Arguments from reference and the worry about dependence

In Peter A. French & Howard K. Wettstein (eds.), Philosophy and the Empirical. Blackwell Pub. Inc.. 160-183 (2007)
Abstract
This paper raises concern with the use of theories of reference in philosophical discourse and then to consider the possibility of empirically validating this concern by reference to a novel sort of “quantitative” empirical approach suggested recently by Shaun Nichols (forthcoming). The concern is whether the particular theories of reference or reference relations employed in particular philosophical discussions are actually chosen with a view to entailing or accommodating a desired philosophical outcome. I argue that such dependent selections of assumptions about reference give us little reason to think the assumptions are true. I go on to argue that if we became convinced that such assumptions really are chosen simply to ensure a desired outcome, it would give us reason for skepticism about arguments from reference since it would undermine our sense that such arguments tracked any independent truth about the reference of our words or concepts.
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