Russell. N.s. Vol. 27, no. 1. Summer 2007.

Russell: the Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies is published by The Bertrand Russell Research Centre, McMaster University. For ordering information, including prices, see the back issues table.

Editor’s Notes

Edited by Dale Jacquette, Nicholas Griffin and Kenneth Blackwell


Preface by Dale Jacquette
Russell Wahl“‘On Denoting’ and the Principle of Acquaintance”
ABSTRACT: While Russell’s concerns in developing the theory of descriptions were primarily with his foundation of logic, he was aware of the epistemological uses of both the theory of denoting concepts and the 1905 theory of definite descriptions. At the end of “On Denoting” he suggests that the principle of acquaintance is a “result” of the new theory of denoting. In this paper I examine the relation between the theory of descriptions and the principle of acquaintance, and I reject two suggestions, one that Russell’s view commits him to the position that quantifiers range only over objects of acquaintance, the other that the principle of acquaintance plays a crucial role in the Gray’s Elegy argument. Russell’s earlier theory of denoting concepts went hand in hand with the principle of acquaintance, as Russell made clear in his “Points about Denoting”. So the principle of acquaintance was neither a motivator for the new account nor a special consequence of it. The new account of “On Denoting”, while dispensing with denoting concepts, preserved the connection that the older denoting theory had with the principle of acquaintance.
Ray Perkins, Jr.“Why ‘On Denoting’?”
ABSTRACT: A recent trend in Russell scholarship has been towards the thesis that, contrary to his own recollections, Bertrand Russell really didn’t need the 1905 theory of descriptions to deflate an excessive ontology, because (1) there was no excessive ontology in The Principles of Mathematics, at least not one with golden mountains and the like, and so (2) Russell’s real motive, at least his main one, was not ontological but rather was to replace the incoherent sense–reference distinction on which the old theory of denoting depended. I want to gently dispute that thesis by showing that Russell’s old theory in the Principles was ambivalent on ontic commitment to non-existent things and it could not give an adequate account of the central problem which Russell faced before “On Denoting”, viz. our apparent discourse—including our ability to make true and false propositions—about non-existent things. I also show briefly how the new theory solves the old problem.
Harm Boukema“Russell, Meinong and the Origin of the Theory of Descriptions”
ABSTRACT: According to his own account, Russell was “led to” the Theory of Descriptions by “the desire to avoid Meinong’s unduly populous realm of being”. This “official view” has been subjected to severe criticism. However stimulating this criticism may be, it is too extreme and therefore not critical enough. It fails to fully acknowledge both the way it is itself opposed to Russell and the way Russell and Meinong were opposed to their opponents. In order to avoid these failures, a more “dialectical” kind of analysis will be applied. It leads to unravelling two confusions shared by the official and the unofficial views: the confusion between conception and adoption of the TOD and the confusion between three varieties of Meinongianism. By means of these distinctions both a significant kernel of truth contained in Russell’s account and the underlying motive for his distortion of the historical facts can be laid bare.
Arkadiusz Chrudzimski“Meinong’s Version of the Description Theory”
ABSTRACT: About 1904 Meinong formulated his most famous idea: there are no empty (non-referential) terms. Russell also did not accept non-referential singular terms, but in “On Denoting” he claimed that all singular terms that are apparently empty could be explained away as apparent singular terms. However, if we take a more careful look at both theories, the picture becomes more complex. It is well known that Russell’s concept of a genuine proper name is very technical; but this is also true of Meinong. Also, according to Meinong we can refer “directly” only to a very special category of ontologically simple objects. However, a very important difference is that, in the domain of Meinongian objects, a plurality of objects always corresponds to each description. Thus, if Meinong were right, there could be no definite descriptions. If we narrow the domain of reference to existent objects, we can secure the uniqueness of the reference object by specifying a collection of predicates that is contingently satisfied by only one (existing) object. But if we operate in the domain of all possible objects, we have to specify all properties that are had by the object in question. It turns out that such a “Leibnizian” specification amounts to the complete description of a possible world.
Alberto Voltolini“How to Allow for Intentionalia in the Jungle”
ABSTRACT: In this paper I will first contend that semantically based arguments in favour of or against problematic entities—like those provided, respectively, in a realist Meinongian and in an antirealist Russellian camp—are ultimately inconclusive. Indeed, only genuinely ontological arguments, specifically addressed to prove (or to reject) the existence of entities of a definite kind, suit the purpose. Thus, I will sketch an argument intended to show that there really are entities of an apparently specific kind, i.e. intentionalia, broadly conceived as things that may actually exist as well as actually not exist. Finally, I will try to explain why that argument proves the existence of only some sorts of intentionalia, by showing how this is related to the fact that, as some have correctly maintained, intentionalia have no intrinsic nature.
Sébastien Gandon“Some Remarks about Russellian Incomplete Symbols”
ABSTRACT: Russellian incomplete symbols are usually conceived as an analytical residue—as what remains of the would-be entities when properly analyzed. This article aims to reverse the approach in raising another question: what, if any, does the incomplete symbol contribute to the completely analyzed language? I will first show that, from a technical point of view, there is no difference between the way Russell defines his denoting phrases in “On Denoting” and the way Frege defines his second-order concepts. But I will secondly support that the two notions have two widely different conceptual meanings: the same logical procedures which are used by Frege to increase the deductive power of his system allow Russell to logically relate quantificational notation to ordinary language. Focusing on Russell’s treatment of OD’s puzzles, I will thirdly argue that this shift constitutes the source of a deep transformation in the way logic and language are related.
Paul Weingartner“Russell’s Concepts ‘Name’, ‘Existence’ and ‘Unique Object of Reference’ in Light of Modern Physics”
ABSTRACT: With his theory of descriptions Russell wanted to solve two problems concerning denotation and reference, which are formulated here as Problem I and Problem II. After presenting each problem, we describe the main points of Russell’s solution. We deal with Russell’s concepts of existence and then elaborate his presuppositions concerning the relation of denoting and referring. Next we discuss the presuppositions or principles which underlie Russell’s understanding of the objects of reference. These principles are such that if the objects of reference are material objects, they are objects of classical mechanics, or very close to such an interpretation. Finally we show how these principles have to be relaxed if the objects of reference are objects of quantum mechanics or special or general relativity.
Hartley Slater“Completing Russell’s Logic”
ABSTRACT: The epsilon calculus improves upon the predicate calculus by systematically providing complete individual terms. Recent research has shown that epsilon terms are therefore the “logically proper names” Russell was not able to formalize, but their use improves upon Russell’s theory of descriptions not just in that way. This paper details relevant formal aspects of the epsilon calculus before tracing its extensive application not just to the theory of descriptions, but also to more general problems with anaphoric reference. It ends by contrasting a Meinongian account of cross-reference in intensional constructions with the epsilon account.
Adriana Silva Graça“A Lesson from Referential Uses of Definite Descriptions”
ABSTRACT: In this paper it will be shown that a substantial conception of semantics, one that does not regard semantic phenomena as subsumed under pragmatic ones, is necessary to account for what cries out for an explanation regarding the old problem of the semantic relevance of the referential/attributive distinction, as applied to singular definite descriptions. I consider some alternative proposals to deal with the data, showing why they are wrong, and I finish by establishing that some arguments that allegedly derive the conclusion that some substantial conception of semantics is basically wrong, simply beg the question against their opponents, assuming a form of the very conclusion they want to vindicate.

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