Mental Files and Non-Transitive De Jure Coreference
Among other virtues, Mental Files Theory provides a straightforward explanation of de jure coreference, i.e. identity of referent guaranteed by meaning alone: de jure coreference holds between terms when these are associated with the same mental file from which they inherit their reference. In this paper, I discuss an objection that Angel Pinillos raises against Mental Files Theory and other similar theories: the theory predicts that de jure coreference should be transitive, just like identity. Yet there are cases, involving ‘slash-terms’, in which transitivity fails, or so it seems. In his book Mental Files, Recanati replies that the mental files theorist can accommodate Pinillos’ exceptions by offering a refined model of merging files, the ‘partial merging’ model. While agreeing with Recanati on the need for such a model, I contend that, pace Recanati and Pinillos, de jure coreference is transitive even in the presence of slash-terms. I will first show that paradoxical consequences ensue if slash-terms are said to de jure corefer with several basic terms at once. Then, building on two different accounts Recanati gives of referential confusion, I will show that on both views, de jure coreference cannot hold because of the behaviour of confused slash-terms. I will conclude that, in Mental Files Theory, a slash-term can, at most, de jure corefer with only one basic term per context.
KeywordsBasic Term Mental File Semantic Fact Competent Speaker Dominance Rule
Previous drafts of this article were presented at the International Workshop Research(es) in Epistemology, Lisbon 19th-20th May 2011, and at the session of Journées du Répertoire dedicated to the work of François Recanati, Paris 6th March 2013. I thank participants for helpful discussions and comments, especially Manuel Garcὶa-Carpintero, Franck Lihoreau, Pascal Ludwig, Michael Murez, François Recanati and Sonia Roca-Royes. Thanks also to two anonymous referees for valuable feedback, and to Vicki Velsor and Maud Le Garzic for their proofreading of the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
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