Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (1):68 – 77 (1983)

Michael Losonsky
Colorado State University
A theory of reference for proper names according to which reference is fixed solely in terms of the contents of language users' minds is an idealist theory. A theory of reference for proper names in which reference is fixed not in terms of the contents of language users' minds, but in terms of causal chains connecting users to referents is a materialist theory. A dualist theory is one in which reference is fixed both by the contents of minds and causal chains. The main reason materialists and dualists have for rejecting an idealist account of reference for proper names is that it supposedly cannot deal with certain facts of reference. These facts of reference, pointed out by Keith Donnellan and Saul Kripke, are cases in which a name's user appears to associate beliefs or intentions with a name whose contents are either false of the referent or too meagre to identify it, but nevertheless the name succeeds in referring to its referent. In addition to telling a tale about a cataclysm that attempts to motivate an idealist account of reference, in this paper I will show that an idealist can handle these facts of reference. In the problematic cases the idealist can very well point to a content of the mind that identifies the referent: the referent's individual essence.
Keywords Causal theory of reference  Proper names  Individual essences
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DOI 10.1080/00048408312349881
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