Volume 7, Issue 3, 2007
Philosophy of Linguistics
Logical Analysis, Reduction, and Philosophical Understanding
Russell’s theory of descriptions in “On Denoting” has long been hailed as a paradigm of the sort of analysis that is constitutiue of philosophical understanding. It is not the only model of logical analysis available to us, however. On Frege’s quite different view, analysis provides not a reduction of some problematic notion to other, unproblematic ones -- as Russell’s analysis does -- but instead a deeper, clearer articulation of the very notion with which we began. This difference, I suggest, is grounded in their two very different conceptions of the nature of language / thought; and it grounds in turn two very different conceptions of the nature of philosophical understanding.