Why Donnellan chose to refute Strawson (and Russell) -- in their "On
referring" and "On denoting" respectively -- is an interesting step in the
history of analytic philosophy alla Grice.
Indeed, for Grice, the
debate around what Whitehead and Russell call 'the
iota operator' and which
roughly translates as "the", runs along the lines
of his 'Logic &
It is solved by posing, precisely,a distinction between
- the conversational implicature-level (what a
Strawson, an 'informalist' or 'neo-traditionalist'
is attempting elucidate, but
failing ) - and the truth-conditional semantic
component (the Russellian
component of the 'modernist' or 'formalist'). We
cannot speak of
truth-functionality here since the iota operator is NOT a
Indeed, in the second William James Lecture,
among the formal devices
mentioned by Grice is the 'iota operator' ('(iota
x)') and its natural-language
He goes into
detail on these matters, not so much in the William James
lectures, but in
his "'Presupposition & Conversational Implicature" (where he
Strawson's solution involving a truth-value gap), "Vacuous Names"
"Definite descriptions in Russell and in the vernacular".
a conversational-pragmatic treatment of
i. The king of France is
in terms, not of truth-value gaps as Strawson would have it, but
truth-conditional semantics (the Russellian tripartite analysis of
above) PLUS conversational implicature - notably by appeal to the
conversational maxim falling under the category of Manner (or Perspicuity):
whatever you say in the form most suitable for any repl that would
As if a conversation would
ii. A: The king of France is bald.
B: He is not!
A: Well, he doesn't have any hair!
B: That's not the king of France. He
is the PRESIDENT of France: De
Strawson's original example
iii. The king (or president) of France is _wise_.
preferred to stick with Russell's original example, since it was
Russell played with
iv. The king of France is bald,
but he wears a wig.
This inspired Dummett, who expanded on the
v. For that matter, we might just as well claim that the Queen
Elizabeth I, was bald, and wore a wig. (I mean, how can we
Grice's treatment, which also avails of the notion
of "common ground
status" something like "mutual knowledge" -- only that it
can be false -- as
discussed by philosophers more in connection with
the ontological commitment of existential
presupposition) rather than
'definite description,' though.
surely Grice is trying to show that Strawson's 'presupposition' does
exist, and it's a mere conversational implicature (Indeed, Strawson used
'imply' instead of 'presuppose' in "On referring").
Names", an irreverent tribute to Quine repr. in "Words and
Grice considers the
issue, developing a formal system for the treatment of
pragmatics, which he calls system Q (later re-labelled
system G by Grice's
disciple, George Myro).
Grice makes some
interesting remarks re: the pragmatics of descriptions,
as they may trigger
the use of names.
This he does in the tenth section, entitled, 'Names
In 'Definite Descriptions in Russell
& in The Vernacular' he goes on to
defend Russell explicitly. Grice
implicates Russell did not speak the
vernacular as well as HE
Bealer, who went to Reed, has dwelt on these matters in his "Quality
Concept". Bealer relies on the notion of a pragmatically complete vs
semantically incomplete symbol:
picture that emerges [from Grice's work], although definite
usually DO HAVE A REFERENCE, REFERRING, unlike NAMING, is a
relation, not a semantic relation. Thus, definite descriptions, while
pragmatically complete symbols (they typically refer in conversational
contexts), are semantically INCOMPLETE: their being co-referential in
conversational context does not make them alike in any kind of genuine
meaning. Even if definite descriptions were taken as semantically
symbols, one would intuitively not want to say that they NAME
names name). They would be more like predicates and
sentences: they would
express something, and what they MEAN would be what
they express. But what
about REFERRING? True enough, if definite
descriptions were semantically
COMPLETE symbols, referring would seem to be
a semantic relation. But it would be
only a DERIVED relation, defined as
follows. E refers to x iff
1. If E is a definite description, x = whatever E
2. If E is a name, x = whatever E NAMES.
This would be all
there is to the commonsense theory of REFERENCE since
sentences intuitively do NOT refer. On this account, then,
there is still
only one fundamental kind of meaning, and it partitions into
expressing. ... [In this account] Our model structures would need
enriched with a PRIMITIVE DEFINITE DESCRIPTION OPERATION and
predication and relativised predication operations.
From a historical
point of view, we should add further keywords here: not
just GRICE and
DONNELLAN, but KRIPKE and BARCAN MARCUS, since the whole
provide a detailed historical development of these