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Sunday, May 01, 2011

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I think you are missing the most important property for DR theorist, although it may well follow from your thesis 1, namely the property expressed by Russell when he says "Whenever the grammatical subject of a proposition can be supposed not to exist without rendering the proposition meaningless, it is plain that the grammatical subject is not a proper name, i.e. not a name directly representing some object" (Principia Mathematica vol i p. 66).

As I have argued elsewhere, this makes Frege a DR theorist, on one interpretation of Frege - essential reading here is Gareth Evans The Varieties of Reference, chapter 1. Bedeutung means 'meaning'.

This is a bullet that all DR theorists have to bite. The semantics of empty proper names do not obviously differ from that of non-empty names. For example, I cannot tell whether the 'Christ Myth' theory is true by examining the meaning of the proper name 'Christ'. (According to this theory, there never was such a historical person as Christ, the gospels are complete fiction). But according to a DR theorist, the name has no proper meaning at all if it is empty. Frege says "the sentence "Leo Sachse is a man" is the expression of a thought only if 'Leo Sachse' designates something". Thus "Christ is risen" expresses a thought only if there is such a person as Christ. Hoc absurdum et incredibile est.

There is also the problem of identity. According to DR, 'Cicero' has the same meaning as 'Tully' if they refer to the same person. This is why Frege had to fundamentally modify his theory, and introduce another type of meaning ('Sinn') - an obvious fudge, which made it seem for years as though he held a description theory.

On the other features of DR that you mention, these are either features that follow from the primary claim of DR - the claim that meaning=bearer - or are props for the theory. Rigidity (thesis 3) follows from meaning=bearer. If the name has a meaning at all, it is because it means that very same object. Thus, in whatever context it has a meaning - and this includes modal contexts - it means that object. Thus it must 'rigidly' refer.

The baptismal requirement (thesis 2) follows from the primary thesis plus Russell's principle - the principle that we cannot make a judgment that is strictly about anything unless we know which object the judgment is about (see Problems of Philosophy p.58). Only when I am directly presented with an object in sense-perception can I truly know which object I am trying to name. We can 'pick out by sight or hearing or touch or otherwise sensibly discriminate' that object (Strawson, Individuals p.18). Perception affords a more 'intimate' or 'direct' relation in which the person stands to the object, in which the subject is en rapport with the object to be named.

The causal chain thesis (4) is a adjunct and buttress, rather than a consequence, of the theory. Given that the one imposing the name by baptism is en rapport with the bearer of the name, and so can use the name in a special way, and so any judgment he makes using that name, involves truly knowing which object the judgment is about, how do we explain the way in which the meaning of the name is communicated to others, who are not en rapport with the name-bearer?

DR theorists introduce causation+intention to explain this. It is by no means clear how this is to work. Suppose someone witnessed the ministry of Christ on earth, and so stood in an intimate and direct relation to the person of Christ. Then Christ died, rose, appeared to certain people, and then the witness sat down and wrote a gospel. The gospel is intended to communicate Christ's ministry and his death and resurrection to those who did not witness any of these events, and who had no such rapport with his person. How then can the name 'Christ' have the same meaning for one who was not a witness, as for one who was? In the understanding of the witness, 'Christ' has its baptismal meaning. For one who grasps this meaning, it is impossible that Christ should not exist. But in the understanding of one who was not a witness, the gospel is semantically indistinguishable from a mere story. One can read that story and reasonably ask whether Christ existed at all. Semantic analysis of the gospel will not resolve the 'Christ myth' controversy.

So it is clear that, even if the writer of the gospel is using the name 'Christ' in the special meaning that requires rapport with the person of Christ, and even if he uses it with the intention of referring to that person, he cannot communicate that special, direct meaning to the non-witness. Otherwise, as I say, the Christ myth controversy would not be a controversy.
On your observation that thesis 1 - the directness of the direct reference - conflicts with thesis 4 - obviously I agree, for the very same reason. To avoid targeting some other 'Uriel Da Costa' I must know which person I am referring to. But I cannot do this unless I am in the same baptismal relation or rapport with him as was the person who originally imposed the name, or who used the name in his presence, and this is impossible, as he died in the 17th century.

In conclusion, the essential feature of DR is the thesis that we can encapsulate in the slogan meaning=bearer. The theses you mention are either logical consequences of this primary thesis, or are mere props, futile attempts to save it.

Good comments. I will now respond just to the first two paragraphs.

Amazingly, Lord Russell (before he was a lord) appears to be falling into confusion in the passage you quote. (And you did quote him accurately: I just now pulled PM off the shelf and checked.) He is equivocating on 'grammatical subject.' In its first occurrence it means, say, Socrates the man. In its second occurrence it means, say, 'Socrates' the word. Could the great Russell have succumbed to use/mention confusion??

Consider 'Socrates is wise.' Russell's point is that 'Socrates' is not a logically proper name if, on the supposition that Socrates does not exist, the sentence or the proposition it expresses remains meaningful. This is because the meaning of a logically proper name (LPN) is exhausted by its reference. So if the referent does not exist, the name is deprived of the only meaning it could have. If, on the other hand, ordinary proper names (OPNs) are definite descriptions in disguise, then the meaning of OPNs is not exhausted by their reference: there is meaning as reference and meaning as sense or connotation or whatever you want to call it.

Now suppose one holds that the reference of OPNs is direct, i.e., not mediated by or determined by any sense or connotation that the user of the name associates with the name on a given occasion of its use. It could still be that the name has a sense, though it would not be a reference-determining sense. And if the name does have such a sense, then the the nonexistence of the bearer (the nominatum) would not render the sntence in which the name occurs meaningless.

But I see your point. If the DR theorist holds that meaning is exhausted by reference, and 'Socrates' is directly referential, then, in circumstances in which S. does not exist, the sentence is meaningless. No doubt, but why use 'direct reference' in your way?

Distinguish:

DR1: OPNs are tags wholly devoid of sense or connotation. Therefore, the reference of such names cannot be determined by their sense or connotation.

DR2: OPNs are such that whatever sense or connotation they have plays no role in the determining of reference.


I intend DR2 when I speak of direct reference theories.

To translate Frege's *Bedeutung* as 'meaning' is a crime against humanity. Who does this? Where can I find him so I can shoot him? Now I haven't read Gareth Evans in a long time, but as I recall he suggests 'semantic value' as the translation of *Bedeutung.* Now that is exactly right, for reasons I won't go into now.

Linguistic meaning is the genus of which sense and reference are two species. To translate *Bedeutung* as 'meaning' is therefore an outrage. It is to confuse the species with the genus.

"To translate Frege's *Bedeutung* as 'meaning' is a crime against humanity."

I concur.

Brief reply.

1. There is no doubt that contemporary 'direct reference' theorists hold that meaning is exhausted by reference.

2. Gareth Evans (chapter 1) translates 'Bedeutung' by 'Meaning', note the capital 'M'. As did, of course, the editors of the Blackwell editions subsequent to 1970 after a decision taken at a meeting of Dummett, Geach, Kneale, Roger White and a representative from Blackwell. As do the translators of the Nachlass, 'Posthumous Writings', Peter Long and Roger White.

I summarise Evans' arguments here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2011/05/reference-and-bedeutung_01.html . They are powerful and cogent. Why else would Frege say "A sentence can be true or untrue only if it is an expression for a thought. The sentence "Leo Sachse is a man" is the expression of a thought only if 'Leo Sachse' designates something. And so too the sentence "this table is round" is the expression of a thought only if the words 'this table' are not empty sounds but designate something specific for me" (Posthumous Writings, p.174).

3. "To translate Frege's *Bedeutung* as 'meaning' is a crime against humanity". That is very funny :) but nonetheless that is what the German means, and that is clearly what Frege means, if you read him carefully. As Evans says (VoR 1.6), is it possible "that Frege was prepared to allow that there were perfectly meaningful sentences of the language, which could be used to express and convey thoughts, but to which his theory of Meaning [i.e. Bedeutung] would not apply"? And that "he was apparently prepared to allow that parts of such sentences (specifically, empty Proper Names) could make a regular and systematic contribution to the thoughts expressed by sentences containing them, without having a semantic value of the kind he deemed appropriate for such expressions"? No.

Evans considers the objection that Frege dropped the idea that 'Bedeutung' means the Meaning of a proper name, after discovering the distinction between sense and Meaning. But this makes no sense in view of Frege's later writing, right up to the 1900s (such as the dialogue with Punjer, which I quoted above).

And why would Frege write (in 1895)

The word 'common name' is confusing … for it makes it look as though the common name stood under the same, or much the same relation to the objects that fall under the concept as the proper name does to a single object. Nothing could be more false!

The word 'planet' has no direct relation [my emphasis] at all to the Earth, but only to a concept that the Earth, among other things, falls under [my emphasis]; thus its relation to the Earth is only an indirect one, by way of the concept; and the recognition of this relation of falling under requires a judgment that is not in the least already given along with our knowledge of what the word 'planet' means".

?

You both need to read Evans, at least chapter 1. And possibly to read Frege?

I have just checked my own edition of Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege, and it does indeed have 'On Sense and Meaning'. It is the third edition, after the change was made. The editors note that 'meaning' is the natural rendering of the word 'Bedeutung': "this rendering is required for their occurrence in German works quoted by Frege, and for his own use of the words when alluding to such quotations". And "Philosophical technicalities, like 'referent' or 'denotation' or 'nominatum' would give a misleading impression of Frege's style; even 'reference' suggests thoughts alien to him".

>>Now suppose one holds that the reference of OPNs is direct, i.e., not mediated by or determined by any sense or connotation that the user of the name associates with the name on a given occasion of its use. It could still be that the name has a sense, though it would not be a reference-determining sense. And if the name does have such a sense, then the the nonexistence of the bearer (the nominatum) would not render the sntence in which the name occurs meaningless.
<<

But it would render the sentence Bedeutunglos, i.e. Meaningless. Consider carefully the passage from Evans that I quote above, and the other passages I have quoted from Frege, here and elsewhere. Is it possible "that Frege was prepared to allow that there were perfectly meaningful sentences of the language, which could be used to express and convey thoughts, but to which his theory of Meaning [i.e. Bedeutung] would not apply"?

Does the above objection (between (1) and (4)) ignore the distinction between the semantics of names and a philosophical theory of referring? You need to have the salient background beliefs to fix the name's reference but not the sense.

>>1. There is no doubt that contemporary 'direct reference' theorists hold that meaning is exhausted by reference.<<

Consider 'Alicia' or 'Samantha.' Those are female names. So how can their meanings be exhausted by reference? The demonstrative pronouns 'this' and 'that' come pretty close to being such that their meaning is their reference. But even in these cases there is an element of meaning that has nothing to do with reference. Roughly, 'this' is used to demonstrate nearby objects, while 'that' is used to demonstrated objects that are farther away. These rules are part of the meaning of these demonstratives.

Can you give me an example of a term whose meaning is wholly exhausted by its reference?

>>*Bedeutung* means 'meaning.'<<

Terrible translation, an abomination up with which I shall not put!

The Fregean *Bedeutung* of a *Satz* is a *Wahrheitswert.* So on your translation, the meaning of a (declarative) sentence is a truth-value. Awful!

So where does that leave us?

* I think Bill and I agree that ‘reference fixing’ and ‘passing on the reference’ is a fishy idea. The first simply gives us a description. The gives us is ‘whoever S meant by the name N’ which as Bill says is just another description. We haven’t heard from Peter.

* There is no clear view on what Frege meant by ‘Bedeutung’, or what the English word ‘reference’ means, hence no clear view on whether the one is a good translation of the other. (I happen to agree it is a bad translation, btw, I am a mere reporter of orthodoxy).

* There is no clear agreement on what ‘direct reference’ means.

* There does seem to be agreement that the theory that the bearer itself is part of the meaning of a proper name (or even exhausts the meaning) is a very bad theory.

I will repeat my simple-minded view. A proper name simply tells us which individual we are talking about, without telling us anything else about that thing. That’s true even of a name like ‘Alice’. I can say ‘Alice Cooper is a rock star’. The proper name does not tell us that the individual is male or female – indeed, Alice Cooper is male. The fact that ‘Alice’ is generally used to name females is nothing to do with the meaning of the name.

a) I would not want to venture into the quagmire of Frege scholarship and so on. One thing is clear: however you translate Frege, he inspired a distinction in the philosophy of language and elsewhere that for some time now is understood to be the distinction between sense and reference. What is the distinction?

Roughly, the reference of a word is its extension: i.e., one or more objects in the world, if any exist, to which the word applies; object(s) which a sentence in which the word appears is about; and the object involved in determining the truth-value of a sentence.

Roughly, the sense of a word is that which determines the information the word has and contributes to the sense of sentences in which it occurs; it is what determines the referent of the word, including in modal and epistemic contexts; it is what determines several properties of words and sentences such as synonymy, etc.

(b) There are many reasons to posit this distinction and Frege offered several. You may have two descriptions, for instance, that clearly have different meanings or senses, but the same extension. e.g., 'creature with a kidney' and 'creature with a heart'. Etc.

What about names, ordinary proper names? Do they, like many other words, have both a reference as well as a sense? Well, some of those who opposed Frege on this matter say: no, ordinary proper names do not have a sense. But this does not mean that their reference is not fixed by *anything*. What it means is that whatever it is that fixes the reference of ordinary proper names is not the sort of a thing that satisfies the properties required from senses: e.g., they do not establish relations of synonymy.

(c) Take "Socrates is the teacher of Plato". Question: does the definite description 'the teacher of Plato' give the sense of 'Socrates'? No! Why? Because it is not synonymous with 'Socrates'. Why not? Well, because you do not get a contradiction if you deny that Socrates is the teacher of Plato: i.e.,

(*) Socrates is not a teacher of Plato;

may be false, but it is not contradictory. Now take the phrase 'unmarried male'. Does this phrase give the sense of 'bachelor'. Yes! How do we know that? Because

(**) A bachelor is not an unmarried male;

is necessarily false (if the terms are used in their usual way).


(d) Suppose you are invited to a party. The only thing you know about the host is that he goes by the name 'John'. Upon entering the room, you are introduced to John as follows: "John; the only bachelor in the room." John's age and demeanor does not strike you as that of a bachelor. You say to whomever introduced you to John:

(1) I did not think that John is a bachelor.

Now, if the phrase 'the only bachelor in the room' would give the sense of the ordinary proper name 'John', then substituting this phrase for any occurrence of 'John' should preserve the properties of the original sentence.

Surely, (1) makes sense. There is nothing unusual about (1). But now consider what happens if we take the phrase 'the only bachelor in the room' to be the sense of 'John' and substitute the former for the occurrence of 'John' in (1):

(2) I did not think that the only bachelor in the room is a bachelor.

(2), unlike (1), makes no sense. Why would you have any doubts whatsoever about whether the only bachelor in the room is a bachelor? Of course the only bachelor in the room, whomever that may be, must be a bachelor. So (2) makes not sense. But (1) does. Hence, the phrase 'the only bachelor in the room' is used here to fix the reference of 'John'; it is not used to give you the sense.

(e)Edward says: "I think Bill and I agree that ‘reference fixing’ and ‘passing on the reference’ is a fishy idea."

Why is it fishy? There is nothing fishy about the story I have just told you above. It might happen just in the way I told it. Moreover, *if* there is anything whatsoever fishy about the role of a description to fix the reference, then there is equally something fishy about a description giving the sense.

(f) Edward says: "A proper name simply tells us which individual we are talking about,..."

I do not fully grasp this. How do proper names do that? i.e., *tell* us "which individual we are talking about". Don't they have to have some way of doing that? And, of course, the notion that proper names, in and of themselves, *tell* anything is to my mind quite *fishy*.

A speaker tells us which individual they are speaking about by using a proper name. The question is how the use of a proper name can do that. What semantic properties proper names have so that users can tell us what they are talking about. The dispute between the two camps is about that. Is it in virtue of a sense that proper names can be used by a speaker to single out an individual and tell us who they are talking about? Or is it in virtue of something that fixes the reference? That is the question.

Ed,

I agree that "passing on the reference" is a fishy idea. The reference relation cannot be understood externalistically in terms of causation.

Let's not forget what the original question was: Do the normative Christian and the normative Muslim refer to the same being when they use 'God'? I am inclined to say that since they attach different senses to 'God,' they cannot be referring to the same being. Reference is determined by sense.

What is your view? You write, >> A proper name simply tells us which individual we are talking about, without telling us anything else about that thing.<< Apply that to my original question. How would it go?

Peter says, >>(c) Take "Socrates is the teacher of Plato". Question: does the definite description 'the teacher of Plato' give the sense of 'Socrates'? No! Why? Because it is not synonymous with 'Socrates'. Why not? Well, because you do not get a contradiction if you deny that Socrates is the teacher of Plato: i.e., <<

Not quite right. You need to speak of reference-determining senses, not mere senses. Surely 'teacher of Plato' is part of what I understand when I understand 'Socrates'! So the def descr is part of the sense. We agree that we are not involved in Frege exegesis here. Sense, shmense. We need some word for that aspect of a word's meaning that is not its referent.

Bill,

"I agree that "passing on the reference" is a fishy idea. The reference relation cannot be understood externalistically in terms of causation."

The point of "passing on the reference" is not to give a causal, external, account of the relation of reference itself. The point of passing on the reference in terms of a causal chain is to explain how the reference relation is passed on from speaker to speaker *given that the reference relation has been already established* in some other way.

Edward says: "You need to speak of reference-determining senses, not mere senses."

What is the difference and how that bears on my point? My point is clear. If sense determines reference and if 'Socrates' were to have a sense, then it would determine its reference. That is the Freagean view. Now, if 'the teacher of Plato' is the sense of 'Socrates' then the sentence "Socrates is not the teacher of Plato" should be contradictory. But it is not. Explain this fact (without changing the subject.)!

Peter, perhaps I am wrong, but you seem to be confusing the intension/extension distinction with the distinction between sense and reference. It is abundantly clear, without going deep into Frege scholarship, that he would not have agreed with this. See this brief extract from one of his papers http://www.logicmuseum.com/connotation/fregeonconnotation.htm . Note his distinction between ‘empty concept’ and ‘empty name’, and between a class, and the members of the class. And note carefully where he says “The questions whether a proper name MEANS something, and whether a concept comprehends something under itself, must be kept separate. Proper names without any MEANING are illegitimate in science; empty concepts cannot be banished. “ [My caps] Unfortunately I have never been able to locate the original German paper to find out which German word the capitalised ‘MEAN’ translates.

>>(e)Edward says: "I think Bill and I agree that ‘reference fixing’ and ‘passing on the reference’ is a fishy idea."
Why is it fishy?

You need to address this in the context of the questions we raised. Of course, if you are thinking of ‘reference’ as the determination of a (single-membered) extension by an intension, then it is not fishy at all. But that is not how I am thinking of ‘reference’.


>>(f) Edward says: "A proper name simply tells us which individual we are talking about, [without telling us anything else about that thing].”
I do not fully grasp this. How do proper names do that? i.e., *tell* us "which individual we are talking about". Don't they have to have some way of doing that?

You need to complete what I said (see the square brackets). A definite description tells us which individual you are talking about, as well us telling something about it. E.g. the duchess of Cambridge’ tells us we are talking about Kate Middleton, as well as telling us something about her. The name ‘Kate Middleton’, plus a suitable context, simply tells us which person we are talking about, without telling us anything else.

>>And, of course, the notion that proper names, in and of themselves, *tell* anything is to my mind quite *fishy*.

It’s very simple. Just as the word ‘whale’ tells us which kind of thing we are talking about (a whale), so the name ‘Kate Middleton’ tells us which individual we are talking about. That is its meaning and function. The definition is the one given by Mill (in System of Logic), by the way, and no better has ever been given.

>>A speaker tells us which individual they are speaking about by using a proper name. The question is how the use of a proper name can do that.

How? In virtue of its meaning. ‘Kate Middleton’ means Kate Middleton. Likewise, ‘Frodo Baggins’ means Frodo Baggins.

>>What semantic properties proper names have so that users can tell us what they are talking about.

Their semantic function is to individuate. It is a primitive and basic function of proper names to do this. It cannot be further explicated or analysed. It is fundamental.

>>Is it in virtue of a sense that proper names can be used by a speaker to single out an individual and tell us who they are talking about? Or is it in virtue of something that fixes the reference? That is the question.

Using your terminology, I would say ‘in virtue of the sense’, though don’t really understand what you mean by ‘sense’, for the reasons outlined above, namely that Frege did not equate the sense-reference distinction with the concept-object distinction.

>>Edward says: "You need to speak of reference-determining senses, not mere senses."

Bill says this!

Bill>> Let's not forget what the original question was: Do the normative Christian and the normative Muslim refer to the same being when they use 'God'? I am inclined to say that since they attach different senses to 'God,' they cannot be referring to the same being. Reference is determined by sense.

I would say that they refer to the same being, and for the very same reason that the name ‘Sherlock Holmes’ as used by Nicholas Meyer in the book The Seven per cent Solution refers to the same person that Conan Doyle was referring to. See my post here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-reference-of-sherlock-holmes.html explaining this. But you won’t buy this unless you buy my view that we can refer to what does not exist, and we haven’t really discussed this.

>>What is your view? You write, >> A proper name simply tells us which individual we are talking about, without telling us anything else about that thing.<< Apply that to my original question. How would it go?

Hopefully my answer above answers this also. ‘Wotan’ and ‘YHWH’ cannot refer to the same God, because the mythologies are completely different. But ‘YHWH’ and ‘Allah’ do refer to the same god, because the stories are the same. The god of the New Testament bears the same relation to the god of the Old Testament that Sherlock Holmes in Meyer’s book bears to Conan Doyle’s Holmes. They are one and the same fictional character. If YHWH does not exist, then he and Allah are the same fictional (or mythological) character. Otherwise they are the same God. Of course Christians and Muslims disagree about many features of this character. In the same way, Meyer claims that Holmes met Rudolf Rassendyl (another fictional character), whereas Conan Doyle did not – and probably would have denied such a meeting, since Ruritania does not feature in the geography of Conan Doyle’s Europe. Also Meyer’s Holmes was hopelessly addicted to cocaine, which Doyle never mentions, and probably would have denied. Nevertheless, they are one and the same character.

@Peter >>The point of "passing on the reference" is not to give a causal, external, account of the relation of reference itself. The point of passing on the reference in terms of a causal chain is to explain how the reference relation is passed on from speaker to speaker *given that the reference relation has been already established* in some other way.
<<

And there you have the fishy part. How can the "reference relation" be passed on in a way that will obviously not break it? Someone is a witness to the ministry of Christ, and uses the name 'Christ' in a way that directly signifies the person whom he witnesses. Christ dies, and the name is passed on. But how can the special signification which the witness possesses be communicated to the non-witness. That is entirely unclear.

@Peter again

Perhaps I am being unfair. The problem is that I don't know what you mean by 'reference'. On my understanding of the term (which is close to what Evans & the others say that Frege means by it), it makes the whole idea of 'reference fixing' fishy.

But I honestly don't know what you mean by it.

Edward says: "And there you have the fishy part."

What is the fishy part?

Edward answers: "Christ dies, and the name is passed on. But how can the special signification which the witness possesses be communicated to the non-witness. That is entirely unclear."

It can't. And that is not the purpose of a theory of reference of names. And it can't be the purpose of a theory of reference for names. That "special signification" is communicated not by giving a sense to a name, or fixing its reference, but by writing a whole bunch of books that narrate what they witnessed, or thought they did. That I thought was the point of the NT.

@Peter >>What is the fishy part?

As I said in my very last comment, perhaps we have a different understanding of the meaning of ‘reference’. To clarify, could I ask both you and Bill whether you think the reference relation is ‘internal’ or ‘external’? To clarify further

1. If a relation R(a,b) is internal, any change in the relation has some impact on the intrinsic qualities of a or b. For example, a employee cannot be an employee without being the employee of some company. If the company goes bankrupt, or the employee leaves the employment, that is a real and genuine change in the person. He or she is no longer an employee. So if reference is an internal relation between the meaning of a name and its referent, and the referent ceases to exist, or the reference relation ceases to hold for any other reason, that would involve a real change in the semantics of the name. On this view (i.e. reference as internal relation), the ability of name to identify a referent, i.e. to tell us ‘which’ thing the referent was, would have to be communicated when the name was passed on. I don’t see how a ‘reference fixing’ description could do this.

2. If a relation R(a,b) is external, then any change in the relation has no impact on the intrinsic qualities of a or b. For example, my distance from a fly buzzing around in China is a relation between me and the fly, and it is constantly changing as I and the fly move around. If reference is an external relation between the meaning of a name and the referent, then the existence or non-existence of the referent would have no impact on the meaning. But in that case, I can’t see how ‘reference fixing’ would work either. The reference-fixing description, as Bill says, is itself a description. Let’s say ‘Let ‘Fred’ mean whoever it is the Jake was talking about’. But then there could be a possible world in which Jake was talking about a different person. So ‘It is possible that Jake was not talking about Fred’ is true. But ‘It is possible that Jake was not talking about the person he was talking about’ is obviously false.

Hence, whether reference is an internal or external relation, reference fixing seems ‘fishy’.

Edward,

"could I ask both you and Bill whether you think the reference relation is ‘internal’ or ‘external’?"

Neither! It is a semantic relation that holds between some expressions of a language and things in the world (including expressions: e.g., quotation). This relation is required among other things in order to state the truth conditions of sentences in which the expressions occur.

I am not sure I understand the distinction between *internal* vs. *external* anyway, nor the manner the examples you gave of each are supposed to illustrate it. The fly example is a spacial relation whereas the employee examples is an economic relation (and, hence, a conventional one). Neither is *internal* to the agent in any sense of internal with which I am familiar.

I was adapting Aristotle's example of 'master’ and ‘servant’, which is not altogether appropriate, I agree. But you say

>>It is a semantic relation that holds between some expressions of a language and things in the world.

It’s a relation, but in what sense ‘semantic’? If the relation ceases to hold – let’s say because the referent is utterly annihilated, is the semantics, i.e. the meaning of the name - changed? Or, returning to my example of the Christ myth, is it possible, by investigating the semantics of the proper name ‘Christ’ or ‘Jesus’, to determine whether or not Christ existed? (I would answer, emphatically not).

>>This relation is required among other things in order to state the truth conditions of sentences in which the expressions occur.

OK, let’s focus on the ‘falsity conditions’ of a sentence like ‘Christ was born in Bethlehem’. Is there only one condition, namely that Christ existed, but was not born in that place? Or is there a further possibility, namely that Christ did not exist, as the ‘Christ myth’ theory holds?

Or to put exactly the same question differently, does the negation ‘Christ was *not* born in Bethlehem’ imply that someone was not born in Bethlehem or not? Or is it consistent with no one having been born in Bethlehem?

I’m only asking these questions to understand what your theory of reference is.

Sorry, that last sentence should read "Or is it consistent with no one *not* having been born in Bethlehem?"

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