Semantics through Reference to the Unknown

Croatian Journal of Philosophy 16 (3):381-392 (2016)
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In this paper, I dwell on a particular distinction introduced by Ilhan Inan—the distinction between ostensible and inostensible use of our language. The distinction applies to singular terms, such as proper names and definite descriptions, or to general terms like concepts and to the ways in which we refer to objects in the world by using such terms. Inan introduces the distinction primarily as an epistemic one but in his earlier writings (1997: 49) he leaves some room for it to have some semantic significance i.e., the view that in certain intensional de re contexts whether a term occurring in a sentence is ostensible or inostensible may have a bearing on the semantic content of the sentence. However, in his later writings e.g., The Philosophy of Curiosity, he appears to abandon his earlier thoughts regarding the semantic significance of his distinction. He says: “the ostensible/inostensible distinction is basically an epistemic one.... It is an epistemic distinction that has no semantic significance” (2012: 65). I argue that there are indeed such intensional contexts in which the distinction has some semantic significance, i.e., whether a term is ostensible or inostensible has in fact a bearing on what proposition is expressed by the sentence in which the term occurs.
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