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Russell's Early Theory of Denoting

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The article concerns the treatment of the so-called denoting phrases, of the forms 'every A', 'any A', 'an A' and 'some A', in Russell's Principles of Mathematics. An initially attractive interpretation of what Russell's theory was has been proposed by P.T. Geach, in his Reference and Generality (1962). A different interpretation has been proposed by P. Dau (Notre Dame Journal, 1986). The article argues that neither of these is correct, because both credit Russell with a more thought-out theory than he actually had. The conclusion is mainly negative: at this date Russell has no coherent theory of these phrases. An appendix notes that his understanding of the quantifiers in predicate logic is also, at this date, not entirely secure.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Merton College, Oxford, UK

Publication date: 2009-02-01

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