A Kripkean argument for descriptivism

Noûs 56 (3):654-669 (2021)
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In this paper, we offer a novel defense of descriptivism about reference. Our argument is based on principles about the relevance of speaker intentions to reference that are shared by many opponents of descriptivism, including Saul Kripke. We first show that two such principles that are plausibly endorsed by Kripke and other prominent externalists in fact entail descriptivism. The first principle states that when certain kinds of speaker intentions are present, they suffice to determine and explain reference. According to the second principle, certain speaker intentions must be present whenever something determines or explains reference. We then go on to make these principles more precise and argue that it would be costly to deny either of them. Since on the more precise understanding we suggest, the conjunction of these principles still entails descriptivism, we conclude that opponents of descriptivism have to give up some highly plausible assumption about the relation between speaker intentions and reference.

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Author Profiles

Zeynep Soysal
University of Rochester
Jens Kipper
University of Rochester

References found in this work

Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics.Peter F. Strawson - 1959 - London, England: Routledge. Edited by Wenfang Wang.
The meaning of 'meaning'.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.

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