Fri Mar 17, 2006
60 Evans Hall, 4:10–6 PM
Oswaldo Chateaubriand (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro)
A Theory of Descriptions
I will present a theory of descriptions in which descriptive terms are distinguished from descriptive predicates. Descriptive terms are singular terms of the form ‘the F’, which following Frege and Strawson are treated as denoting the unique thing that is F, if any, and as non-denoting otherwise. Descriptive predicates are predicates of the form 'x is the F’, which following (some passages by) Russell are treated as predicates that can be expressed in quantification logic as 'x is F and nothing else is’. Thus, in
- the author of Waverley is Scottish,
'the author of Waverley’ is a descriptive term, which is subject of the predicate 'is Scottish’. On the other hand, in
- Scott is the author of Waverley,
'is the author of Waverley’ is a predicate and 'Scott’ the subject term, meaning
- Scott authored Waverley and no one else did.
I will discuss various aspects of this approach to descriptions, including the relation between Frege’s theory and Russell’s, an application to Gödel’s slingshot argument, and a generalization to plural descriptions.