The primary goal of this paper is to critically evaluate the notion that the rejection of an individualist or internalist approach to reference1 entails a weak sufficient condition for singular thought—for example, that hearing someone use the name ‘Feynman’ is sufficient to enable one to entertain a singular thought about Feynman, regardless how little one knows about Feynman. This notion is espoused, implicitly or explicitly, by at least Bach (1987, 2004), Boer and Lycan (1986), Devitt (1981, 2001), Jeshion (2002), Rozemond (...) (1993), Salmon (1989, 2004), Soames (1989, 2002), Thau (2002), and Wettstein (1986, 2003). I will call the notion ‘Millian externalism’ (though there clearly are, otherwise, significant differences amongst this list of proponents). A striking recent example is Salmon’s (2004: 254) claim that “looking at a new class-enrolment list” suffices to enable singular thoughts about previously unfamiliar enrollees. In §1, I situate Millian externalism within its historical and conceptual context. In §§ 2-3, I investigate some arguments for and against Millian externalism, and discuss some related general theoretical questions. (shrink)
A ‘multiple-proposition (MP) phenomenon’ is a putative counterexample to the widespread implicit assumption that a simple indicative sentence (relative to a context of utterance) semantically expresses at most one proposition. Several philosophers and linguists (including Stephen Neale and Chris Potts) have recently developed hypotheses concerning this notion. The guiding questions motivating this research are: (1) Is there an interesting and homogenous semantic category of MP phenomena? (2) If so, what is the import? Do MP theories have any relevance to important (...) current questions in the study of language? I motivate an affirmative answer to (1), and then argue that MP theorizing is quite relevant to debates at the semantics/pragmatics interface. (shrink)
Two distinctions within the category of designators -- Further defining the central theses -- Structure and rigidity -- Structure and naming -- Interlude: interim review and a look ahead -- Referential uses of denoting expressions -- Complex referring expressions -- Summary, overview, and general morals.
Following Neale, I call the notion that there can be no such thing as a structured referring expression ‘structure skepticism’. The specific aim of this paper is to defuse some putative counterexamples to structure skepticism. The general aim is to bolster the case in favor of the thesis that lack of structure—in a sense to be made precise—is essential to reference.
In recent work on a priori justification, one thing about which there is considerable agreement is that the notion of truth in virtue of meaning is bankrupt and infertile. (For the sake of more readable prose, I will use ‘TVM’ as an abbreviation for ‘the notion of truth in virtue of meaning’.) Arguments against the worth of TVM can be found across the entire spectrum of views on the a priori, in the work of uncompromising rationalists (such as BonJour (1998)), (...) of centrist moderates (such as Boghossian (1997)), and of uncompromising empiricists (such as Devitt (2004)). My aim is to dispute this widespread opinion. The outline is as follows: First, §§2-3 consist of preliminary stage-setting. Then, in §4 I will argue that some of the most prevalent arguments against the worth of TVM – in particular, one which is given clear expression by Quine (1970), and is recently reinforced by Boghossian (1997) – do not engage with the core idea motivating TVM. After deflecting this charge of incoherence, the aim of §§5-8 is to work toward developing a useful conception of TVM. (shrink)
There is a considerable sub-literature, stretching back over 35 years, addressed to the question: Precisely which general terms ought to be classified as rigid designators? More fundamentally: What should we take the criterion for rigidity to be, for general terms? The aim of this paper is to give new grounds for the old view that if a general term designates the same kind in all possible worlds, then it should be classified as a rigid designator. The new grounds in question (...) have to do with excavating the connection between rigid designation and semantic structure. Other original contributions of the present work consist in developing responses to some objections to this approach to rigid designation. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that questions about the semantics of rigid designation are commonly and illicitly run together with distinct issues, such as questions about the metaphysics of essence and questions about the theoretical legitimacy of the possible-worlds framework. I discuss in depth two case studies of this phenomenon – the first concerns the relation between rigid designation and reference, the second concerns the application of the notion of rigidity to general terms. I end by drawing out some conclusions (...) about the relations between rigid designation, semantic frameworks, reference, and essence. (shrink)
In several works, Frege argues that content is objective (i.e., thethoughts we entertain and communicate, and the senses of which theyare composed, are public, not private, property). There are, however,some remarks in the Fregean corpus that are in tension with this view.This paper is centered on an investigation of the most notorious andextreme such passage: the `Dr. Lauben example, from Frege (1918). Aprincipal aim is to attain more clarity on the evident tension withinFreges views on content, between this dominant objectivism (...) and someelements that seem to run counter to it, via developing an understandingof the `Dr. Lauben example. Then I will argue that this interpretation goes some way toward undermining some prevalent contemporary viewsabout language. Based on the advice of Dr. Lauben, I will argue againsta certain understanding of the causal-historical theory of reference –more specifically, of the phenomenon of deferential uses of linguisticexpressions – upon which these views are premised, and I will drawout some morals that pertain to individualism and competence. (shrink)
The core of the debate between Fregeans and Russellians in the philosophy of language concerns the content of object-dependent propositions, or how we ought to individuate and semantically represent the content of propositions that are about specific individuals. This essay is an investigation of the contemporary status of this debate. My aim is to show how the causal theorists' picture of reference determination entails the need for both Fregean and Russellian conceptions of propositional content in the study of mind and (...) language, and to investigate some of the consequences of this position. (shrink)
Rorty singles out Davidson as the champion of contemporary pragmatism. He calls himself a Davidsonian and argues that Davidson did for the study of language what Dewey did for epistemology. Davidson, however, rejects Rorty's characterization of him as a pragmatist. This paper is an investigation of the relationship between Davidson's thought and Rorty's pragmatism.