The problem of reference to nonexistents in Cocchiarella's conceptual realism

Axiomathes 19 (2):155-166 (2009)
This article is a critical review of Cocchiarella’s theory of reference. In conceptual realism, there are two central distinctions regarding reference: first, between active and deactivated use of referential expressions, and, second, between using referential expressions with and without existential presupposition. Cocchiarella’s normative restrictions on the existential presuppositions of reference lead to postulating two fundamentally different kinds of objects in conceptual realism: realia or concrete objects, on the one hand, and abstract intensional objects or nonexistents, on the other. According to Cocchiarella, nonexistents can be referred to only without existential presuppositions. However, referring to nonexistents with existential presuppositions is an ordinary human practice. To account for this fact, Cocchiarella’s normative theory of reference should be supplemented by a descriptive account of referring.
Keywords Formal ontology  Ontology  Conceptual realism  Conceptualism  Reference  Nonexistent objects  Abstract objects  Fictional objects  Intentionality
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