Critical notice of: François Recanati, direct reference (oxford:Blackwell, 1993)
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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European Review of Philosophy 2:175-184 (1997)
Everything you wanted to know about direct reference and always dared to ask is contained in Recanati's new book, which is not only a comprehensive survey on the received doctrine but also an original attempt to find a new way out of the many puzzles which surround the "new theory of reference" (in H. Wettstein's words) since its origins. Principles and conceptions are indeed acutely specified and Recanati's own theses are argued for in a very subtle and rigorous way. One cannot leave the volume without the impression that his understanding of the subject has been radically deepened and enlightened. A thorough analysis of such a detailed work would probably need a paper as long as the volume itself. Thus, I will limit myself to reconstruct three general aims of the book and to discuss some of the issues they raise. These aims are: i) to find a new criterion for the referentiality of directly referential terms (from now on, DR terms); ii) to develop a multi-layered pragmatics which allows one to deal pragmatically with what has been hitherto considered as belonging to a semantic layer only; iii) to put forward a truth-conditional pragmatic analysis of belief reports which accounts for the semantic import of the non truth-conditional thought underlying a linguistic utterance. Let me deal with i) first. Recanati puts forward a criterion of referentiality which in his mind allows one to tell de jure rigid designators (names, indexicals: what we have above labeled DR terms) from de facto ones (definite descriptions such as "the cube root of 27"). The former, not the latter, directly designate their referent since they are type-referential. He defines type-referentiality as follows: A term is (type)-referential if and only if its linguistic meaning includes a feature, call it 'REF', by virtue of which it indicates that the truth-condition ... of the utterance where it occurs is singular. (p.17) Suppose we take the following two utterances, "3 is odd" and "The cube root of 27 is odd", where the former contains a de jure, the latter a de facto, rigid designator. Although both utterances have singular truth-conditions, let us say are associated with a singular proposition to the effect that the number 3 is odd, the former, but not the latter, presents itself as true iff 3 is odd, i.e..
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