One of Russell’s arguments for his famous “theory of descriptions” has caused a century-long headache for his interpreters. This is the so-called ‘Gray’s Elegy’ argument, which occupies eight almost unfathomably obscure paragraphs of “On Denoting”. This argument attempts to motivate the theory of descriptions by exposing an incoherence Russell’s earlier views on the reference of ‘denoting phrases’. Proops argues that the key that unlocks this discussion is the little-appreciated fact that Russell is arguing against, not one, but two of his own earlier theories.

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