Are “Attributive” Uses of Definite Descriptions Really Attributive?

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In this essay I argue that given Donnellan’s formulation of the attributive uses of definite descriptions, as well as Kripke’s [6] and Salmon’s [10] generalized accounts, most uses of definite descriptions that are taken to be attributive turn out not to be so. In building up to my main thesis, I first consider certain problematic cases of uses of definite descriptions that do not neatly fit into any category. I then argue that, in general, a complete definite description we use is complex, in which there is an embedded singular term that is used referentially. From this I conclude that an attributive use of a definite description is an extremely rare linguistic phenomenon, much less frequent than what Donnellan, Kripke, and Salmon have presupposed; so much so that the standard examples given by Donnellan of the attributive use of definite descriptions do not qualify as attributive
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Archival date: 2020-07-26
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