Reference Magnetism Does Not Exist

Erkenntnis:1-9 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In the last 35 years many philosophers have appealed to reference magnetism to explain how it is that we mean what we mean. The idea is that it is a constitutive principle of metasemantics that the interpretation that assigns the more natural meanings is correct, ceteris paribus. Among other things, magnetism has been used to answer the challenges of grue and quus, Quine’s indeterminacy of translation argument, and Putnam’s model-theoretic argument against realism. Critics of magnetism have usually objected to the base notion of naturalness. Here I assume naturalness for the sake of argument, but argue that even still, reference magnetism should be rejected. The supposed force of reference magnetism is arbitrarily weak, and the best explanation of this is that it simply does not exist.

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Jared Warren
Stanford University

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