The question of the role of theory in the determination of reference of theoretical terms continues to be a controversial one. In the present paper I assess a number of responses to this question (including variations on David Lewis’s appeal to Ramsification), before describing an alternative, epistemically oriented account of the reference-determination of such terms. The paper concludes by discussing some implications of the account for our understanding of both realism and such competitors of realism as constructive empiricism.
This article argues for a certain picture of the rational formation of conditional intentions, in particular deterrent intentions, that stands in sharp contrast to accounts on which rational agents are often not able to form such intentions because of what these enjoin should their conditions be realized. By considering the case of worthwhile but hard-to-form deterrent intentions (the threat to leave a cheating partner, say), the article argues that rational agents may be able to form such intentions by first simulating (...) psychological states in which they have successfully formed them and then bootstrapping themselves into actually forming them. The article also discusses certain limits imposed by this model. In particular, given the special nature of deterrent intentions (e.g. the ones supposedly involved in nuclear deterrence), there is good reason to think that these must remain inaccessible to fully rational and moral agents. (shrink)
In Reference without Referents, Mark Sainsbury aims to provide an account of reference that honours the common-sense view that sentences containing empty names like "Vulcan" and "Santa Claus" are entirely intelligible, and that many such sentences -"Vulcan doesn't exist", "Many children believe that Santa Claus will give them presents at Christmas", etc.- are literally true. Sainsbury's account endorses the Davidsonian program in the theory of meaning, and combines this with a commitment to Negative Free Logic, which holds that all simple (...) sentences containing empty names are false. In this critical review, we pose a number of problems for this account. In particular, we question the ability of Negative Free Logic to make appropriate sense of the truth of familiar sentences containing empty names, including negative existential claims like "Vulcan doesn't exist". /// En Reference without Referents, Mark Sainsbury se propone ofrecer una explicación de la referencia que respete la idea de sentido común de que las oraciones con nombres vacíos como "Vulcano" y "Santa Claus" son completamente inteligibles, y que muchas de oraciones de este tipo -"Vulcano no existe", "Muchos niños creen que Santa Claus les traerá regalos en Navidad", y demás- son literalmente verdaderas. La propuesta de Sainsbury se inscribe dentro del programa davidsoniano en teoría del significado, y combina éste con un compromiso con la Lógica Libre Negativa, según la cual todas las oraciones simples que contienen nombres vacíos son falsas. En este estudio crítico, presentamos varios problemas de esta explicación. En particular, ponemos en duda la habilidad de la Lógica Libre Negativa de entender de manera apropiada la verdad de oraciones conocidas que contienen nombres vacíos, incluidas negaciones de existencia como "Vulcano no existe". (shrink)
Contrary to frequent declarations that descriptivism as a theory of how names refer is dead and gone, such a descriptivism is, to all appear- ances, alive and well. Or rather, a descendent of that doctrine is alive and well. This new version—neo- descriptivism , for short—is suppos- ..
Mill is a detractor of the view that proper names have meanings, defending in its place the view that names are nothing more than (meaningless) marks. Because of this, Mill is often regarded as someone who anticipated the theory of direct reference for names: the view that the only contribution a name makes to propositions expressed through its use is the name's referent. In this paper I argue that the association is unfair. With some gentle interpretation, Mill can be portrayed (...) as someone who is a Millian in the sense he most cares about (names are meaningless marks) but a descriptivist in so far as he takes the determinants of reference to be properties in the possession of speakers. I contend that this view is not only one that Mill comes close to holding, but, in light of the reasons that (nearly) led him to such a view, one that is worth taking seriously on its own terms. (shrink)
In his 'Why We Need A-Intensions', Frank Jackson argues that "representational content [is] how things are represented to be by a sentence in the communicative role it possesses in virtue of what it means," a type of content Jackson takes to be broadly descriptive. I think Jackson overstates his case. Even if we agree that such representational properties play a crucial reference-fixing role, it is much harder to argue the case for a crucial communicative role. I articulate my doubts about (...) Jackson's views on this point by contrasting them with the views of John Stuart Mill, usually regarded as an early believer in something like a direct reference account of content for names, but someone who, on my reading, teaches us a salutary lesson about the importance of separating the question of how reference is determined from the question of how we succeed in communicating. (shrink)
Identity claims often look nonsensical because they apparently declaredistinct things to be identical. I argue that this appearance is notjust an artefact of grammar. We should be fictionalists about such claims,seeing them against the background of speakers' pretense that their wordssecure reference to a plurality of objects that are then declared to beidentical from within the pretense. I argue that it is the resultinginterpretative tension – arising from the fact that two things cannever be identical – that allows us to (...) understand the real point ofsuch statements. This view also offers a new solution to Fege's puzzleof the informativeness of identity statements. (shrink)
This paper begins with a puzzle about certain temporal expressions: phrases like 'Jones as he was ten years ago' and 'the Jones of ten years ago'. There are reasons to take these as substantival, to be interpreted as terms for temporal parts. But it seems that the same reifying strategy would also force us to countenance a host of less attractive posits, among them fictional counterparts of real things (to correspond to such phrases as 'Garrison as he was in the (...) movie JFK') and much more. I argue that there is a better way: we need only the idea of pretense or make-believe to make sense of claims embedding such phrases, leaving us with no reason, so far, to accept an ontology of temporal parts. (shrink)
Consider predicates like 'is a fictional character' and 'is a mythical object'. Since their ascription entails a corresponding Negative Existential claim, call these 'NE-characterizing predicates'. Objectualists such as Parsons, Sylvan, van Inwagen, and Zalta think that NE-characterizing properties are genuine properties of genuinely non-existent objects. But how, then, to make room for statements like 'Vulcan is a failed posit' and 'that little green man is a trick of the light'? The predicates involved seem equally NE-characterizing yet on the surface fail (...) to mark a genuine property o f things. Instead, the truth of such predications strongly supervenes on types of referential failure. Kendall Walton's anti-objectualist account of talk about fiction provides a neat solution to this supervenience problem by invoking special games of make-believe. The present paper claims that while Walton's view thereby gains an important advantage over objectualism, the solution faces problems of its own. The rest of the paper desribes another solution, one that assigns a large role to the idea of metaphor. (shrink)
This paper provides a new solution to the epistemic paradox of belief-instability, a problem of rational choice which has recently received considerable attention (versions of the problem have been discussed by — among others — Tyler Burge, Earl Conee, and Roy Sorensen). The problem involves an ideally rational agent who has good reason to believe the truth of something of the form:[Ap] p if and only if it is not the case that I accept or believe p.
In this paper I argue against the usual interpretation of\nMeinong's argument for nonexistent objects, an\ninterpretation according to which Meinong imported\nnonexistent objects like "the golden mountain" to account\ndirectly for the truth of statements like the golden\nmountain is golden'. I claim instead (using evidence from\nMeinong's "On Assumptions") that his argument really\ninvolves an ineliminable appeal to the notion of pretense.\nThis appeal nearly convinced Meinong at one stage that he\ncould do without nonexistent objects. The reason, I argue,\nwhy he nonetheless embraced an ontology of nonexistents (...) has\nto do with the phenomenology of representation, and not\nwith semantics. (shrink)
It is sometimes claimed that kripke's work in "naming and necessity" has demonstrated that kant was "right" in his acceptance of the synthetic "a priori", Even though perhaps "wrong" in his choice of examples. This article disputes such a claim by showing that, In accepting the identification of the empirically necessary and the "a priori", Kant's position is incompatible with an acceptance of the kripkean synthetic "a priori" (as well as the kripkean necessary "a posteriori").