Bertrand Russell and the Nature of Propositions offers the first book-length defence of the Multiple Relation Theory of Judgement (MRTJ). Although the theory was much maligned by Wittgenstein and ultimately rejected by Russell himself, Lebens shows that it provides a rich and insightful way to understand the nature of propositional content.
In Part I, Lebens charts the trajectory of Russell’s thought before he adopted the MRTJ. Part II reviews the historical story of the theory: What led Russell to deny the existence of propositions altogether? Why did the theory keep evolving throughout its short life? What role did G. F. Stout play in the evolution of the theory? What was Wittgenstein’s concern with the theory, and, if we can’t know what his concern was exactly, then what are the best contending hypotheses? And why did Russell give the theory up? In Part III, Lebens makes the case that Russell’s concerns with the theory weren’t worth its rejection. Moreover, he argues that the MRTJ does most of what we could want from an account of propositions at little philosophical cost.
This book bridges the history of early analytic philosophy with work in contemporary philosophy of language. It advances a bold reading of the theory of descriptions and offers a new understanding of the role of Stout and the representation concern in the evolution of the MRTJ. It also makes a decisive contribution to philosophy of language by demonstrating the viability of a no-proposition theory of propositions.
"Samuel Lebens' book is a lively and full-throated defense of the multiple relation theory . . . His book is the best attempt I have seen at a comprehensive historical study of the multiple relation theory . . . The historical parts of the book are well argued and illuminating, but these issues are not Lebens' main concern. His primary aim is to revitalize the multiple relation theory and make it a contender in contemporary debates about the nature of propositions." – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"The book is well written. It gives clear arguments. It interweaves seamlessly historical and ongoing controversies within unified narratives. For these reasons a close study of Lebens’ book will richly reward scholars interested either in Russell’s MRTJ or in the metaphysics of meaning . . . In summary, Lebens has demonstrated that more remains to be said about the MRTJ, and he convincingly argues that MRTJ (in some form) was buried before it was dead, even, arguably, by Russell himself." – Landon D. C. Elkind in Russell Studies
"Lebens’s book makes an interesting, original, and accessible contribution both to Russell scholarship, and to current debates in the philosophy of language. It fills an important lacuna within the scholarly literature on Russell’s MRTJ, and does so admirably." – James Connelly, Trent University, Canada
1. Framing Our Question
Part I: The Philosophical and Historical Background
2. Russell and Moore in Rebellion
3. Incomplete Symbols
4. Semantics, Assertion and the Theory of Descriptions
Part II: The Rise and Fall of the MRTJ
5. The Rise of the MRTJ
6. The Stoutian Evolution of the MRTJ
7. The Demise of the MRTJ
Part III: Resurrecting the MRTJ
8. Significance and Representation
9. Molecular Proposition
10. Explaining of Explanada
11. The MRTJ and its Competitors