Reference and Description

Scott Soames

in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199234769
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


 Reference and Description

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The modern discussion of reference begins with a revolt, led by Saul Kripke, against theories of the meaning and reference of proper names inspired by Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell. In ‘Naming and Necessity’ (1980) Kripke attacked both the view that the meanings (semantic contents) of names are given by descriptions associated with them by speakers, and the view that their referents are determined (as a matter of linguistic rule) to be the objects that satisfy such descriptions. The view about reference is taken to follow from the view about meaning, but not vice versa. Thus, all of Kripke's arguments against descriptive theories of reference are also arguments against descriptive theories of meaning, but some arguments against the latter do not apply to the former.

Keywords: Saul Kripke; Bertrand Russell; semantic contents; linguistic rule; theories of reference; descriptive theories

Article.  13862 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language

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