Names and Attitudes

  • Steven E. Boër
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 206)


Arthur Burks was one of the first philosophers to recognize the inadequacy of the traditional “Description Theory” of proper names inherited from Frege and Russell; he was also one of the first to suggest a plausible revision of that theory (Burks [5]). His suggestion — that proper names be viewed as indexical definite descriptions — anticipated by nearly three decades the general drift of accounts of proper names such as those currently offered by Tyler Bürge (in [4]) and Stephen Schiffer (in [22]). Description Theories, however, have recently come under frontal attack from proponents of so-called Causal-Historical Theories (e.g., Kripke [13] and Donnellan [10]), who urge a radically different account of the mechanisms of reference. Whatever one may think of this attack — and its success is by no means uncontested (cf. McKinsey [19]–[20] and Boör [2]) — Description Theories still have many enthusiastic supporters (including Burks in [6]). Nor do they lack ammunition for a counteroffensive. Their most powerful weapon is derived from the well-known tangle of problems attending the interpretation of names in propositional attitude contexts, which they increasingly point to as evidence against the Causal-Historical Theorists’ contention that names “merely designate” and do not “express (descriptive) senses” (cf., e.g., Loar [18]).


Philosophical Analysis Description Theory Attitude Sentence Content Sentence Semantic Referent 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven E. Boër
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe Ohio State UniversityUSA

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