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Reading Peter Ludlow's article on descriptions, it's clear to me that descriptions can be interpreted, found or considered in 3 different ways. They can be seen as quantificational, referential or predicational expressions. This division applies both to definite and indefinite descriptions.

However, the article isn't quite clear on how the 3 approaches arose. If Russell was, of course, the mind behind the quantificational approach, it remains vague who were responsible for the others.

How did the 3 different approaches come about?

What are some examples of propositions expressing the 3 different interpretations?

When and who were the first ones who proposed each interpretation?


Ludlow, Peter, "Descriptions", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/descriptions/.

  • I edited, sorry for the mistakes – Gabriele Scarlatti Oct 24 '17 at 8:00
  • For the predicational approach, SEP's entry has a very simple example: " 'John is not a lawyer' does not seem to have the meaning that there is a lawyer such that John is not identical to that lawyer. It is more natural to take an utterance of [it] as denying that John has a certain property." – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 24 '17 at 11:00
  • I presume that with "referential" approach you are considering theories like that of Alexius Meinong according to which a expressions like ‘the Present King of France’ refer to non-existent objects. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 24 '17 at 11:04
  • You can see Nicholas Griffin & Dale Jacquette (editors), Russell vs Meinong: The Legacy of "On Denoting", Routledge (2009) as well as Dale Jacquette, Alexius Meinong: The Shepherd of Non-Being, Springer (2015). – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 24 '17 at 11:07

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