Realism bit by bit: Part II. disjunctive partial reference

In this second paper, I continue my discussion of the problem of reference for scientific realism. First, I consider a final objection to Kitcher's account of reference, which I generalise to other accounts of reference. Such accounts make attributions of reference by appeal to our pretheoretical intuitions about how true statements ought to be distibuted among the scientific utterances of the past. I argue that in the cases that merit discussion, this strategy fails because our intuitions are unstable. The interesting cases are importantly borderline--it really isn't clear what we ought to say about how those terms referred. I conclude that in many relevant cases, our grounds for thinking that the theoretical terms of the past referred are matched by our grounds for thinking that they failed to refer, in such a way that deciding on either result is arbitrary and bad news for the realist. In response to this problem, in the second part of the paper I expand upon Field's (1973) account of partial reference to sketch a new way of thinking about the theoretical terms of the past--that they partially referred and partially failed to refer.
Keywords Scientific realism, Reference, Partial denotation, Theoretical terms, Philip Kitcher, Hartry Field
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2005.07.010
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References found in this work BETA
Frederick W. Kroon (1987). Causal Descriptivism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 65 (1):1 – 17.

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Citations of this work BETA
Anders Landig (2014). Partial Reference, Scientific Realism and Possible Worlds. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 47:1-9.
Arash Pessian (2010). Reference to the Best Explanation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (4):363-374.

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