Reference magnetism and the reduction of reference

Abstract

*This work has turned into a bigger project, and some of it is published in "Lewis on reference".* Some things, argues Lewis, are just better candidates to be referents than others. Even at the cost of attributing false beliefs, we interpret people as referring to the most interesting kinds in their vicinity. How should this be accounted for? In section 1, I look at Lewis’s interpretationism, and the reference magnetism it builds in (not just for ‘perfectly natural’ properties, but for certain kinds of auxiliary apparatus). In section 2, I draw on (Field, 1975) to argue that what properties are reference magnetic may be an ultimately conventional matter—though in the Lewisian setting, there may be an objectively best conventional choice to make. But Lewis’s own account has implausible commitments, so in section 3 I consider variations and alternatives, all of which have problems. In section 4, I look in more detail at eligibility-based interpretationism that do not appeal to naturalness, arguing that there are credible metasemantic theories of this form.

Author's Profile

Robert Williams
University of Leeds

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2010-10-10

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