The Concept of Reference in the Cognitive Sciences
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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As is well known, according to the "new" theory of reference, the reference relation can be carried out by means of rigid designators whose relationship with the object they designate cannot be analyzed away. Moreover, the new theorists claim, the category of proper names in a natural language marks almost invariably rigid designators. In this paper, both claims are rejected. Using distinctions between the referential system (which determines which entities the primitive symbols of language refer to in each possible world) and the identification system (which determines which member of one world is identical with which member of another), and between two types of object identification (public and perspectival), it is argued that the use of a noun phrase as a rigid designator is predicated on the assumption that a language user knows who (or what) the noun phrase refers to in the actual world. The conclusion is that rigid designation is not a conceptually irreducible reference relation, nor are proper names always used as rigid designators.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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