An inconsistency in direct reference theory

Journal of Philosophy 101 (11):574 - 593 (2004)
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Abstract

Direct reference theory faces serious prima facie counterexamples which must be explained away (e.g., that it is possible to know a priori that Hesperus = Phosphorus). This is done by means of various forms of pragmatic explanation. But when those explanations that provisionally succeed are generalized to deal with analogous prima facie counterexamples concerning the identity of propositions, a fatal dilemma results. Either identity must be treated as a four-place relation (contradicting what just about everyone, including direct reference theorists, takes to be essential to identity). Or direct reference theorists must incorporate a view that was rejected in pretty much our first lesson about identity—namely, that Hesperus at twilight is not identical to Hesperus at dawn. One way of the other, the direct reference theory is thus inconsistent with basic principles concerning the logic of identity, which nearly everyone, including direct reference theorists, take as starting points.

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George Bealer
Yale University

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