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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: August 2016

21 - The function of singular terms

from Part II - A first step: analysis of the predicative sentence


At the end of the last lecture it again became clear how limited the possibilities of internally refuting a philosophical basic conception are. One cannot show – assuming one is prepared to accept the uncashed metaphor of the representation-concept – that a representation-theory is impossible. Sponge-like thoughts have the advantage that they cannot be smashed. But to demand an internal refutation would also involve an unrealistic view of the extent to which obsolete philosophical ideas can be put out of action. It is enough to show that the object-relation which we encounter when we examine how we actually establish for which object a sign stands is not a representation-relation and that the meaning of objecthood which emerges from this examination cannot be understood in terms of representation. The genuine refutation of the traditional conception cannot be accomplished internally but only by means of the positive construction of a new conception which right from the start can claim the advantage that it takes its departure from an actual form of reference to objects, namely that by means of linguistic expressions (for the present I leave it open whether it is the only one). The traditional conception is thus not shown to be impossible but – disregarding the unclarity of its basic concept – only false.

Before I begin the positive construction of the new conception I wish to add something to what I said about the representation-theory. I have shown that the doctrine of the primacy of proper names over descriptions, which implies that ‘standing for’ is to be understood as simple assignment or association, is grounded, if it has any philosophical foundation, on the representation-theory. However, it would be false to suppose that the converse holds, viz. that the representation-theory necessarily leads to this conception of the name-relation and such a simplistic object-concept. That it need not do so is particularly well illustrated by the case of Husserl. Husserl's object-theory is, on the one hand, a representation-theory: what he calls intentionality is the not linguistically but representationally construed object-relation of consciousness. On the other hand, we have already seen that Husserl follows Frege in thinking that descriptions are semantically more fundamental than proper-names.

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Traditional and Analytical Philosophy
  • Online ISBN: 9781316535608
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