Reference, knowledge, and scepticism about meaning

Sorites (19):1-18 (2007)
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Abstract

This paper explores the possibility of resisting meaning scepticism – the thesis that there are many alternative incompatible assignments of reference to each of our terms - by appealing to the idea that the nature of reference is to maximize knowledge. If the reference relation is a knowledge maximizing-relation, then some candidate referents are privileged among the others - i.e., those referents we are in a position to know about – and a positive reason against meaning scepticism is thus individuated. A knowledge-maximizing principle on the nature of reference was proposed by Williamson in a recent paper (Williamson 2005). According to Williamson, such a principle would count as a defeasible reason for thinking that most of our beliefs tend to be true. My paper reverses Williamson’s dialectic, and argues that reference is knowledge-maximizing from the premise that most of our beliefs tend to be true.

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Elisabetta Lalumera
University of Bologna

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