Reference and causal chains

In Language and reality from a naturalistic perspective: Themes from Michael Devitt. Cham: pp. 121-136 (2020)
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Around 1970, both Keith Donnellan and Saul Kripke produced powerful arguments against description theories of proper names. They also offered sketches of positive accounts of proper name reference, highlighting the crucial role played by historical facts that might be unknown to the speaker. Building on these sketches, in the following years Michael Devitt elaborated his well-known causal theory of proper names. As I have argued elsewhere, however, contrary to what is commonly assumed, Donnellan’s and Kripke’s sketches point in two rather different directions, by appealing to historical or causal facts of different sorts. In this paper, I shall discuss and criticize Devitt’s causal theory, which confuses things, I shall argue, by mixing, so to speak, Donnellan’s and Kripke’s sketches.
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Archival date: 2020-10-31
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