Tag Archives: denoting

Denoting Concepts and Ontology in Russell’s Principles of Mathematics

Volume 10.7 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published online, with full open-access:


It features an article by Wouter Adriaan Cohen, entitled “Denoting Concepts and Ontology in Russell’s Principles of Mathematics.” Here is the abstract:

Bertrand Russell’s Principles of Mathematics (1903) gives rise to several interpretational challenges, especially concerning the theory of denoting concepts. Only relatively recently, for instance, has it been properly realised that Russell accepted denoting concepts that do not denote anything. Such empty denoting concepts are sometimes thought to enable Russell, whether he was aware of it or not, to avoid commitment to some of the problematic non-existent entities he seems to accept, such as the Homeric gods and chimeras. In this paper, I argue first that the theory of denoting concepts in Principles of Mathematics has been generally misunderstood. According to the interpretation I defend, if a denoting concept shifts what a proposition is about, then the aggregate of the denoted terms will also be a constituent of the proposition. I then show that Russell therefore could not have avoided commitment to the Homeric gods and chimeras by appealing to empty denoting concepts. Finally, I develop what I think is the best understanding of the ontology of Principles of Mathematics by interpreting some difficult passages.

JHAP is a free, open-access, peer-reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!

A Reconstruction of Russell’s Gray’s Elegy Argument

Volume 6.2 of The Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) is now online, with full open access.

It features an article by Max Rosenkrantz entitled, “A Reconstruction of Russell’s Gray’s Elegy Argument”. Here is an abstract:

This paper presents a detailed exegesis of Russell’s “Gray’s Elegy Argument” (GEA). It holds that the GEA mounts a successful attack on Frege—a thesis that has been widely controverted in the literature. The point of departure for my interpretation is Russell’s charge that it is impossible to speak about Sinne, or “meanings” as Russell calls them. I argue that the charge concerns the construction of an “ideal language.” For Russell, an ideal language is an artificial schema designed to represent the truth-makers for sentences occurring in natural language. Its signs stand for the entities that are constituents of those truth-makers. Russell’s charge can thus be expressed more clearly and completely as follows: an ideal language designed to express Frege’s ontology requires signs for meanings (Sinne); however, the signs introduced for that purpose cannot be correlated with the entities they are supposed to represent. Thus, the requirement cannot be met.

JHAP is a free, open-access peer reviewed journal. It is available at https://jhaponline.org/. Submissions welcome!