The Real distinction Between Descriptions and Indexicals

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Abstract
Some contemporary semantic views defend an asymmetry thesis concerning defi-nite descriptions and indexicals. Semantically, indexicals are devices of singular refer-ence; they contribute objects to the contents of the speech acts made with utterances including them. Definite descriptions, on the other hand, are generalized quantifiers, behaving roughly the way Russell envisaged in “On Denoting”. The asymmetry thesis depends on the existence of a sufficiently clear-cut distinction between semantics and pragmatics, because indexicals and descriptions are often used in ways that apparently contradict the asymmetry thesis; the semantics/pragmatics distinction is invoked to see behind the appearances. The paper critically examines arguments by Schiffer against the asymmetry thesis, based on referential uses of incomplete descriptions.
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Archival date: 2016-04-30
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