Philosophy of Language Lecture Notes (September 12)
Russell- referentialist, meaning in terms of fully referential
Ex) “The king of France”- is bald/ is a monarch/ is male/ is playing lacrosse
 There is no referent since there is no present king of France
 Russell establishes 3 things:
o 1) There is a king of France
o 2) There is no more than one king of France (uniqueness)
o 3) The king of France is…
 Thus, the claim “The King of France is bald” is false because
premise 1 is false- there is NO king of France
 Strawson suggests this is inaccurate because: it is pragmatic to call out falsity
when it does not pertain to the significance of the claim
o Martini Example: you would question the reference by saying “Who
are you referring to?” not “Your claim is false because he doesn’t have
a martini!”
o Distinctions between challenging a claim that some conditions have
misfired from challenging a claim on the basis of the claim being false
 I.E. it is not important to deny the reference if you know what
is being referred to if the main point is not false
Russell addresses Frege’s problems with co-referring names and empty names
 Proper names are associated with distinct definite descriptions, disguised
definite descriptions (Descriptivist Theory of Proper Names)
o Can only logically properly name objects of your own experience since
you cannot be wrong that they exist
o “Charles Dodgson”- possibility that he doesn’t exist if you aren’t
acquainted with him
 Strawson: we have names given to objects that do not exist (Santa clause,
Zeus, etc…) and we have many uses to which we place expressions
o Ex) “The king of France” can have a similar meaning but not the same
 It is not the meaning of a term in reference that is important
but the USE of it that is important
o “The King of France doesn’t exist”- under Russell it is still false
because there is still no king of France to begin with = contrary claim
 Russell’s proposition that existence isn’t a predicate still
doesn’t solve the problem because there are still truths that
become false under this
o Russell suggests that:
 1) Conditions behind the proper use of an expression
 2) Conditions of the meaning of the particular use of an
Hard to give a precise account of the proper use of an expression.
Can’t pack the conditions of proper use into the conditions of the
Uses where you do not assert the existence of a king of France:
o There can be a fictional usage of the reference
o Under Russell’s conditions there must be lengthy exceptions that
include the fictional idea in order to reach the conclusion that the king
of France exists