Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 91–120 | Cite as

The anti-individualist revolution in the philosophy of language

Research Article

Abstract

The canonical arguments against the description theory of names are usually taken to have established that the reference of a name as used on a given occasion is not semantically determined by the qualitative descriptions that the speaker may have in mind. The deepest moral of these arguments, on the received view, would be that the speaker’s narrow mental states play no semantic role in fixing reference. My central aim in this paper is to challenge this common understanding by highlighting that the same argumentative schemas can be adapted to undermine a related non-description theory, according to which the reference of a name as used on a given occasion would semantically depend on broad mental states of the speaker. Once this is realised, it becomes evident that the falsity of the description theory is not the deepest lesson of the canonical arguments, but only a consequence of the deepest lesson. The most fundamental moral is that the speaker’s mental states, whether narrow or broad, do not always determine linguistic reference.

Keywords

Names Meaning Content Reference Individualism Externalism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Centre de Linguistique, Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres - Langues et Littératures, Linguistics DepartmentUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Foresteria Collegio dei FiamminghiBolognaItaly

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