The Essence of Reference

R. M. Sainsbury

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552238
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Essence of Reference


People use words and concepts to refer to things. There are agents who refer, there are acts of referring, and there are tools to refer with: words and concepts. Reference is a relation between people and things, and also between words or concepts and things, and perhaps it involves all three things at once. It is not just any relation between an action or word and a thing; the list of things which can refer, people, words and concepts, is probably not complete (scenes in more recent movies can refer to scenes in less recent movies); and a complete account would need to speak of cases in which the reference relation seems to involve three terms in a different way from the one already mentioned. In the philosophy of language, it has been customary to think of reference as a two-place relation, with some object as the second term and a word or phrase as the first.

Keywords: acts of referring; words; concepts; philosophy of language; two-place relation; people and things

Article.  14863 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language

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