Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Implications Of The Meaning Of “The”

The essay whose primary subject matter is the tiny word “the” is perhaps the most famous essay of the first half of the twentieth century. I am talking about Bertrand Russell’s essay, “On Denoting,” in which he talks about the philosophical implications of the meaning of the word “the.” First published in the journal Mind in 1905, this essay inspired the agenda of the Analytic Philosophy movement in the next 50 years. Much of what Russell says has been refuted, and Analytic Philosophy got mired in unresolvable disputes, but the essay is worth reading. In 1950, P. F. Strawson published the essay, “On Referring,” which is a critique of Russell’s essay. Strawson’s essay too is of great interest, though it is not as popular as the Russellian essay that it tried to challenge.

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