Is there room for reference borrowing in Donnellan’s historical explanation theory?

Linguistics and Philosophy 37 (3):175-203 (2014)
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Famously, both Saul Kripke and Keith Donnellan opposed description theories and insisted on the role of history in determining the reference of a proper name token. No wonder, then, that their views on proper names have often been assimilated. By focusing on reference borrowing—an alleged phenomenon that Kripke takes to be fundamental—we argue that they should not be. In particular, we claim that according to Donnellan a proper name token never borrows its reference from preceding tokens which it is historically connected to. On the contrary, its reference is always fixed anew on who or what the speaker has in mind when he or she produces it. In fact, what is important to realize is that Donnellan and Kripke took two different histories to be relevant: that of the proper name token produced by the speaker , and that of the cognitive status of the speaker when he or she produces it . We end by suggesting that this difference between Kripke’s and Donnellan’s accounts of proper names rests on a more general difference in their approach to language

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Andrea Bianchi
University of Parma


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