The Mechanism of Reference

Colin McGinn

in Knowledge and Reality

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780199251582
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598012 | DOI:
 The Mechanism of Reference

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McGinn's aim is two‐fold: to undermine both descriptive and causal theories of reference, and to argue for his preferred, ‘contextual’ theory of reference. McGinn is moved to this position by emphasizing indexicals—which he takes to be the primary referential devices—rather than proper names. Linguistic reference, for McGinn, is a conventional activity governed by rules that prescribe the spatio‐temporal conditions of correct use; the semantic referent of a speaker's term is given by combining its linguistic meaning with the spatio‐temporal context in which the speaker is located. McGinn concludes his defence of this theory by demonstrating the plausibility of its implications for such topics as abstract objects, self‐reference, attribution, the language of thought hypothesis, truth, and the reducibility of reference.

Keywords: abstract objects; attribution; causal theory of reference; description theory; Donnellan; indexicals; Kaplan; Kripke; language of thought; meaning; self‐reference; semantics; truth

Chapter.  13919 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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