Naturalizing semantics and Putnam's model-theoretic argument

Episteme NS: Revista Del Instituto de Filosofía de la Universidad Central de Venezuela 22 (1):1-19 (2002)
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Since 1976 Hilary Putnam has on many occasions proposed an argument, founded on some model-theoretic results, to the effect that any philosophical programme whose purpose is to naturalize semantics would fail to account for an important feature of every natural language, the determinacy of reference. Here, after having presented the argument, I will suggest that it does not work, because it simply assumes what it should prove, that is that we cannot extend the metatheory: Putnam appears to think that all we may determinately say about the relations between words and entities in the world is what the model theory tells us, but he has never offered justifications for that. At the end of the article, I will discuss the apparently reliable intuition that seems to me to be at the root of the argument, that is that, given a formal theory, there is an infinite number of ways of connecting it to, or of projecting it onto, the world. I will suggest that we should resist this intuition, because it rests on a very doubtful notion of world, which assumes that for any class of objects there is a corresponding property.

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Andrea Bianchi
University of Parma


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