Modes of Referring and the Problem of Universals: An Essay in Metaphysics

By D. S. Shwayder | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
MODES OF REFERRING

PART 1. SOME GENERAL FORMS OF REFERENCE

1. Schematizing referring. -- The employment of an o.r.e. in a successful language act contributes what I call a reference: for example, a reference to a person by his Christian name ("Peter"), or a reference to a natural number as resolved into its prime factors (22.5.73). Associated with every reference is a referent -- a particular object, a man, perhaps, or a natural number. The same object may be associated with different references: a single person may be referred to by his given name or as the eldest son of his parents or as the third in some rank. In the sense of "identify" discussed on pages 15 ff., the reference identifies the referent, but the same referent might have been otherwise identified. That is why it usually makes sense to ask "Who?" or "Which?" But by using the o.r.e. successfully we determine the reference and identify the referent. The o.r.e. is cut out to determine the reference, and we make our sense identifiable by using the o.r.e. to show that the success of the act involves that reference, though the context will frequently supersede the express employment of the o.r.e. A description of the reference (not the referent), a specification of the Sinn in Frege's terminology, includes a description of how the use of o.r.e. identifies the referent.

In my scheme, then, every reference identifies a referent;1 the successful use of an o.r.e. would imply an answer to the question "Which?" I agree with philosophers like Frege who hold that every meaningful sign has a sense. I disagree with those philosophers -- perhaps, but only "perhaps," including Mill -- who subscribe to the contrary view. Even the use of the barest, purest proper name, an almost degenerate case, identifies, for the use of the name surely identifies the referent as the one known to those present having that name. Should we wish to explain the sense of such an expression, we could begin by saying that it was a proper name.

That a reference should identify a referent, it is implied that there be such a referent, distinguishable from all other objects of the same

____________________
1
Despite refinements in my views, set out in notes 12, 14, and 16 to chap. i, I should hold by this thesis, but in a modified terminology, allowing for a distinction to be drawn between identifying and nonidentifying references. As it turns out, the epitome of a nonidentifying reference affords almost maximal information bearing on the ascertainment of identity, an idea which this section will crystallize. See note 3, below.

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