Reference

In Justin Sytsma & Wesley Buckwalter (eds.), A Companion to Experimental Philosophy. Malden, MA: Wiley. pp. 369–389 (2016)
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Abstract

This chapter summarizes much of the recent work in experimental philosophy. It begins with some background, introducing the philosophical dispute between descriptivists and causal‐historical accounts of reference that has served as the primary focus of experimental work. The chapter also reviews some reasons to think that understanding reference may have very general philosophical implications. It introduces preliminary experimental work on reference by Edouard Machery, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich, which suggested the existence of cultural diversity in judgments about the reference of proper names in a classic case. The chapter explains a range of responses to this work; responses that themselves advance and clarify the central issues at stake. The chapter briefly considers the related empirical research, some of it recent, some of it decades old, into the reference of kind terms rather than proper names. Finally, the chapter summarizes by considering the payoffs of this literature.

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Author Profiles

Mike Dacey
Bates College
Ron Mallon
Washington University in St. Louis

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