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The logical positivists of the s promoted a systematic rejection of metaphysics , and a generalized hostility to metaphysical concepts that they considered meaningless or ill-conceived: for example, God , the immaterial soul , or universals such as "redness. While continental philosophers pursued traditional metaphysical issues and socio-political-historical dimensions of knowledge, analytic philosophers focused on logical analyses of languages. These two movements took different paths without much communication.

Most philosophy departments in England and USA were dominated by analytic philosophy and those of Germany, France, and other countries in the continental Europe were dominated by continental philosophy. Each tradition, however, outgrew and evolved into diverse styles and forms. The division of these two movements today is no longer as sharp as that was at early half of the twentieth century.

The term "analytic" conventionally indicates a method of philosophy, while the term "continental" indicates, rather, a geographical origin. The distinction is, for this reason, somewhat misleading. Analytic philosophy's founding fathers, Frege, Wittgenstein, Carnap, the logical positivists the Vienna Circle , the Logical Empiricists in Berlin , and the Polish logicians were all products of the continent of Europe. Much philosophy in Germany and Italy today, most of that in the Nordic countries, and a great deal scattered over the rest of the continent and in Latin America, is likewise analytic.

The European Society for Analytic Philosophy [1] holds continental-wide conventions every third year. Conversely, continental philosophy is pursued today perhaps by more people in English-speaking countries than anywhere else, if primarily in comparative literature or cultural studies departments. Many people now claim that the distinction fails: that the subject matter of continental philosophy is capable of being studied using the now-traditional tools of analytic philosophy.

If this is true, the phrase "analytic philosophy" might be redundant, or maybe normative, as in "rigorous philosophy. Analytic philosophy, under one interpretation, failed by its own "systematic" lights to demonstrate the meaninglessness or fictitiousness of the concepts it attacked. As early as John Passmore declared that "Logical positivism … is dead, or as dead as a philosophical movement ever becomes.

Contemporary analytic philosophy journals are—for good or ill—as rich in metaphysics as any continental philosopher. The aim of the analytic approach is to clarify philosophical problems by examining and clarifying the language used to express them. Two major threads weave through the analytic tradition. One seeks to understand language by making use of formal logic and formal or constructed language. That is, in one way or another it seeks to formalize the way in which philosophical statements are made. The other thread seeks to understand philosophical ideas by a close and careful examination of the natural language usually called "ordinary language," or the language commonly spoken by people, such as spoken English or German or French used to express them — usually with some emphasis on the importance of common sense in dealing with difficult concepts.

This philosophical movement or motif can be traced back at least partly to the work of G. Moore, and is usuallly held to have had its greatest exponent in John L. Austin and his work at Oxford, especially after WWII until his untimely death at the age of 59 in In fact, ordinary language analytic philosophy has frequently been called "Oxford philosophy. Searle, and others. Although he was at Cambridge, not Oxford, the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein , as embodied in his Blue and Brown Books and his posthumously published Philosophical Investigations, was also especially important and seminal for this form of analytic philosophy.

The Oxford movement was carried on by Austin's successors, but none of them were as skilled or accomplished as he in his form of ordinary language analysis, and it has mostly disappeared today as a separate and clearly distinguishabble branch of analytic philosophy. But, at the time it came into prominence, for those philosophers who were attracted to analytic philosophy but who deplored what they saw as being the mistakes and narrowness of logical positivism or logical empiricism, the work of Austin and his fellows was often seen as a breath of new and invigorating air. Rather than viewing philosophical problems through the lens of formal logic, ordinary language philosophy attempts to deal with the ordinary usage of the linguistic terms germane to such problems.

While ledogical positivism focus on logical terms and logical relations, supposed to be universal and separate from contingent factors such as culture, language, historical conditions , ordinary language philosophy emphasized the use of language by ordinary people.

It may be argued, then, that ordinary language philosophy is of a more sociological grounding, as it essentially focuses on the use of language within social contexts. Ordinary language philosophy was often used to disperse philosophical problems by exposing them as results of fundamental misunderstandings regarding the ordinary usage of the pertinent lingusitic terms. Indeed, this is apparent in Ryle who attempted to dispose of what he called Descartes' myth of the "ghost in the machine" , as well as Wittgenstein, among others.

In addition to the work done at Oxford in the s to the s, the semantics of ordinary language has been investigated by MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, and the philosophers Donald Davidson , P. These two threads—formal language vs. Wittgenstein, most famously, started out in the formalism camp, but ended up in the natural language camp.

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This permitted a much wider range of sentences to be parsed into logical form. Bertrand Russell adopted it as his primary philosophical tool; a tool he thought could expose the underlying structure of philosophical problems. Russell sought to resolve various philosophical issues by applying such clear and clean distinctions, most famously in the case of the Present King of France. As a young Austrian soldier, Wittgenstein expanded and developed Russell's logical atomism into a comprehensive system, in a remarkable brief book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus According to this book, the world is the existence of certain states of affairs; the book's famous opening sentences are: "1 The world is all that is the case.

So a picture of the world can be built up by expressing atomic facts in atomic propositions, and linking them using logical operators. One of the central movements within analytic philosophy is linked closely to this statement from the Tractatus :. This attitude is one of the reasons for the close relationship between philosophy of language and analytic philosophy. Language, on this view is the principal—or perhaps the only—tool of the philosopher.


  1. Analytic Philosophy | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  2. Bertrand Russell - Analytic Philosophy.
  3. Sir Peter Strawson - Telegraph.
  4. Peter Hylton.

For Wittgenstein, and many other analytic philosophers, philosophy consists in clarifying how language can be used. The hope is that when language is used clearly, philosophical problems are found to dissolve. This view is sometimes known as quietism. Wittgenstein thought he had set out the "final solution" to all philosophical problems, and so went off to become a school teacher.

However, he later revisited the inadequacy of logical atomism, and further expanded the philosophy of language by his posthumous book Philosophical Investigations. One branch of analytic philosophy has been especially concerned with what is usually known as philosophy of mind or cognitive science.

Who Was Bertrand Russell? (Famous Philosopher)

As a side-effect of the focus on logic and language in the early years of analytic philosophy, the tradition initially had little to say on the subject of ethics. The attitude was widespread among early analytics that these subjects were unsystematic, and merely expressed personal attitudes about which philosophy could have little or nothing to say. Wittgenstein, in the Tractatus, remarks that values cannot be a part of the world, and if they are anything at all they must be beyond or outside the world somehow, and that hence language, which describes the world, can say nothing about them.

One interpretation of these remarks found expression in the doctrine of the logical positivists that statements about value—including all ethical and aesthetic judgments—are, like metaphysical claims, literally meaningless and therefore non-cognitive; that is, not able to be either true or false. Social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and various more specialied subjects like philosophy of history thus moved to the fringes of English-language philosophy for some time.

By the s debates had begun to arise over whether—and if so, how—ethical statements really were non-cognitive. Stevenson argued for expressivism, R. Hare advocated a view called "universal prescriptivism. Analytic philosophy, perhaps because its origin lay in dismissing Hegel and Hegelian philosophers such as Marx , had little to say about political ideas for most of its history.

This was changed radically, and almost single-handedly, by John Rawls in a series of papers from the s onward most notably "Two Concepts of Rules" and "Justice as Fairness" which culminated in his monograph A Theory of Justice in , adducing philosophical grounds for defending a liberal welfare state.

This was followed in short order by Rawls's colleague Robert Nozick 's book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, a defense of free-market libertarianism. One such important deficiency is that it does not recognize the reality of relations. The subject-predicate form being the only form of propositions, all other propositions including relational ones are to be converted to that form. But Russell points out that it is not possible to convert all relational propositions to subject-predicate form. In 'A is older than B', this proposition cannot be interpreted as A's possessing the quality of being older than B; rather does it express a relation between two individuals A and B.

This recognition of the reality of relations has the further import of recognizing the reality of a multiplicity of subjects instead of one. The Leibnizian thesis that the reality is a plurality of monads, which could be derived from the logic of multiplicity of independent terms, is built upon the basis of the logic of terms and propositions. In his paper 'Logic and Philosophy,' L. Mulatti gives a lucid presentation of the influence of logic on Leibniz's philosophy.

He writes:. At this point it may be observed that Leibniz's metaphysics is the result of two opposite logics. Leibniz had a programme of replacing Aristotelian logic, which he thought to be grossly mistaken, with a new logic of his own. However, his profound regard for Aristotle deterred him from executing his plan. Still unsatisfied, Leibniz introduced pluralism into his metaphysics. Reality is not one, but a multiplicity of monads. But among these monads he had to deny any relation as it would go against the Aristotelian teaching.

The monads were therefore left to themselves as self-contained, 'windowless'. Now, we shall turn to Russell's endeavour to nurture his philosophy basing it on a sound logical platform. To justify Russell's attempt, we must take up his theory of definite descriptions, his philosophy of logical atomism and theory of types. Russell's theory of descriptions was most clearly expressed in his essay 'On Denoting', published in Mind.

Russell's theory is about the logical form of expressions involving denoting phrases, which he divides into three groups:. We need not know which object the phrase refers to for it to be unambiguous, for example 'the tallest spy' is a unique individual but his or her actual identity is unknown. Definite descriptions involve Russell's second group of denoting phrases, and indefinite descriptions involve Russell's third group.

Propositions containing descriptions typically appear to be of the standard subject-predicate form.


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  • Russell proposed his theory of descriptions in order to solve several problems in the philosophy of language. The two major problems are of a co-referring expressions and b non-referring expressions. The problem of co-referring expressions originated primarily with Gottlob Frege as the problem of informative identities. For example, if the morning star and the evening star are the same planet in the sky indeed they are , how is it that someone can think that the morning star rises in the morning but the evening star does not? That is, someone might find it surprising that the two names refer to the same thing i.

    This is apparently problematic because although the two expressions seem to denote the same thing, one cannot substitute one for the other, which one ought to be able to do with identical or synonymous expressions. The problem of non-referring expressions is that certain expressions that are meaningful do not seem to refer to anything. For example, by 'any man is good ' we have not identified a particular individual, namely any man , that has the property of being good similar considerations go for 'some man', 'every man', 'a man', and so on.

    Likewise, by 'the present King of France is bald' we have not identified some individual, namely the present King of France , who has the property of being bald France is no longer a monarchy, so there is currently no King of France. Thus, what Russell wants to avoid is admitting mysterious non-existent entities into his ontology. Furthermore, the law of excluded middle requires that one of the following propositions, for example, must be true: either 'the present King of France is bald' or 'it is not the case that the present King of France is bald'.

    Normally, propositions of the subject-predicate form are said to be true if and only if the subject is in the extension of the predicate. But, there is currently no King of France. So, since the subject does not exist, it is not in the extension of either predicate it is not on the list of bald people or non-bald people.

    Thus, it appears that this is a case in which the law of excluded middle is violated, which is also an indication that something has gone wrong. Russell offers the analysis: 'there is one and only one x such that x is the present King of France and x is bald. Russell did not consider metaphysical assumptions as a prerequisite to his logical doctrine.

    His first suggestion of logical atomism was:. He generalizes this approach to metaphysics in his famous article Logical Atomism in as follows:. Metaphysically, logical atomism is the view that the world consists in a plurality of independent and discrete entities, which by coming together form facts. According to Russell, a fact is a kind of complex, and depends for its existence on the simpler entities making it up.

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    The simplest sort of complex, an atomic fact , was thought to consist either of a single individual exhibiting a simple quality, or of multiple individuals standing in a simple relation. The methodological and metaphysical elements of logical atomism come together in postulating the theoretical, if not the practical, realizability of a fully analyzed language, in which all truths could in principle be expressed in a perspicuous manner. Such a 'logically ideal language', as Russell at times called it, would, besides logical constants, consist only of words representing the constituents of atomic facts.

    In such a language, the simplest sort of complete sentence would be what Russell called an 'atomic proposition', containing a single predicate or verb representing a quality or relation along with the appropriate number of proper names, each representing an individual. The truth or falsity of an atomic proposition would depend entirely on a corresponding atomic fact. The other sentences of such a language would be derived either by combining atomic propositions using truth-functional connectives, yielding molecular propositions , or by replacing constituents of a simpler proposition by variables, and prefixing a universal or existential quantifier, resulting in general and existential propositions.

    In 'On the Relations of Universals and Particulars' , Russell used logical arguments to resolve the ancient problems of universals.

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    Ordinary language certainly permits the attribution of a common predicate to more than one subject: 'a is P' and 'b is P' may both be true. If only universal things exist, then P would exist in two places at once, which would fail to account for the distinctness of a and b. Thus, Russell argued, both universals and bare particulars exist; only a robust realism can explain both the sameness and the diversity that we observe in ordinary experience.

    More generally, Russell's lectures on Our Knowledge of the External World and Logical Atomism offered a comprehensive view of reality and our knowledge of it. As an empiricist, Russell assumed that all human knowledge must begin with sensory experience. Sense-data provide the primitive content of our experience, and for Russell, these sense-data are not merely mental events, but rather the physical effects caused in us by external objects. Although each occurs immediately within the private space of an individual perceiver, he argued, classes of similar sense-data in various perceivers constitute a public space from which even unperceived though in principle perceivable sensibilia may be said to occur.

    Thus, the contents of sensory experience are both public and objective. From this beginning, according to Russell, all else follows by logical analysis. Simple observations involving sense-data, such as 'This patch is now green,' are the atomic facts upon which all human knowledge is grounded. What we ordinarily call physical objects are definite descriptions constructed logically out of just such epistemic atoms. As Russell claimed in the fifth chapter of The Problems of Philosophy ,. Careful application of this principle, together with the techniques of logical analysis, accounts for everything we can know either by acquaintance or by description.

    Modern logic is thus in Russell's philosophy has got the status of a tool in philosophical analysis. By following the Russellian tool of analysis we can conclude that what can be known by acquaintance is certain, whereas what can be known by description is inferred and problematic.

    Russell's motto by following which we may be able to reach the certainty is a version of Occam's razor:. Russell's logical atomism, in spite of facing severe attacks from different quarters, is capable of making a demarcation between the pluralistic system of thought and monistic systems. Russell's attempt to provide a logical foundation to philosophy contrary to the traditional philosophers thus proved to have long-lasting influence.

    Russell's philosophical realism has been no less influential. As a result, modern logic has become scientific and imparts this scientific spirit both to philosophy and to other branches of the sciences. Clack, Robert J.

    Dummett on the Origins of Analytical Philosophy

    Irvine, A. Cawley, J. Everything that Linguists have Always Wanted to Know Basil Blackwell, Oxford, Pears, D. Roberts, G. Dept of Philosophy B. This pluralistic character of his philosophy is the consequence of Russell's relentless endeavour to put philosophy on a sound platform of logic: 'It is in logic that we have a glimpse of the inner structure of thought which itself is expressed in language.