Loar’s Puzzle, Similarity, and Knowledge of Reference

Manuscrito 42 (2):1-45 (2019)
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In ‘The Semantics of Singular Terms’ (1976) Brian Loar proposed a famous case where a hearer seems to misunderstand an utterance even though he has correctly identified its referent. Loar’s case has been used to defend a model of communication where speaker and hearer must think of the referent in similar ways in order for communication to succeed. This ‘Similar Ways of Thinking’ (SW) theory is extremely popular, both in the literature on Loar cases and in other philosophical discussions. My goal is to offer a novel argument against this influential model of communication and propose an alternative picture. First, I show how a certain version of SW fails to solve Loar’s puzzle. Then I point at a more general problem with SW, arguing that no version of this model can account for Loar-style cases without making the conditions for communication too strict. I then propose an alternative account of Loar cases, analyzing them as cases of luck where the hearer does not know that she has identified the referent correctly. I conclude by contrasting my view with other existing accounts of Loar cases.



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Andrea Onofri
Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí

Citations of this work

Private Investigators and Public Speakers.Alexander Sandgren - 2023 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 9 (1):95-113.
Luck and the Value of Communication.Megan Hyska - 2023 - Synthese 201 (96):1-19.

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References found in this work

The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Individualism and the mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
The components of content.David Chalmers - 2002 - In David J. Chalmers (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Oxford University Press.

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