Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 213–230 | Cite as

Reference in the Land of the Rising Sun: A Cross-cultural Study on the Reference of Proper Names

  • Justin Sytsma
  • Jonathan Livengood
  • Ryoji Sato
  • Mineki Oguchi


A standard methodology in philosophy of language is to use intuitions as evidence. Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich (2004) challenged this methodology with respect to theories of reference by presenting empirical evidence that intuitions about one prominent example from the literature on the reference of proper names (Kripke’s Gödel case) vary between Westerners and East Asians. In response, Sytsma and Livengood (2011) conducted experiments to show that the questions Machery and colleagues asked participants in their study were ambiguous, and that this ambiguity affected the responses given by Westerners. Sytsma and Livengood took their results to cast doubt on the claim that the current evidence indicates that there is cross-cultural variation in intuitions about the Gödel case. In this paper we report on a new cross-cultural study showing that variation in intuitions remains even after controlling for the ambiguity noted by Sytsma and Livengood.


Standard Methodology Original Probe American Participant Answer Choice Probe Question 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alexander, J., R. Mallon, and J. Weinberg. 2010. Accentuate the negative. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1(2): 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cullen, S. 2010. Survey-driven romanticism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1(2): 275–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Deutsch, M. 2009. Experimental philosophy and the theory of reference. Mind & Language 24(4): 445–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Devitt, M. 2011. Experimental semantics. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82(2): 418–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Devitt, M. 2012a. Whither experimental semantics? Theoria 27(1): 37–54.Google Scholar
  6. Devitt, M. 2012b. Semantic epistemology: response to Machery. Theoria 27(2): 229–233.Google Scholar
  7. Ichikawa, J., I. Maitra, and B. Weatherson. 2012. Defense of a Kripkean dogma. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85(1): 56–68.Google Scholar
  8. Kripke, S. 1972. Naming and necessity. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lam, B. 2010. Are Cantonese speakers really descriptivists? revisiting cross-cultural semantics. Cognition 115(2): 320–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ludwig, K. 2007. The epistemology of thought experiments: first person versus third person approaches. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 31: 128–159.Google Scholar
  11. Machery, E. 2012a. Expertise and intuitions about reference. Theoria 27(1): 37–54.Google Scholar
  12. Machery, E. 2012b. Semantic epistemology: a brief response to Devitt. Theoria 27(2): 223–227.Google Scholar
  13. Machery, E., R. Mallon, S. Nichols, and S. Stich. 2004. Semantics, cross-cultural style. Cognition 92: B1–B12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Machery, E., C. Olivola, and M. de Blanc. 2009. Linguistic and metalinguistic intuitions in the philosophy of language. Analysis 69(4): 689–694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Machery, E., M. Deutsch, R. Mallon, S. Nichols, J. Sytsma, and S. Stich. 2010. Semantic intuitions: reply to Lam. Cognition 117(3): 361–366.Google Scholar
  16. Machery, E., J. Sytsma, and M. Deutsch (forthcoming). “Speaker’s Reference and Cross-Cultural Semantics,” in A. Bianchi (Ed.), On Reference. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Machery, E., R. Mallon, S. Nichols, and S. Stich 2013. “If Folk Intuitions Vary, Then What?” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86(3): 618–635.Google Scholar
  18. Martí, G. 2009. Against semantic multiculteralism. Analysis 69(1): 42–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Motulsky, H. 2010. Intuitive biostatistics, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Nisbett, R., K. Peng, I. Choi, and A. Norenzayan. 2001. Culture and systems of thought: holistic versus analytic cognition. Psychological Review 108: 291–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Russell, B. 1905. On denoting. Mind 14: 479–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Russell, B. 1919. Knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description, in Mysticism and logic: London: George Allen and Unwin, 1917.Google Scholar
  23. Sytsma, J., and J. Livengood. 2011. A new perspective concerning experiments on semantic intuitions. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89: 315–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin Sytsma
    • 1
  • Jonathan Livengood
    • 2
  • Ryoji Sato
    • 3
  • Mineki Oguchi
    • 4
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of IllinoisUrbana-ChampaignUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Brain Science InstituteTamagawa UniversityTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations