CHUA, John Moses A. | PHLO 195 – T | Philosophy of Language | UPLB
On Denoting the Use
‘The King of France is bald.’ This proposition had been very famous and a very good example for describing theories if we are to discern on how we can or should recognize if a proposition consisting a non-existent subject be true or false, or how meaningful these kinds may be. This paper should aim to defend Russell’s On Denotation and Descriptions against Strawson’s On Referring. This should go through on how Strawson may have failed to prove that Russell’s theory of denoting and theory of descriptions is incorrect and hence should be abandoned.
But first, what is Russell’s theory ...view middle of the document...
This problem was figured out by Russell when he posed his theory of denoting. In this theory subjects or concepts within a proposition is presupposed to have no meaning; but can only have when equipped with denoting phrases. Now what are these denoting phrases? These denoting phrases are the ones that have meaning and have the ability to produce and equate meaning with relation to the proposition. Now applying this theory of denoting to the proposition, ‘The king of France is bald’. The exact reference of the subject king of France must be distinguished to distinguish the exact and accurate denoting phrase for it. Let us consider someone as the king of France that is bald and let that be x. It can be that: ‘X is the king of France and x is bald, such that x does not exist (for there is no king of France)’ is always true. This kind of theory have been sufficient for the problem of vagueness or ambiguity that concerns any subject or focus of a proposition, as far as Russell is concerned though he was still aware that intellectual developments or some other intellectual creation can refute or modify his work.
Bertrand Russell did not fail to anticipate problems for in 1950 Sir Peter Frederick Strawson produced a paper, also in Mind magazine aiming to debunk Russell’s work. How? Simply, Strawson pointed out that Russell failed to recognize what constitutes the meaning in a proposition. Strawson proposed that expressions such that it is to “mention or refer to some individual person or single object... in the course of... making a statement about that person [or object]......”–which is parallel with Russell’s when Russell points the truthfulness or falsity of a
proposition–does not constitute meaning. For Strawson, aside from ‘expression’, there is also the ‘use’. It is the use, not the expression that is ‘uniquely referring’. In fact, Strawson went to a point where he determined that expressions do not refer at all and thus must have no meaning but it is the use that must have. Strawson included in his work the truth-value gaps that which is ignored by Russell when discussing Frege. These truth-value gaps are those that cause some propositions to be neither true nor false; and one very good example is the case of ‘king of France’; for the reason that the king of France does not exist and thus we must accord its use before distinguishing its truth or falsity. He goes on to introduce two concepts within propositions: sentence-type and sentence token. Sentence-type is the ‘sentence’ itself which according to Strawson this is what Russell pertains to and thus have meaning; while sentence token is what Strawson means by the ‘use of a sentence’ that which is for him has the meaning.
There are problems in Strawson’s work that lead him to fail on debunking Russell’s work. This is when he also failed to clearly understand what is Russell pertaining. Strawson may have a point in the eyes of the ordinary language theorist that...