Concept originalism, reference-shift and belief reports

Synthese 195 (1):269-285 (2018)
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Concept originalism, recently introduced and defended by Sainsbury and Tye, Tye, and Sainsbury, holds that “atomic concepts are to be individuated by their historical origins, as opposed to their semantic or epistemic properties”. The view is immune to Gareth Evans’s “Madagascar” objection to the Causal Theory of Reference since it allows a concept to change its reference over time without losing its identity. The possibility of reference-shift, however, raises the problem of misleading belief reports. S&T try to tackle the problem by strengthening the sufficient condition for a truthful belief report. We will argue that, first, their solution fails, second, and more importantly, their diagnosis of the root of the problem is misguided, third, two initially appealing ways out of the problem fail, and fourth, the prospect of finding a solution to the problem within CO is dim. The view opens the Pandora’s box of reference-shift, in a wide range of cases, without providing the necessary semantic means to take care of them.



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Author Profiles

Mohammad Saleh Zarepour
University of Manchester
Seyed N. Mousavian
Loyola University, Chicago

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