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Salience: Descriptions and incompleteness

Borg, Emma Gabriel Nelson; (1995) Salience: Descriptions and incompleteness. Masters thesis (M.Phil), UCL (University College London). Green open access


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The contention of this thesis is that there are good reasons for preferring a Russellian analysis of descriptions to any other account, but that there exists a fundamental problem to be overcome for such an approach. This is the issue of incompleteness, for the quantificational treatment makes an appeal to uniqueness which is often not satisfied by the descriptive material mentioned, e.g. 'the dog' does not contain enough predicative material to secure a unique denotation. In this thesis I consider, and offer reasons for rejecting, the three most common (pragmatic level) solutions and suggest that we are instead forced to a semantic level alteration. I then go on to offer my own preferred version of such a move: a semantic level appeal to the pragmatic property of salience. I suggest that we have antecedent reasons for requiring such a notion of salience, as a property which is both able to operate prior to the securing of a referent and which may be mutually recognisable between interlocutors. Such a property would then be available to underpin and direct decisions on intended reference in a communicative environment. To show this I briefly examine the nature of communication itself and argue that there is good reason to posit the shared ground in referential communication as mutual recognition of salience. Finally, having established an independent requirement for such a notion, I show how it might be adopted, as elided content, into the truth conditions of incomplete descriptions, without violating the major tenets of the quantificational theory.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil
Title: Salience: Descriptions and incompleteness
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Philosophy, religion and theology; Salience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106141
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