Thought and Reference

Thought and Reference

Thought and Reference

Thought and Reference

Synopsis

Presenting a novel account of singular thought, a systematic application of recent work in the theory of speech acts, and a partial revival of Russell's analysis of singular terms, this book takes an original approach to the perennial problems of reference and singular terms by separating the underlying issues into different levels of analysis.

Excerpt

The seemingly simple fact that we can think and talk about particular persons, places, and things has given rise to some not so simple philosophical problems. in taking on these problems, I have adopted the general strategy of locating the various issues at different levels of analysis. I distinguish three levels-- cognitive, semantic, and pragmatic--and offer split-level solutions. Although the specific solutions may be controversial, the general strategy seems to be gaining acceptance, probably through the influence of Paul Grice's work. More and more philosophers are coming to appreciate that the theory of mental contents, the semantics of sentences, and the pragmatics of utterances are but loosely connected and, in particular, that the issues of singular thought, singular terms, and singular reference should not be conflated.

The main topics addressed here have received considerable attention since the book appeared in 1987. Although some remain in dispute, proper names and belief reports, for example, it is encouraging to observe that on others, such as singular thought, definite descriptions, and the pragmatics of reference, there has developed if not a consensus at least a growing convergence of opinion along lines followed here. More than enough ideas and arguments have appeared in recent years to warrant adding a Postscript (it appears after Chapter 13). It gives an update on work that bears, either explicitly or by implication, on views proposed here. It describes and documents developing trends and continuing controversies, and provides, I hope, some useful explanation and clarification.

San Francisco September 1993 . . .

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