Rewrite the paragraph below in three different ways:
Definite descriptions are expressions that uniquely identify an individual by describing it in some detail. They are like proper names in that they refer to a particular individual, but they do so not by means of a name but by means of a description that (purportedly) fits only one thing. Examples would be "the first president of the United States," "the first book ever printed on a printing press," "the capital of Oregon," "the residence of the prime minister of Great Britain," and so on. These are not names, but they do all point to a single individual. Such expressions have given rise to some knotty philosophical problems, which were finally solved in the twentieth century by the use of quantifier logic. What do you do, for example, with a sentence such as the following, in which there is no referent for the description: "The king of the United States of America treats his subjects well"? Is it true? False? Neither? It seems to be a perfectly grammatical sentence, so there is no particular reason why it should not have a truth value. And it would be very odd to call it true. On the other hand, it doesn't seem quite right to call it false either, as if what we were saying about the king of the United States was not accurate.
- as if you're explaining the content to a friend in your class over chat,
- as if you're writing an article for the UConn alumni magazine (you can assume that your readers are well-educated but not knowledgeable about this particular topic), and
- as if you're writing a research paper in the most pretentious and stilted way you can imagine (citations are unnecessary).
(taken from Understanding Symbolic Logic, 4th edition, by Virginia Klenk)