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Interpreting Russell’s Gray’s Elegy Argument


“On Denoting” is central to the analytic tradition, yet one of its key arguments (the Gray’s Elegy Argument) lacks a canonical reading. Some interpret the passage as rejecting denoting concepts as inconsistent, or the theory that posits them as incoherent. Such readings are too strong, and at odds with the passage. We interpret the argument as a set of considerations that leave the old view as a logically viable (though uneconomical and cumbersome) competitor to Russell’s new semantic theory.

«De la Dénotation» est l’un des articles les plus importants de la tradition analytique, pourtant il n’existe pas d’interprétation canonique pour l’un de ses argument-clés (l’argument de l’Élégie de Gray). Certains croient que le passage en question démontre que les concepts dénotants en eux-mêmes sont contradictoires; d’autres que la théorie qui les sous-tend est incohérente. Les deux interprétations sont trop fortes et sont contredites par le texte du passage. Nous l’interprétons plutôt comme un ensemble de considérations qui conservent à l’ancienne théorie, bien qu’elle soit encombrante et prolixe, la possibilité de concurrencer la nouvelle presentation sémantique de Russell.

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
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