PP-2004-24: Spencerism and the Causal Theory of Reference

PP-2004-24: Hinzen, Wolfram (2004) Spencerism and the Causal Theory of Reference. [Report]

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Spencer's heritage, while almost a forgotten chapter in the history of
biology, lives on in psychology and the philosophy of mind. I
particularly discuss externalist views of meaning, on which meaning
crucially depends on a notion of reference, and ask whether reference
should be thought of as cause or effect. Is the meaning of a word
explained by what it refers to, or should we say that what we use a
word to refer to is explained by what concept it expresses? Only the
latter view is Darwinian, I argue, in that conceptual structures in
humans are an instance of adaptive structures, and adaptive relations
to an environment are the effect rather than the cause of evolutionary
novelties. I conclude with both the empirical implausibility and the
methodological undesirability of a functionalist study of human
concepts in the relational sense of 'function', as it would be
undertaken in a paradigm that identifies meaning with reference or
that gives reference an explanatory role to play for what concepts we

Item Type: Report
Report Nr: PP-2004-24
Series Name: Prepublication (PP) Series
Year: 2004
Uncontrolled Keywords: Reference; meaning; externalism; Spencer
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2016 14:36
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2016 14:36
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/135

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