‘The Referential’ and ‘the Attributive’: Two Distinctions for the Price of One

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There are two sorts of singular terms for which we have difficulty applying Donnellan’s referential/attributive distinction: complex definite descriptions, and proper names. With respect to the uses of such terms in certain contexts we seem to have conflicting intuitions as to whether they should be classified as referential or attributive. The problem concerning how to apply Donnellan’s distinction to the uses of certain complex definite descriptions has never been debated in the literature. On the other hand there have been attempts to extend Donnellan’s distinction to the uses of proper names, the most popular one being due to Kripke. However the argument Kripke gives to this end in his ‘Speaker’s Reference and Semantic Reference’ seems to be inconsistent with the position he takes in Naming and Necessity. I suggest that the reason we seem to have conflicting intuitions with respect to the uses of such terms, is because there is not one but two separate distinctions inherent in Donnellan’s examples; a pragmatic distinction based on the speaker’s intentions in using a term , and an epistemic one based on the notion of having an object in mind. In the light of this, I argue that the issue of whether there are attributive uses of proper names, in the latter sense, relates to the epistemic problem of whether a speaker can have de re attitudes toward an object that he does not have in mind. On this epistemic issue Kripke and Donnellan are on opposite sides as revealed by their debate over the issue of whether there are contingent a priori propositions
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Archival date: 2020-07-26
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