Reference
Reimer (Marga)
Source: Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, 2003-9
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

Reference is a relation that obtains between expressions and what speakers use expressions to talk about. When I assert ‘George W. Bush is a Republican’, I use the proper name ‘George W. Bush’ to refer to a particular individual, an individual about whom I go on to speak. Although it questionable whether all words refer, there are several types of words (including proper names) which are arguably of the referring sort. These will be discussed below. The central question concerning reference is: How do words refer? What, in other words, is the “mechanism” of reference? Subsidiary questions concern the relation between reference and meaning and reference and truth. Some philosophers have thought that the nature of reference is able to shed light on important metaphysical or epistemological issues. Other philosophers are not so sanguine. Indeed, some philosophers deny that reference is a substantive relation deserving of philosophical scrutiny.

  1. Introduction
  2. Three Theories of Reference for Proper Names
    … 2.1 Description Theories
    … 2.2 Causal Theories
    … 2.3 Hybrid Theories1
  3. Other Terms
    … 3.1 Natural Kind2 Terms
    … 3.2 Indexicals
    … 3.3 Definite Descriptions
    … 3.4 Non-Referring Expressions
  4. Other Issues: Reference, Reality, and Knowledge
    … 4.1 Reference and Reality
    … 4.2 Reference and Knowledge
  5. Negative Views of Reference
  6. Bibliography
    … Other Internet Resources
    … Related Entries

Comment:

First published Mon Jan 20, 2003; substantive revision Wed May 20, 2009; see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Archive: Reference.

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