The anti-individualist revolution in the philosophy of language

Linguistics and Philosophy 37 (2):91-120 (2014)

Authors
Gregory Bochner
University of Fribourg
Abstract
The canonical arguments against the description theory of names are usually taken to have established that the reference of a name as used on a given occasion is not semantically determined by the qualitative descriptions that the speaker may have in mind. The deepest moral of these arguments, on the received view, would be that the speaker’s narrow mental states play no semantic role in fixing reference. My central aim in this paper is to challenge this common understanding by highlighting that the same argumentative schemas can be adapted to undermine a related non-description theory, according to which the reference of a name as used on a given occasion would semantically depend on broad mental states of the speaker. Once this is realised, it becomes evident that the falsity of the description theory is not the deepest lesson of the canonical arguments, but only a consequence of the deepest lesson. The most fundamental moral is that the speaker’s mental states, whether narrow or broad, do not always determine linguistic reference.
Keywords Names  Meaning  Content  Reference  Individualism  Externalism
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DOI 10.1007/s10988-014-9147-7
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