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Monday, January 18, 2016

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Question. Are pronouns the only terms which refer per alium? Consider

(A) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. He was a robber.
(B) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. The man was a robber.
(C) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. Barabbas was a robber.

Do ‘the man’ and ‘Barabbas’ also inherit their extralinguistic reference from ‘a man’ in the first sentence? If so, we return to a question I posed before: in what sense does the indefinite noun phrase ‘a man’ refer extralinguistically? See your question I.

Ed,

The logically prior question is: what is the paradigm of reference, the proper name, the definite description (in its attributive use, see Donnellan), or the indefinite description. Like you, I look askance at the third.

So I reject the presupposition of your question. 'A man' does not refer extralinguistically, let alone refer paradigmatically, as Fred Sommers holds.

'A man' does not pick our any particular man to the exclusion of everything else. But singular reference, reference to a particular, must be reference to a particular particular. So I am inclined to say that 'a man' is not a referring term.

So that makes it non-referring. But it is not a logical expression like 'and' or 'is not.' So there are non-logical non-referring expressions.

>> I reject the presupposition of your question. 'A man' does not refer extralinguistically, let alone refer paradigmatically, as Fred Sommers holds.<<
Ok, but then you need to distinguish between two types of intralinguistic reference, namely where there is extralinguistic reference per alium, and cases like (A) below where the antecedent is indefinite and where, according to you, there is no EL reference to inherit.

It would be helpful if you say whether the definite description in (B) and the proper name in (C) have EL reference. To me, all three cases seem the same.

(A) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. He was a robber.
(B) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. The man was a robber.
(C) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. Barabbas was a robber.

>>The logically prior question is: what is the paradigm of reference, the proper name, the definite description (in its attributive use, see Donnellan), or the indefinite description.

I suspect we have different views on this, which is why I ask about cases (B) and (C) above. Clearly ‘the man’ can’t refer as a Russellian description, because it is not unique. There are many men. As for the proper name, you either concede that it refers intralinguistically, in which case you concede that proper names are not always ‘a paradigm’ for EL reference – and there is worse to come. Or you hold that it refers EL’y. In which case you need to explain the logical connection between the two sentences. From all three cases A-C we can infer ‘some robber was in prison’. The predicate we infer from the first sentence of the pair. But if indefinite descriptions don’t refer, i.e. don’t tell us which individual satisfies the predicate, how is it we can infer that some robber was in prison? It’s like a sort of forward-reference. The indefinite description can’t look back, like a definite noun phrase, but weirdly it can look forward.

Bill,

It seems to me that words do indeed refer to things.

1. A distinction is made in (A) between referring terms and non-referring terms.

If...

a) there exist some terms which are referring terms;
b) a referring term is a term which refers;
c) a term which refers, refers to something; and,
d) all terms are words...

...then it seems to follow that, even though not all words are terms, there do exist some words which, being referring terms, do refer to things.

Yet it is denied in (E) that words refers to things ("words don't refer to things, but people refer to things using words").

2. The distinction made in (E) is between mental reference and linguistic reference.

Given that distinction, I gather / assume / suspect the point of "words don't refer to things, but people refer to things using words" is that words which refer to things (linguistic reference) do not refer to things in the same way that people refer to things (mental reference).

But if so, why support the distinction between mental reference and linguistic reference through the use of wording which seemingly literally denies the existence of the latter?

3. Also, according to the definition for 'refer' found in some dictionaries, when it is said, "People refer to things," 'refer' is employed as a transitive verb; and when it is said, "Words refer to things," 'refer' is employed as an intransitive verb. This seems to lend credence to the notion that words do indeed refer to things, just not in the same way that people refer to things.

4. Am I being picky? Overly picky? Missing something? Failing to properly understand or grasp one or more pertinent things?

Thank you.

Glenn,

Thanks for the comment. When I say that words don't refer, I mean that words on their own apart from language-users do not refer. Suppose that tomorrow all language-users are annihilated, but books, signage, etc. remains. None of the marks in those books would refer to anything. Those marks would have geometrical and chemical properties but no semantic properties.

But isn't it a semantical rule in English that 'I' refers to the speaker? And isn't this true whether or not anyone is thoughtfully producing a token of 'I' at the moment? Yes, but then one is describing the language system, English, under abstraction from the fact that there would be no languages without language users.

If you go Platonic and say that a language is a huge set of abstracta, I will argue that no abstract object can refer to anything. Just as a physical object can't refer to anything unless I make it refer to something, the same is true of abstract objects.

I am not denying that there is linguistic reference; I am maintaining that linguistic reference presupposes mental reference. Just as no gun has ever killed anyone, no word has ever referred to anything. People kill using guns and people refer using words.

Note also that just as we can kill without using guns, we can refer without using words. Thinking reference need not be expressed in language.

My claim is that while mental reference is intrinsically referential, linguistic reference is derivatively referential. Derivative from what? From the referentiality of thinking.

Bill,

That does it for me.

Something like what is mentioned in the first paragraph of your response paragraph was floating about in the back of my mind, but I think I was too hung up on a strictly literal reading of the phrase ("words don't...") for it to gain any real traction on my considerations.

You've cleared things up nicely, and in multiple ways.

Much appreciated. Thank you.

Ed writes,

>>Ok, but then you need to distinguish between two types of intralinguistic reference, namely where there is extralinguistic reference per alium, and cases like (A) below where the antecedent is indefinite and where, according to you, there is no EL reference to inherit.<<

Above I spoke of PURELY intralinguistic reference and then distinguished two sorts of EL reference: per se and per alium.

Contrast 'Ed live in London and he likes it there' with 'Sherlock lives in London, and he likes it there.' I am tempted to say that 'he' in the second sentence refers purely intralinguistically: it is solely a device for back reference. This is because 'Sherlock' has no referent. (Not obvious, of course: van Inwagen would assign it an abstract object as referent, and the Meioningians a nonexistent object.)

In the first sentence, however, 'he' refers to Ed just as 'Ed' refers to Ed -- it is just that 'he' borrows the EL reference of 'Ed.' So the pronoun's reference is not purely intralingustic. it is a case of EL reference with back reference.

And of course back reference is not a case of metalinguistic reference as you have probably noticed. 'He' in the first sentence does not refer to 'Ed' but to Ed.

And yet there is metalinguistic reference. "'Ed'" refers to 'Ed.'

Question: Is metalinguistic reference extralinguistic or purely intralingusitic?

Question: Back reference is purely intralinguistic and also not metalinguistic. Should we conclude that 'back' in 'back reference' is an alienans adjective?

>>It would be helpful if you say whether the definite description in (B) and the proper name in (C) have EL reference. To me, all three cases seem the same.

(A) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. He was a robber.
(B) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. The man was a robber.
(C) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. Barabbas was a robber.<<

I take it you want to say that neither the indefinite description nor the pronoun nor the definite description nor the proper name have an EL referent. The last three don't because the first doesn't.

If that is your view is seems reasonable.

Perhaps the difference between you and Sommers is that for you there is no EL reference at all, whereas for Sommers, there is EL reference but its paradigm is the indefinite description, not the proper name.

>>Above I spoke of PURELY intralinguistic reference and then distinguished two sorts of EL reference: per se and per alium.
OK I can live with that. But the per alium variety of EL requires IL to work, correct?
Then the question remains whether there can be pure IL in the case of proper names. Let’s take just the one case above.

(*) A man called ‘Barabbas’ was in prison. Barabbas was a robber.

Do you hold that the proper name ‘Barabbas’ as used in the second sentence, has extralinguistic reference or not? My strategy here is to undermine your idea of the primacy of proper names. If you think that ‘Barabbas’ in the above example has intralinguistic reference only, then habeo propositum - proper names have no intrinsic primacy. Game over, or at least mate in one or two at most.

If on the other hand you think it does have extralinguistic reference, then we are close to end game. Your move.

Oh my apologies you already moved (January 19, 2016 at 02:49 PM ). It looked very similar to my own post. Yes, I want to say that neither the indefinite description nor the pronoun nor the definite description nor the proper name have an EL referent. The last three don't because the first doesn't.

And you agree that my view seems reasonable.

So my move, but business calls.

Bill,

I'm not sure if you've read anything by Jerrold Katz, but he was a linguist turned philosopher of language whose work encompassed many of the subjects with which you are currently treating: The Metaphysics of Meaning and Realistic Rationalism are the two with which I am most familiar.

He also has an essay called "Names Without Bearers" that is available online, which has some relevant points to make regarding yours and Ed's discussion.

Hope you're keeping well.

- jd

John,

I've read about half of Katz's Cogitations. That's it.

Thanks for mentioning "Names Without Bearers." It is indeed relevant to present concerns.

http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/concepts/katznames.html

All the best for the New Year.

>>Thanks for mentioning "Names Without Bearers." It is indeed relevant to present concerns.

It’s an excellent paper, and I remember reading it a long time ago. It was by Jerrold J. Katz (1932-2002), and the reference is Katz, J.J., “Names Without Bearers”, Philosophical Review 103:1-39, 1994.

I still couldn’t make out what the PMT theory is, though, at least on a skim reading. He is bang on about the core problem for Millianism, and that there is a need for an intermediate theory between Fregean sense theories and pure Millianism.

>> Preliminary point on sound philosophical method. Make all the distinctions one can think to make ... <<

Is there a distinction between a deliberate, aptly formed reference and a deliberate, not aptly formed reference?

This distinction is similar to your (B) but not the same. In (B) the reference fails because the square no longer exists. In this distinction, the reference fails because it is not aptly formed.

To elaborate:

Suppose reference is a relation, and relations are real abstract objects. Suppose also that people refer using words, not that words refer.

There seems to be a distinction between (1) a reference relation between A and B, in which the reference is deliberate and aptly formed; and (2) a reference relation between A and B*, in which the reference is deliberate and not aptly formed: B* is similar but not identical to B; A aims to refer to B*; A actually refers to B*; A mistakenly believes B* is B; A believes his reference successfully hits B; and A names B* as 'B.'

An example of (2) is Marco Polo using 'Madagascar' to refer to the island off the SE coast of Africa. As the story goes, he aimed to refer to the island. He actually referred to the island. He aimed to use 'Madagascar' in the way others used that term. But others used it to refer to a part of mainland Africa. Polo mistakenly used it to refer to the island, but he believed he was referring to the same thing the others referred to when they used 'Madagascar.'

(1) and (2) are different relations since they have different referents.

This distinction is similar to your (B) but not the same. In (B) the reference fails because the square no longer exists. In (2), the referent may exist (as in the island) or it may not (suppose instead that Polo used 'Madagascar' to refer to a merely imaginary gold mine that he falsely believed was built by King Solomon and was located in Africa). The (2) reference fails not just because the referent doesn't exist (if it doesn't), but because the reference is not aptly formed.

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