A neo-Husserlian theory of speaker's reference

Erkenntnis 54 (3):277-297 (2001)
Abstract
It is not well known that in his Göttingen period (1900–1916) Edmund Husserl developed a kind of direct reference theory, anticipating,among other things, the distinction between referential and attributive use of adefinite description, which was rediscovered by Keith Donnellan in 1966 and further analysed by Saul Kripke in 1977. This paper defends the claim that Husserl''s idea of the mental act given voice to in an utterance sheds new light on that distinction and particularly on cases where semantic referent and speaker''s referent diverge. It is argued that whenembedded in a dynamic theory of intentionality, the idea of giving-voice-to allows for a pragmatic (as opposed to a purely semantic) analysis of such cases. In Section 1 an example involving a referentially used description is presented, and the view that descriptions that can be used both attributively and referentially are thus ambiguous is criticized. Section 2 is concerned with Husserl''s discussion of a case where someone seems to demonstratively refer to something that he mistakes for something else. On thebasis of this discussion, a dynamic conception of the intentional content (and referent) of the mental act given voice to in an utterance is developed. Section 3 applies this neo-Husserlian conception to the example described in Section 1. Finally, it is shown how this conception serves to elucidate the referential/attributive distinction.
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