|Abstract||This is a welcome opportunity to clarify my approach to referential uses of definite descriptions, as well as to highlight what I take to be the main shortcomings of the view that definite descriptions have referential meanings. Michael Devitt and I have previously debated referential uses in the course of stating our respective views (see our 2004 articles), but here in this issue we both aim to dispel certain misunderstandings and to sharpen our criticisms of the other’s views.1 Devitt recognizes that it was not enough to target the view that referential uses are akin to particularized conversational implicatures. So now he focuses on the view that they are akin to generalized conversational implicatures (GCIs). He argues that although in principle the GGI model could explain referential uses, it does not in fact provide the best explanation of them. He insists that the fact that definite descriptions are standardized for being used referentially is best explained on the supposition that, as a matter of semantic convention, they have referential meanings, in addition to the quantificational meanings given by Russell’s theory of descriptions. He acknowledges that this commits him to the view that the word ‘the’ is semantically ambiguous. Accordingly, recognizing a use as referential (or as attributive, for that matter) is not like recognizing a GCI but is more akin to, indeed is a case of, disambiguation. Devitt devotes a good part of his article to rebutting my account of referential uses. He challenges the GCI model and identifies a number of difficulties with my view, which he construes as based on that model. However, my account does not rely on that model. I do say that referential uses are “akin” to GCIs, but I did not mean that they are, or involve, GCI. All I meant was that they too are cases of standardized uses, as opposed to..|
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