Dissertation, University of Michigan (1990)

Anne Louise Bezuidenhout
University of South Carolina
An initial distinction is made between two ways of referring in thought to a particular object. One can think of an object in virtue of having a descriptive condition in mind which uniquely denotes that object. Alternatively, one can think about a particular in a more direct way. It is with the nature of this more direct sort of reference that the subsequent discussion is primarily concerned. ;It has been argued that the relation of direct reference is purely causal in nature. A number of difficulties are raised for this causal view. A diagnosis of these difficulties suggests that the causal view ignores the cognitive aspects of direct reference. ;The idea that direct reference is a cognitive relation is not new. Bertrand Russell's notion of knowledge by acquaintance can be thought of as involving the idea of a relation of reference which is direct and cognitive. A good place to begin an exploration of the cognitive dimensions of direct reference is with Russell's notion of acquaintance. Thus this notion is analysed in some depth. ;An objection to the effect that acquaintance is a relation incapable in principle of playing a role in an account of reference is shown to be unfounded. This clears the way for an extended discussion of the nature of acquaintance. This discussion suggests that we should posit a special demonstrative way in which objects can be presented to us. This demonstrative way of being presented with an object is in turn explored by way of an extended metaphor, in which it is suggested that becoming acquainted with an object should be thought of as the opening of a mental file of a special sort for that object. ;Some indirect support for this account of demonstrative modes of presentation and the associated account of direct reference comes from the fact that these notions can help solve the problem of cognitive significance that has been thought to pose a serious threat to theories that somehow treat reference as direct. ;Finally, some potential counterexamples are examined and shown not to seriously threaten the acquaintance theory of direct reference
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