MoL-2020-15: Deflationism about Reference

MoL-2020-15: Campa, Marta (2020) Deflationism about Reference. [Report]

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This work is an attempt to explore the concept of reference in light of the philosophical trend called deflationism. Throughout this thesis, I will understand reference as a relation between words and objects (also called designation). My aim is to defend a deflationist view about reference as opposed to the traditional inflationist view. The backbone of this thesis is the distinction between two questions about reference. The first one is the question: What is reference? I shall call this question the "essentialist" question, since it asks about the "nature" of reference. The second question concerns the metasemantics of names. It asks: How does it come that a name designates the object it does? I shall call this second question the Platonic or metasemantic question, since we can find its first famous formulation in Plato’s Cratylus. The Platonic or metasemantic question is not a question about reference itself, but rather about how reference is fixed or, better, how words and parts of the world come to be connected (i.e. how such a connection is established).

I will motivate the move from an inflationist to a deflationist view about reference by showing that the inflationist conception of reference is challenged by the phenomenon of indeterminacy of reference. By contrast, indeterminacy of reference is not a problem for the deflationary conception of reference. Indeterminacy of reference is the claim that, for any singular term or predicate there are many objects which are all equally admissible candidates to be the referent of that expression. Note that indeterminacy is a phenomenon related to the Platonic or metasemantic question. A deflationist view about reference answers the "essentialist" question by deflating it, but it does not say anything in order to answer the Platonic or metasemantic question. To this end, a theory of names is needed. The best option for a deflationist might be a use theory of meaning, which includes a use theory of names. Since the use of words does not necessarily establish a one-one correspondence between words and objects, a deflationist view about reference is still compatible with indeterminacy of reference. In other words, while the phenomenon of indeterminacy of reference does not disappear, a deflationary view about reference (unlike an inflationist view) is not threatened by it.

Item Type: Report
Report Nr: MoL-2020-15
Series Name: Master of Logic Thesis (MoL) Series
Year: 2020
Subjects: Logic
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2021 12:48
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2021 12:48

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