to refer to one or another of its bearers does not mean that it is ambiguous, a set of homonyms, or indexical.
We can use such a description to refer to one individual even though its matrix describes many (notice that the determiner 'the' indicates totality, not uniqueness--what indicates uniqueness is that the definite description is singular).
Accordingly, we evaluate an utterance containing an incomplete definite description or a shared name as true or false depending on how things are with respect to the individual in question--other individuals that possess the relevant property or the relevant name simply don't count, at least for the purposes of conversation.
userwww.sfsu.edu /~kbach/Giorgione.htm   (11814 words)

 [No title]
He notes that there is a descriptive meaning to 'I' — given by a description such as 'the speaker of the present utterance'.
This description surely is part of the term's meaning, for it is, or plays a part in, the term's linguistic meaning.
But — with the exception of a description which picks out the same object across all worlds (e.g., 'the positive square root of four') — the only plausible account of how a term could rigidly designate is that the term is a directly referring expression, i.e., a genuine term.
libarts.wsu.edu /philo/faculty-staff/shier/shierDR.doc   (2503 words)

 Definite Descriptions: A Supplement to Propositional Attitude Reports
Russell’s reply to Frege employed his theory of definite descriptions as a part of the reply.
According to this theory, sentences with definite descriptions, phrases of the form ‘the F’, are to be analyzed in a way that indicates that the definite description is not a unitary part of the sentence.
This is a distinction in the scope of the definite description.
www.science.uva.nl /~seop/archives/sum2001/entries/prop-attitude-reports/des.html   (698 words)

 [No title]   (Site not responding. Last check: 2007-11-06)
T F If the meaning of a definite description were just its referent, then 'Twain is Twain' and 'Twain is the author of Huckleberry Finn' would have the same meaning.
T F If the meaning of a definite description were just its referent, then 'Twain is Twain' and 'Twain is the author of Huckleberry Finn' would be identical.
T F According to Frege, the sense of 'Hesperus' is the same as the sense of some definite description, for example, 'the brightest heavenly body visible in the evening'.
www.ling.rochester.edu /~braun/Teaching/247/use2.htm   (643 words)

 Adler On God
Three answers are possible: (1) totally unlike the existence of anything else we know as existing: (2) essentially like the existence of all the other things we know to exist: and (3) both like and unlike the existence of everything else the existence of which we know.
If these three positive attribute cannot be added to the definite description of God, then God is not the supreme being, for there could be a greater being than one who is not living, knowing and willing.
The definite description we have formulated to give meaning to the proper noun "God" does not answer the question of whether God does really exist.
www.thegreatideas.org /apd-god.html   (841 words)

 PHI 2010-01 Philosophy of Language
For Frege, the sense of a proper name is a definite description, and it is in figuring out what unique object fits that definite description that we find the reference of a proper name.
Kripke pointed out a crucial problem in supposing that the definite description is so integral to the meaning of a proper name.
These definite descriptions may help us pick out the object or person the name refers to - that is, if I know who the current governor of California is, I thus know who Arnold Schwarzenegger is. But "the current governor of California" is not part of the meaning of "Arnold Schwarzenegger".
garnet.acns.fsu.edu /~cmh9639/phi2010/p_of_language.htm   (1143 words)

 [No title]   (Site not responding. Last check: 2007-11-06)
By virtue of being Russellians about descriptions, we are not committed to the view that the only way to represent the logical form of a sentence S containing a description is to translate S into a formula of the language of Principia Mathematica (or a similar language).
I also argued that the adoption of what I called the GQ view about the meaning of definite descriptions is not obviously compatible with Russell’s theory of descriptions and should not be viewed as a mere notational variant of Russell’s theory.
Investigation of Russell’s theory of descriptions continues to be fruitful in part because it is one of those genial areas of philosophical inquiry where issues having to do with semantics, syntax, epistemology, and natural language processing collide, with interesting and sometimes surprising results.
www.sonoma.edu /users/b/botterel/FinalAcquaintance.doc   (9743 words)

 First Paper Assignment
France, as you will no doubt recall from your study of current events, is not a monarchy but a republic, so the definite description ‘the present king of France’ fails to denote any object.
Of course, definite descriptions that do refer—"the first president of the United States"—take their referent as their meaning.
The man, George Washington, is the meaning of that definite description, for instance.
www.otterbein.edu /home/fac/ANDPMLLS/ML/FirstPaperAssignment.html   (895 words)

 Delia Graff: Online Papers
In order to capture the three-way ambiguity of the sentence, these authors propose that definite descriptions must be ambiguous: sometimes they are predicate expressions; sometimes they are Russellian quantified noun phrases.
In a number of standard sentential environments, definite and indefinite descriptions lack the properties we would expect them to have if they were quantified noun phrases.
The analysis handles generic as well as existential descriptions, and handles also the interaction of descriptions with adverbs of quantification, without positing ambiguity for either the definite or indefinite articles.
www.princeton.edu /~graff/olpapers.html   (879 words)

 Philosophy of Language - Midterm Review
If the referential theory were true, then we would expect that substitution of one definite description for another coreferential definite description would be guaranteed to preserve truth.
Note that this faces exactly the same four objections as the referential theory of definite descriptions (although the examples of course need to change to involve names rather than descriptions).
the description theory of proper names (simple version): every proper name is synonymous with a particular definite description.
www.trinity.edu /cbrown/language/midterm.html   (1267 words)

 Definite descriptions (from formal logic) --  Britannica Concise Encyclopedia - The online encyclopedia you can trust!   (Site not responding. Last check: 2007-11-06)
x), known as a description operator, can be thought of as forming a name of an individual out of a proposition form.
The correct analysis of propositions containing definite descriptions has been the subject of considerable philosophical controversy.
The basic contention of Russell's theory of descriptions is that a proposition containing a definite description is not to be regarded as an assertion about an object of which that description is a name but rather as an existentially quantified assertion that a certain (rather complex) property has an instance.
www.britannica.com /ebc/article-65850   (1213 words)

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