Applying the causal theory of reference to intentional concepts

Philosophy of Science 80 (2):212-230 (2013)
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We argue that many recent philosophical discussions about the reference of everyday concepts of intentional states have implicitly been predicated on descriptive theories of reference. To rectify this, we attempt to demonstrate how a causal theory can be applied to intentional concepts. Specifically, we argue that some phenomena in early social de- velopment ðe.g., mimicry, gaze following, and emotional contagionÞ can serve as refer- ence fixers that enable children to track others’ intentional states and, thus, to refer to those states. This allows intentional concepts to be anchored to their referents, even if folk psy- chological descriptions turn out to be false.

Author Profiles

Miles MacLeod
University of Twente
John Michael
Aarhus University


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