By Yves Bonnefoy

Le rêve dont s'occupe l. a. pensée freudienne, le rêve qui se forme dans le sommeil, est provoqué par des désirs que l'être conscient ne s'avoue pas [...]. Il n'en va pas ainsi dans l. a. sorte d'imagination que je me suggest d'étudier.[...]Ce que j'appellerai l'imaginaire métaphysique est un ensemble de récits que l'on se fait, de mythes auxquels on tente de donner foi, sur un arrière-plan de figures jugées divines ou dotées sans qu'on en prenne judgment of right and wrong de caractéristiques qui sont le fait du divin.[...]L'imaginaire métaphysique a pris souvent l'Occident dans les griffes de ses chimères, mais ces rêves d'excarnation n'ont fait que dévitaliser dans leurs dévots leur capacité de chercher dans le lieu même où ils vivent los angeles vraie vérité, le vrai bien.[...]Je voudrais bien, quant à moi, comprendre ce qui a lieu quand j'écris avec le souci du poème. Comprendre, je l'ai toujours désiré, je le désire plus que jamais, et c'est pourquoi je me suis livré aux diverses enquêtes que l'on trouvera dans ce livre.

Y. B.

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My choosing to discuss Russell before Frege calls for some comment. Chronologically, most of Frege’s work, and certainly the sense/reference distinction, were complete before Russell ever came onto the scene, so discussing Frege first would seem to be the natural way to proceed. However, Frege worked in relative isolation, and his work became known to Russell, at least in any detail, only after Russell had completed his Principles—which is why Frege is dealt with there only in an appendix. Russell would be the first to admit that Frege had anticipated many of his discoveries, but by historical accident this came to his notice too late for it to have influenced him.

It concerns, rather, the theory’s context, its author’s rationale of putting it forth; we might even say, the theory’s whole point. Roughly a century after they were first introduced, Russell’s theory of descriptions and Frege’s distinction between sense and reference remain unequalled paradigms in the philosophy of language and philosophical logic; and in view of the extensive secondary literature regarding them, any claim to having something new to say about them is bound to sound suspect. However, if understanding a philosophical theory requires understanding why it was called for, and this, in turn, is only possible when it is known what exactly was wrong with the earlier view, then something substantial is lacking in our understanding of these theories.

It is tempting at this point to switch to other reasons which might have been Russell’s, or to explaining why we should prefer the theory of descriptions to Russell’s former theory. But the question at stake is why Russell should have preferred it—answering which requires quite a different set of resources. 4 Since I was not inclined to believe that Russell, at the height of his powers, was such a fool, or that the theory of descriptions might be a discovery one could stumble upon by accident, I set out to find a better answer.

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