Definite Descriptions and Proper Names

  • Francesco OriliaEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 113)


In this chapter I shall propose a form of descriptivism, Contextual descriptivism (CD, in brief). As explained in the introduction, CD relies on “contextualized properties ” of the form F@t, where “@” is the contextualization sign , whose meaning is elucidated in §§ 5.3-5.4. Very roughly speaking, and given the default option that we shall pursue (according to which t is a linguistic token), CD can be seen as a sort of generalization to proper names and incomplete determiner phrases (including definite descriptions) of Reichenbach ’s (1947) token-reflexive approach to indexicals. According to CD, indexicals and proper names are (in typical cases) incomplete (truncated) definite descriptions, and thus the descriptive contents which constitute their pragmatic meanings should be characterized by relying first on an auxiliary account of the pragmatic meaning of incomplete definite descriptions. Since, as we have seen, descriptions can be incomplete just like other members of the more general class of determiner phrases to which they belong, it follows that this auxiliary account should be extracted from a more sweeping theory about the pragmatic meaning of incomplete determiner phrases. The next few sections will then be devoted to this preliminary issue in a way that involves, for generality’s sake, a discussion of complete determiner phrases as well. After this, I shall try to characterize the pragmatic meaning of various kinds of singular terms from the point of view of CD.


Singular Term Definite Description Causal Theory Descriptive Content Nominal Property 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipto. di Filosofia e Scienze UmaneUniversità di MacerataMacerataItaly

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