Testing Theories of Reference

When:11 Apr 2014, 12:10pm - 12:10pm
Venue:Morven Brown 310 (map ref C20)
Who:Michael Devitt, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center
Michael Devitt

Philosophy Seminar

Abstract: How should we test theories of reference? The received view is that we should test them against referential intuitions. How could this be acceptable? We should not go along with the common philosophical view that these intuitions are a priori. Philosophers might follow linguists in thinking that linguistic intuitions are “the voice” of our linguistic competence. But this view is false. Rather than relying solely on the indirect evidence of intuitions, theories of reference need direct evidence from linguistic usage. The method of elicited production seems a promising way to gather this evidence. But this turns out to be more difficult than one might expect, as a recent experiment revealed. The paper briefly explores the main problem, that of implicit scare quotes.

Bio: Michael Devitt is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has published widely in metaphysics, philosophy of language, and epistemology. His many books include, most recently, Putting Metaphysics First (Oxford University Press, 2010) and Ignorance of Language (2006).

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