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Christian Tractatus

(Text as at 12/08/2007 10:17:46)

We must distinguish between sense and reference. An idea may have sense, in that we understand what it means, but have no reference, in that there is nothing corresponding to it in the world. Classic examples of ideas with sense but no reference are unicorns and fairies (though there is more sense to the concept of a unicorn than to that of a fairy, in that we can better analyse what a unicorn would be like if it existed (by analogy with a horse) than we can a fairy).

  1. It is important to avoid ideas with reference but no sense, ie. confused notions based on unanalysed, or incorrectly analysed, experience. For example, objects may be named ostensively, by pointing to them and giving them a name. However, if that name is more than a label, and has a meaning of its own that is intended to describe the object, the name will be senseless if the description is wrong.
  2. For instance, if I imagine I see a ghost, then the term ghost has sense, but no reference, on the reasonable assumption that ghosts do not exist. On the other hand, what I point to, and refer to as a ghost, has reference in that it exists (be it a patch of moonlight on the wall, or whatever) but has no sense because the data has been analysed incorrectly.

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12/08/2007 10:17:46 450 (Reason - Sense & Reference) Reason

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