Exhibit: Bertrand Russell and The Theory of Descriptions

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Filed under Library News:  Mills Archives & Research Collections Events

Have you ever lain in bed at night and asked yourself whether the present King of France is bald? Perhaps not, but Bertrand Russell addressed this question in his paper "On Denoting", published in Mind, the foremost journal of English philosophy, in October 1905. Russell's paper concerns the distinction between names and descriptions. It is considered to be a classic of analytic philosophy and a major contribution to the philosophy of language. George IV wanted to know whether Scott is the author of Waverley, but he did not wish to know whether Scott was Scott. At the beginning of the twentieth century when Russell was writing Principia Mathematica (3 vols., 1910-1913), he also tackled a series of philosophical and logical puzzles. The philosopher Alexius Meinong (1853-1920), for example, maintained that in order to deny the existence of the golden mountain, one had to posit the golden mountain with being of some kind.

In celebration of the centenary of the publication of "On Denoting", the current exhibition in the Division of Archives and Research Collections draws upon books, correspondence, manuscripts, and other original documents from the Bertrand Russell archives. The Bertrand Russell Research Centre is hosting an international conference from 14 to 18 May 2005 entitled "Russell versus Meinong: 100 Years after 'On Denoting'". We think that you will be intrigued by the question of the current French monarch's alleged baldness. We invite you to explore and to enjoy our exhibition on Bertrand Russell's theory of descriptions.