Intuitions on Semantic Reference

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 13 (3):755-778 (2022)
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Abstract

Since Machery et al. _Cognition_ 92, B1-B12 ( 2004 ) attacked Kripke’s refutation of classical descriptivism, their experiment has been repeated several times, in its original version or in some revised ones, by theorists with contrasting intents. Some repeated the experiment for confirming its results, others for proving them unreliable. One striking characteristic of those surveys is that they mostly replicated the data collected in Machery et al.’s _Cognition_ 92, B1-B12, 2004 experiment: less than 60% of Westerners showed preference for the causal-historical response. We side with the critics of Machery et al.’s experiment. In this paper, we present the results of a survey that tests some hypotheses for explaining that percentage of Westerners’ preferences without taking it as evidence that more than 40% of Westerners have descriptivist intuitions on semantic reference. The aim of our paper is not merely to question the reliability of Machery et al.’s experiment. In sections 4 and 5 we assess the impact of our survey on the current debate in experimental semantics. We provide a novel account of the nature of the epistemic ambiguity that affects experiments in theory of reference and explain the consequences that our account of the epistemic ambiguity has for subsequent works trying to avoid ambiguities.

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References found in this work

Philosophy Without Intuitions.Herman Cappelen - 2012 - Oxford University Press UK.
Naming and Necessity.S. Kripke - 1972 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 45 (4):665-666.
Reference and definite descriptions.Keith S. Donnellan - 1966 - Philosophical Review 75 (3):281-304.
Naming and Necessity.Saul A. Kripke - 1980 - Philosophy 56 (217):431-433.
On referring.Peter F. Strawson - 1950 - Mind 59 (235):320-344.

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