Reference and Indexicality

Dissertation, City University of New York (1994)

Gary Ostertag
CUNY Graduate Center
The dissertation attempts to provide a treatment of belief reports and definite descriptions consistent with a directly referential semantic theory. By the latter I mean a theory according to which that-clauses are singular terms that have as their referents structured propositions. Part I defends the claim that belief reports, sentences of the form 'A believes that S', make explicit reference to a proposition and implicit, context-sensitive reference to the manner in which the subject represents the ascribed proposition. A problem is developed for this view, namely, that the context cannot plausibly be held to guarantee a unique reference to the subject's internal representation. Four strategies of response are developed. Part II proposes, but ultimately rejects, a treatment of definite descriptions according to which incomplete definite descriptions are completed by contextually salient descriptions--that they make implicit, context-sensitive reference to such completions. Instead, a directly referential interpretation of definition descriptions is defended. It is argued that the assumption of the referential theory is compatible with the Russellian use of descriptions, but that the alternative assumption of the Russellian view is not compatible with certain referential uses of definite descriptions
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