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NOTES AND DISCUSSIONS 85 Wilson suggests was under way. Wilson deals with the matter (in a footnote) as follows: It must be conceded, however, that Principles I, XXX contains a strong hint of the Discourse view... (but the HR translation is erroneous). I would, I suppose, be satisfied with the conclusion that Descartes's later writings show evidence of vacillation on the question whether we can avoid error in dreams--and that he should have dropped the Discourseposition altogether, if only for reasons of elementary credibility . [Descartes,p. ~7] Once again, Wilson's strategy is that of postulating an ambiguity in Descartes and then pointing out that he should have solved the ambiguity her way. However, once again, I think that the evidence for both claims is shaky. If indeed the positions presented in the Principles and in the letter to Elizabeth are in conflict, Wilson offers no convincing argument that the second position is better than the first. On the other hand, I pointed out above that probably there is no conflict at all between the two sources. Finally, the Haldane and Ross translation is erroneous, but not in a way significant to the present issue. In the original Latin, the passage reads: Atque si advertamus quid in sensibus, quid in vigilia, quidve in somno clarum sit ac distinctum, illudque ab eo quod confusum est et obscurum distinguamus, facile quid in qualibet re pro vero habendum sit agnoscemus.8 In conclusion, I have shown that Wilson's interpretation of the DA, though novel and stimulating, is substantially incorrect and that the DA and its "solution" are more strictly connected to Descartes's metaphysical and theological program than Wilson seems to suggest. Of course, in view of the serious difficulties that program runs into, this clarification can hardly be regarded as providing support for Descartes's final conclusions. ERMANNO BENC1VENGA University of California, Irvine SENSE, REFERENCE, AND RUSSELL'S THEORY of DESCRIPTIONS R. K. Perkins, .kr., typically has interesting things to say about Russell's philosophy , and his recent article in Journal of the History of Philosophy is no s "And if we perceive whatis clear and distinct in the senses, in waking or in sleep, and we distinguish it from what is confused and obscure, we will easily recognize what in any thing must be taken for true." (The italics emphasize the most serious blunder of Haldane and Ross's translation.) 86 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY exception. This does not mean that I always agree with what he tries to make of Russell's philosophy, as this article will indicate. Perkins leads up to a defense, against my criticisms,' of his interpretation of Russell's key argument in behalf of his theory of descriptions (hereafter, the Argument). Russelrs Argument is found in several versions that typically conclude something to the effect that " 'the author of Waverley' means nothing. ''~ I. "MEANS' AND "NAMES" According to Perkins, in the Argument the word "means" unequivocally means "names." Thus, Russell's conclusion should be interpreted as saying, " 'the author of Waverley' names nothing." There is a clear sense in which Russell's conclusion, so construed, is trivial. Of course, names are not descriptions . Names are logico-linguistically simple, and descriptions are complex . Even names that appear to have names as parts, say, "George Washington Carver," are not Iogico-linguistically complex. The meaning of the whole is not a function of the meanings of its parts, as the meaning of a description is. Names like "George Washington Carver" should be treated as fused expressions . What is important about all this is that Russell understood it perfectly: "The first thing to realize about a definite description is that it is not a name. We will take 'The author of Waverley'. That is a definite description , and it is easy to see that it is not a name. A name is a simple symbol (i.e., a symbol which does not have any parts that are symbols), a simple symbol used to designate a certain particular .... This sort of phrase, 'The author of Waverley', is not a name because it is a complex symbol. It contains parts which are symbols.'':~ Since this is clear enough, what is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 85-91
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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