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A Description Theory of Singular Reference


According to the received view, descriptivism is a dead end in an attempt to account for singular reference by proper names, indexicals and possibly even incomplete descriptions, for they require referentialism. In contrast to this, I argue for an application of the former to all kinds of singular terms, indexicals in particular, by relying on a view of incomplete descriptions as elliptical in a pragmatic sense. I thus provide a general analysis of singular reference. The proposed approach is in line with the classical theory of propositions, except for admitting private ones with subjective mental entities as constituents. On the other hand, there is no commitment to singular Russellian propositions with ordinary objects as constituents and in general to meanings that cannot be in the mind.

1. Introduction A theory of language should distinguish somehow between a meaning that can be assigned to an expression type E simply on the basis of the syntactic and semantic conventions of the language to which E belongs, and, on the other hand, a meaning that can be assigned to a token of E in a way that takes into account not only syntactic and semantic rules, but more generally semiotic rules, i.e., also pragmatic rules that exploit relevant features of the context. Let us call the former a semantic meaning and the latter a pragmatic (semiotic, contextual) meaning. This distinction is particularly handy in dealing with indexicals, proper names and incomplete definite descriptions.1 The latter are
Universit di Macerata, Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze Umane, via Garibaldi, 20, 62100 Macerata, Italy; Email: 1 I assume that definite descriptions, proper names, and indexicals are identified from a purely grammatical point of view in the obvious way and thereby classified as (surface) singular terms, descriptions, proper names or indexicals, as the case may be. There is a sense in which surface singular terms are not always used as singular terms, and thus they may or may not be genuine singular terms, but we shall deal with this issue in due time. In the indexical category, following Kaplans terminology, we can distinguish (surface) demonstratives (e.g., this or that) and (surface) pure indexicals (I, here, now, today, etc.). Further, we can distinguish between indexicals simpliciter and indexical phrases. (Surface) indexical phrases are expressions such as this man, that brown table, you who love Mary. In this paper, for reasons of space I shall confine my attention to the basic indexicals I, here, now, and this, but my main conclusions about them can be easily generalised to all indexicals and inde(to be continued on p. 8)

Dialectica Vol. 57, No 1 (2003), pp. 7-40

Francesco Orilia

descriptions such as the table, which (roughly) can pick up a unique object in an appropriate context, but fail to do so, if interpreted la Russell independently of context. In contrast, complete descriptions such as the greatest even prime number pick up a unique object, independently of context. This picking up of a unique object by a singular term is singular reference, the main job of singular terms, what they purport to do,2 and something whose nature we wish to elucidate here. Two lines of thought on singular reference are on the market. I shall briefly present them by relying on Perry 2002 (but see also, for instance, Wettstein 1981 and Devitt and Sterelny 1999). Descriptivism about a certain kind K of singular term (say, the definite description kind) claims that a token t of a singular term of kind K contributes to the proposition expressed by the sentence containing t a descriptive content (identifying condition, mode of presentation, individual concept) that is meant to be, and in typical cases is, satisfied by just object.3 The proposition in question is typically called general or Fregean. Referentialism about a certain kind K of singular term is the view that a token t of a singular term of kind K (e.g., the proper name or the indexical kind) contributes to the proposition expressed by the sentence containing t no descriptive content, but simply the individual it refers to.4 This individual, x, is then a constituent of the proposition, which in turn is often said to be about x. Typically, the individual in question is an ordinary object (a person, a dog, a table, a chair and so on), and the proposition is called singular [Kaplan 1989, p. 483] or Kaplanian or Russellian5 and is represented, in the simplest case, as an orde(continued from p. 7) xical phrases. Since indefinite descriptions are not at issue here, I shall typically use description as short for definite description. 2 In contrast, a general term such as table does not purport to pick up a single entity, because it expresses a concept that (typically) applies to many objects and thus generically refers to all of them (although the world may happen to be such that there is exactly one entity to which the concept applies). Since generic reference is beyond the range of this paper, I shall often drop the qualifier singular in talking about singular reference, without any fear of misunderstandings. 3 If there is such an object, it is referred to by the singular term, but in any case it is not a constituent of the proposition. 4 Accordingly, following Kaplan 1989, it is often said that the reference in question is direct. This is not to say that it is totally unmediated by a meaning component. For, example, according to Kaplan, the reference of an indexical is mediated by what he calls character. 5 The widely used terminology, Russellian vs. Fregean, arises from a well-known correspondence on propositions between Frege and Russell (cf. Frege 1980; in particular Freges letter dated 11 November 1904 and Russells 12 December 1904 reply). This terminology is not meant to imply that Fregean propositions must involve senses as Frege conceived of them, i.e., as either function-like or object-like, so to speak. What is important is in the first place that they contain identifying conditions where Russellian propositions would contain individuals. Second, I think it is fair to Frege, to also require that a Fregean proposition must (to be continued on p. 9)

A Description Theory of Singular Reference

red set, <P, a>, where P is a property and a an ordinary object.6 Thus, for example, the pragmatic meaning of a token of Ortcutt is a spy (or this is a spy) is typically in this approach a Russellian proposition, <SPY, Ortcutt>.7 Descriptivism most obviously applies to complete descriptions, but looks problematic for incomplete descriptions, proper names and indexicals. Still, as Wettstein notes (1979, p. 93), influential philosophers such as Quine and Katz, following Freges footsteps, have proposed to extend descriptivism even to proper names, indexicals or incomplete descriptions. This extension gives rise to what we might call a description theory of singular reference. Nowadays, after the powerful arguments against this approach by Donnellan, Kripke, Strawson, Wettstein, Kaplan among others, referentialism appears dominant and flourishing (see, e.g., textbooks such as Devitt and Sterelny 1999 and Akmajian et al. 1995). Accordingly, descriptivism is typically confined at most to complete descriptions and even on this there is no general agreement, in view of Donnellans referential/attributive distinction. In contrast, a philosopher committed to a description theory is difficult to find. Yet, I think that a description theory can still be defended. In this paper, I shall propose one, by relying on two tenets that can naturally be used to support a description theory: (a) the Disguise View, according to which proper names and indexicals are (incomplete) descriptions in disguise, involving an implicit definite article; (b) the Ellipsis View, according to which incomplete descriptions and, more generally, quantifier phrases are elliptical.8
(continued from p. 8) not contain ordinary objects as constituents (see the above mentioned correspondence with Russell) and more generally that all its constituents can in some sense be capable of being grasped by a mind in a psychological act, or as Putnam 1975 puts it, of being somehow in the head, even though ultimately they are objectively existing (abstract, Platonic) entities. In other words, in the terminology that I shall introduce below, Fregean propositions should be taken to be entertainable. However, this historical issue has nothing to do with the main goals of this paper and to avoid misunderstandings I shall usually prefer to say entertainable rather than Fregean, when this second constraint on propositions (or meanings in general) is at issue. 6 The referentialist of course may also admit propositions with individuals other than ordinary objects as constituents (say, microphysical entities, or private mental representations) and may wish to call them singular, Russellian or Kaplanian, too. But in keeping with current terminology, it is fair to call such additional propositions (if they are admitted) singular, Russellian or Kaplanian insofar as they are taken to belong to a class that also contains as typical members the traditional singular propositions with ordinary objects as constituents. 7 To provide canonical representations of meanings of predicates, I typically use uppercase English expressions (possibly with underscore signs) such as SPY or BUS_DRIVER. 8 Recanati 1996 notes that the Ellipsis View can be understood in a syntactic, Gricean or pragmatic sense. I accept the latter option [which Recanati attributes to Bach (1987, 1994)], i.e., I view incomplete descriptions as elliptical in a pragmatic sense, which will be made more precise below. Recanati (1996, note 3, p. 452) acknowledges that the pragmatic version of the Ellipsis View escapes the criticisms that he levels specifically against the syntactic and Gricean versions. But there are other standard criticisms against the Ellipsis View. I shall examine them below.


Francesco Orilia

2. Some motivations Why a description theory of reference? Apart from the fact that it is worth investigating it as an option in its own right, referentialism, in spite of its popularity, seems in some respects less convincing or theoretically more baroque than its rival. First and foremost, as is well-known, the former, with its appeal to singular propositions, is in trouble with the co-reference problem standardly exemplified by Freges puzzle,9 which descriptivism solves by a standard recourse to Fregean propositions (see, e.g., Perry 2002). Thus, Sullivan 1998 urges that the referentialist should acknowledge Fregean propositions beside Russellian ones.10 As a matter of fact, referentialism must at least link some9 The standard version of Frege's puzzle is based on a supposedly true identity sentence token, i.e. of the form s is t (t and s two descriptions or proper names), e.g. the morning star is Venus, and a subject S who is assumed to believe a proposition P (pragmatically) expressible by a certain sentence token T, without believing a proposition P' (pragmatically) expressible (in the same context) by a sentence token T' (where T' differs linguistically from T only in that it contains a token of t wherever T contains a token of s). It is not easy to formulate a (less standard) version of Freges puzzle with an identity sentence token involving two indexicals. But it can be done (see, e.g., Castaeda 1989, p. 72). 10 Something in this spirit is in fact proposed by Perry (2002), who thus calls his referentialism critical (p. 91), as opposed to a naive one that fails to acknowledge the co-reference problem. Following the suggestion of one referee, I would like to briefly compare our approaches. According to Perry, a sentence token with a proper name or indexical has a singular proposition as the official content assigned to it by semiotic rules. This content however is incremental in that it is additional to other propositions (called indexical or reflexive contents) that semiotic rules may also associate with the sentence token in question and that have the theoretical role of accounting for the co-reference problem. These indexical contents involve as constituents modes of presentations of the individuals involved in the official content, rather than the individual themselves. But indexical contents are not entertainable in the sense explained in 3, below. In fact, they typically contain as constituents singular term tokens occurring in the sentence token to which they are associated by the semiotic rules, and of course such singular term tokens, qua objective physical entities, are external to the mind. Perry thus recognises the need, for a full account of belief, of other additional contents, reflexive contents of beliefs (p. 95), which are now, as I understand Perry, entertainable (in my terminology), for the singular term tokens in question are replaced by corresponding perceptual buffers of the relevant agent. There is then some similarity between Perrys approach and mine, in that, as we shall see, I claim that propositions involving as constituents men tal representations of indexical tokens must sometimes be acknowledged as pragmatic meanings of sentence tokens (just as Perry acknowledges reflexive contents with singular term tokens or perceptual buffers thereof). Moreover, I claim that my pragmatic meanings of sentence tokens allow us to deal with the co-reference problem, since they always involve something like modes of presentations (the properties of properties of the form [THE P] to be introduced in 4, below). Similarly, Perrys reflexive contents, as they involve modes of presentations, are appealed to in dealing with the co-reference problem. But there are significant differences. To save referentialism, Perry admits (non-entertainable) singular propositions qua incremental official contents, in addition to (non-entertainable) indexical (reflexive) propositions and (entertainable) reflexive contents of beliefs, and thus has the problem of specifying a semiotic architecture where somehow these different levels of meaning fit together in a way compatible with referentialism. In contrast, since I do not have the problem of saving referentialism, and since all my propositions are entertainable, as we shall see, I have a simplified ontology (no singular propositions) and a simplified semiotic architecture (sentence tokens just express propositions).

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


how singular propositions to Fregean-like psychological modes of presentation and linguistic modes of presentation, as proposed by Recanati 1992.11 This however generates the need of explaining how these modes are linked to a pragmatic meaning that happens to be a singular proposition, a task that the descriptivist approach, as we shall see, does not have to face. Moreover, referentialism requires an appeal to complicated causal-historical chains and related notions (in particular, to account for reference by proper names). In contrast, a description theory appears simpler, in that it can provide an obvious analysis of singular reference (without involving historical chains or the like), once it is assumed (roughly speaking) that definite descriptions have Russellian truth-conditions. In turn, this assumption yields a unified treatment of identity sentences along the lines of Russell 1905. This provides the basis for a general solution to Freges puzzle, no matter what kinds of singular terms are involved in the identity sentence in question.12 Sullivan 1998 also suggests that not only Fregean propositions, but also Russellian propositions are needed in order to account for communication. If this were true, referentialism would have the lead in this respect. Yet, pace Sullivan, communication can most naturally be accounted for in a way that requires no Russellian propositions, as the sketch of the communication process to be provided in 4 below will suggest. Hence, as we shall see in the following, descriptivism can yield a theory of reference that makes no appeal to singular propositions and can thus propose to delete such propositions from the ontological inventory. From the point of view of Ockams razor, this gives descriptivism an advantage over its rival.

11 The former modes are needed to account for Freges puzzles and the latter to account for the fact that somehow a very generic concept or property can be associated to proper names and indexicals even from a purely semantic point of view. (For example, being a male human being is a property semantically linked to the pronoun he and yet according to the direct reference approach this property is not a constituent of the pragmatic meaning of a token of he is a professor, where he is used demonstratively.) 12 If we assume that all singular terms are descriptions and that descriptions have Russellian truth-conditions, then a token of an identity sentence s is t involved in an instance of Freges puzzle, will always have truth conditions of the form 1x (F (x) & 1z (G (z) & x = z)) [where 1x (F(x) & A) abbreviates x (y (F (y) x = y) & A)], even if s and t are proper names or indexicals [in the following for brevitys sake I shall often drop the parentheses around argument letters, thereby writing, e.g., Fx instead of F(x)]. As Russell 1905 shows, once identity sentence tokens are given this kind of truth conditions, Freges puzzle is blocked, for the puzzle requires the use of Leibnizs law, x = y (A A(y/x)), on the assumption that the identity sentence token in question has truth conditions of the form x = y.


Francesco Orilia

It may be objected that there is for independent reasons a role for singular Russellian propositions,13 since they can be identified with the states of affairs postulated by Armstrong 1978 to defend scientific realism and the correspondence theory of truth. But it is not so, for according to Armstrong, which states of affairs should be posited depends on which natural/physical universals are acknowledged by the best available scientific theory of the world, i.e., it cannot be decided a priori. In contrast, referentialism requires that in a by and large a priori way (i.e., from the point of view of the theory of language and communication, without appealing to basic science), we postulate Russellian propositions such as <SPY, Ortcutt>, considered above, although being a spy is unlikely to be considered a physical universal. 3. Entertainable entities and meanings The particular version of the description theory that I shall propose stems from a conception of semantic theory as allied with cognitive psychology in an attempt to provide a naturalist account of the use of language as expression of inner cognitive states of thinking, believing and so on.14 Now, I think it can be argued (although for reasons of space I cannot do it here) that this task becomes easier, if semantic theory abides by what we may call the Entertainable Meaning Constraint (EMC). Accordingly, I will impose it on my description theory, which can then accordingly be called the EMC theory. EMC requires that all meanings (whether pragmatic or semantic) be entertainable entities, i.e., entities capable of being in the mind,15 as this can be said on the one hand of phenomenal or mental particulars [ranging from pains, itches and the like to perceptual mental representations of objectively existing physical particulars such as ordinary objects] insofar as they occur somehow within the private mental events of thinking subjects, and on the other hand of concepts insofar as they are possessed or exercised by thinking subjects. In the first place, here we shall be especially concerned with entertainable entities such as (i) token mental (perceptual) representations of objectively existing physi13 Provided of course we do not call, following Kaplans (1989, p. 483), a proposition singular only if it is expressed by a sentence token containing a directly referential term. For in that case, if we take referentialism to be totally false, then it automatically follows by definition that there are no singular propositions. To avoid this, I wish to use singular proposition in line with what indicated in note 6, above, and as applicable to a proposition independently of how it is expressed. 14 In contrast, referentialists often reveal a desire for a more rigid demarcation between semantics and psychology (see, e.g., Wettstein 1986). Yet, a Quinean naturalistic attitude and much current research in so called cognitive semantics (by Jackendoff, Lakoff, Langacker, Talmy, among others) suggests that an open interface between semantics and psychology can be very fruitful. 15 Entities we can be acquainted with, in the terminology of Russell 1912.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


cal particulars, as opposed to the objective particulars themselves, and (ii) properties, relations and propositions (PRPs, in short), with no ordinary objects or objectively existing particulars among their constituents,16 and understood as concepts and thoughts in the sense of Bealer 1982, as opposed to physical universals and states of affairs in the sense of Armstrong 1978. Among such PRPs, it is worth distinguishing pure and impure ones, where the former have no particulars at all among their constituents, whereas the latter have mental particulars as constituents.17 Insofar as they are pure, PRPs are intersubjective, i.e., they can be entertained by more than one person. Further, they are stable. That is, they can be entertained at different times. All this must be understood in the sense in which we say that the very same concept can be possessed and exercised by different people at different times. In contrast, mental particulars, qua occurring within the subjective mental events of thinking subjects, are (as far as we know) unstable, i.e., they are ephemeral entities that quickly come and go, depending on how the flow of consciousness evolves, and can thus be entertained for short amounts of time. Moreover, they are (as far as we know) subjective or private, i.e., they can be entertained, inasmuch as they persist, only by the agent in whose mental events they are occurring (cf. Castaeda 1999, p. 94). Impure PRPs must be taken to inherit privacy and lack of stability from their private and unstable constituents. Now, apart
16 Following Russell 1912, we may say that an entertainabale proposition (a proposition we can understand, says Russell) must be wholly made up of entertainable constituents (constituents we can be acquainted with). Thus, e.g., a proposition involving as constituent a perceptual representation of, say, Clinton, is entertainable and thus potentially a meaning, whereas a Russellian proposition involving Clinton himself as constituent (assuming for a moment that there are such propositions) is not entertainable and thus never a meaning, given EMC, for an ordinary object such as Clinton is too big, so to speak, to occur in someones mind. In general, then, a PRP is entertainable, provided there is no non-entertainable element among its constituents. 17 For instance, the property being wise, the relation being taller, and the proposition that wisdom is more important than beauty are pure in that they have only concepts and (according to some views) the predicational tie, but no particulars, among their constituents. In contrast, sensing g, where g is, say, a particular perceptual representation occurring within someone's mental events is an impure property. Roughly speaking, entertaining an impure PRP (e.g., as when one judges that a certain inner visual shape g is red-looking), appears to involve both the exercise of some concept, looks red, and what Castaeda calls thinking reference to a mental particular (g, in our example, so that the entertained PRP is the proposition that g looks red). Thinking reference is basically focusing ones attention on a mental particular, in order to subsume it under a concept, i.e. in order to attribute a property to it (Gertler 2002 speaks similarly of demonstrative reference to a phenomenal content that can be achieved through attention alone). Since in general there is no linguistic medium involved in it, thinking reference should be sharply distinguished from the reference by proper names or indexicals of the referentialists [although Castaeda also uses thinking reference in a wider sense, which allows for a linguistic medium; see, e.g., Castaeda (1981, p. 277) and Kapitan (1998, 1999)]. It should also be sharply distinguished from thinking about a possibly external, physical object. For this notion, see note 28, below.


Francesco Orilia

from minor details which need not concern us here, we may say that in my view all meanings are (entertainable) PRPs. It is plausible to assume however that their intersubjectivity and stability allow pure PRPs to be semantic meanings18 (shared by a community of people speaking the same language) and that, in contrast, entities that lack these features cannot similarly be semantic meanings. But we can still take impure PRPs, as we shall see, to be pragmatic meanings. A few more words on mental representations are in order. Their occurrence is typically caused by the perception of physical objects (e.g., ordinary objects) in the surrounding environment, in cases of veridical perception.19 We can typically assume in these circumstances that a mental representation g somehow corresponds to one specific physical object x, in a sense that allows us to say that g represents x. Clearly, when such a representation relation between g and x obtains, the property being represented by g uniquely identifies the object x (see below for a precise, Russell-based, definition of uniquely identifying).20 It is important to record this point, since I shall appeal to it at various places, below. As we shall see in the following, there will also be reasons to focus especially on those mental representations caused by the perception of linguistic tokens, call them token representations, and on those peculiar mental representations caused rather than by perception of objects in the external environment by the inner perception of ourselves as it occurs in episodes of self-consciousness. We may call them self- or ego-representations or simply egos. It is plausible to say that an ego-representation is a necessary ingredient for intentional actions such as deciding to grab a nearby object.21 Consider, e.g., Perrys (1979) grocery store example, to be reviewed below: When the sugar spiller suddenly realises that he himself is making a mess, the belief needed for triggering his decision to clear up the mess is plausibly taken
18 In the more technical terminology introduced in 5, below, this amounts to saying that there is no linguistic type E such that, for some interpretation Int, Int(E) is an impure PRP. 19 Of course, it can also take place without being caused by external objects, as in dreams or hallucinations, and there may thus be representations without any represented objects, e.g., the fountain-representation hallucinated by a thirsty man in the desert. All these issues must be considered in a complete account of mental representations and the representing relation, as well as of phenomenal particulars in general. My favorite one would involve an appeal to Gestalt psychology (Koffka 1999), but for reasons of space we cannot undertake this here. The intuitive ideas in this section should suffice for present purposes. 20 As we shall see, by appealing to these properties based on the relation of representation, we can always be sure to find a descriptive content for indexicals, thereby viewing them as descriptions in disguise. Accordingly, even versions of Freges puzzle involving indexicals can be solved by appealing to Russells theory of descriptions, as indicated in note 12, above. 21 See Koffka (1999, Ch.8), where such self-representations are taken to result from a bipolar subdivision of the total field of consciousness of a given person (behavioral field) in a subjective and an objective pole.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


to involve a self-representation g, i.e., it is a belief to the effect that a person represented by a ego g is causing a mess. In virtue of the fact that g is an ego (as opposed to any other kind of mental representation), the involvement of g in this belief should be considered a key causal ingredient for transferring energy from the sugar spillers brain to his limbs in a way that eventually results in his taking care of the mess. I shall appeal to this below in accounting for Perrys example. 4. Communication and descriptive contents I now wish to propose the sketch of how communication works promised above. It is in line with EMC and thus eschews Russellian propositions. Roughly, a communication process is a causal process involving some participants and some linguistic tokens. These tokens are used in order to achieve certain goals. In typical cases, the participants take on alternatively the roles of utterer (speaker)22 and receiver (hearer) in different phases of a communication process. Moreover, for any token t (say, a sentence token) involved in a communication process, it is possible to assign a pragmatic meaning to t. This assignment is based on the syntactic and semantic rules of the language in question (to which t belongs) and on pragmatic rules that take into account relevant features of the (communicative) context in question, in which t is uttered. In relation to t, we must distinguish the following. (a) A meaning Ms entertained by the speaker, which the speaker has in mind and intends to communicate; the speaker linguistically encodes it in order to communicate it, which results in his entertaining a mental token representation t ' of t and his uttering token t. Call Ms a speaker pragmatic meaning. (b) A meaning Mr entertained by the receiver as a result of his effort to decode a mental token representation t '' of t that the receiver entertains as a result of his perceiving token
22 The speaker or utterer of a linguistic token t need not coincide with the producer of t. For example, a written token t produced by Tom may be used by Mary to compose a written text. In this case, Mary (not its producer Tom) is the utterer of t. The notion of utterer can be taken very widely, if one wishes. For example, consider the machine A, envisaged by Soldati 1998 (Ch. II, 2), which automatically prints a token of I am hot, when it gets hot. The reader can verify at the end of the paper that in view of the (I-R)-(T-R) token reflexive principles, in 8 below, these tokens can be taken to express truths, if utterer is used in a wide sense, allowing the machine A to be considered an utterer. Similarly, we could even consider as utterer in this wide sense a car labelled with a token t of, say, I belong to the King of Spain (where t is sand-made, put together and randomly placed on the car by a wind storm). Then, t can be taken to express a truth by someone who believes that indeed the car belongs to the King of Spain. In these cases, of course, we would have no speaker meaning (as this is defined below), no selfknowledge in Soldatis sense of the term, but at most a hearer meaning (as this is defined below). To the extent that there is a hearer meaning, i.e. a subject who views the tokens in question as linguistic tokens and interprets them in accordance with semiotic rules, it makes sense to call the machine A, or even the car, utterer.


Francesco Orilia

t. Let us call Mr a receiver (hearer) pragmatic meaning. (c) An objective meaning Mo based on the fact that there are (i) official, intersubjective, socially determined syntactic and semantic rules for the language in question, (ii) intersubjective, interlinguistic (probably universal) pragmatic rules, and (iii) objective relevant features of the context.23 I shall call Mo a pragmatic meaning (of t) simpliciter.24 Communication is successful to the extent that Ms is sufficiently similar to Mr for the communication goals to be fulfilled.25 Typically, a minimal requirement for sufficient similarity is that Ms and Mr be extensionally equivalent. A communication is likely to be successful insofar as the participants share and use the same set of semiotic rules and have by and large the same beliefs about the relevant features of the context. To the extent that these beliefs are correct and that the semiotic rules the participants use are in conformity with the relevant intersubjective rules, Ms, Mr, and Mo will then tend to be sufficiently similar or even to coincide.26 In typical cases, the participants in a communication process produce sentence tokens expressing propositions. In line with descriptivism, my EMC theory postulates that these propositions, beside being entertainable, are Fregean in that they involve a descriptive content as constituent precisely where referentialism would posit an individual as constituent of a Russellian proposition. I now wish to explain how such descriptive contents are understood in my approach. Assume that DET is a semantic meaning (e.g., THE or EVERY) of a determiner (e.g., the or every). If F is the semantic meaning of a predicative expression (such as table, winged horse, etc.), I take [DET F] to be a property of properties, which can in turn be the semantic meaning of a quantifier
23 See Akmajian et al. 1995 for a view of pragmatic competence as the possession and capacity to use a system of inferential rules. 24 Ms, Mr and Mo will typically have subconstituents that are in turn speaker pragmatic meanings, receiver meanings, and meanings simpliciter. 25 It is often assumed that successful communication requires numerical identity between Ms and Mr, rather than sufficient similarity. However, to require identity seems too much in view of the fact that some communication can go through even in spite of individual differences in the lexical competence of speakers of the same language (cf. Marconi 1997, Ch. 5). Here a reason due to the nature of singular reference, as I see it, will emerge. 26 There is no reason to suppose that the entertaining of pragmatic meanings by utterers and receivers involved in a communication process be (fully) conscious. Thus, say, even unconscious but sufficiently sophisticated robots can be considered as participants in a communication process, capable of taking on both utterer and receiver roles. (As regards them, we may assume that they deploy some electronic counterparts of our token mental representations). On the other hand, we should assume that if a meaning is consciously before a persons mind, then this meaning is entertained by this person. Finally, we should assume that a meaning M is (consciously) entertained by a subject S to the extent that every constituent of M is (consciously) entertained by S.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


phrase such as the table or every winged horse. This is in essence the approach to quantifier phrases that can be found in Prior 1963, is developed in detail in Montague 1974 and further exploited in the theory of generalised quantifiers of Barwise and Cooper 1981.27 Quite obviously, a property of the form [EVERY F] is assumed to obey the following principle: (UQ) [EVERY F](G) y (Fy Gy).

In keeping with the promise to assume Russellian truth conditions for definite descriptions, a property of the form [THE F] is exemplified by another property G iff there is exactly one object which is F and this object is G, i.e., [THE F] is taken to obey this principle: (DD) [THE F](G) x (y (Fy x = y) & Gx).

Let us recall at this juncture that we can exploit Russells theory of descriptions to analyse what it is for a property to uniquely identify an object x: (ID) A property F uniquely identifies x iff z (y (Fy z = y) & z = x).28

It is also important to record that determiner properties, i.e. properties of the form [DET F], can occur in a proposition both in predicate position (predicatively), as (UQ) and (DD), above, show, and in subject position, as when we say that the determiner property [THE TABLE] contains the property of being a table as a constituent [CONTAIN([THE TABLE],TABLE)].

27 Contrary to Montague, I would implement this approach in a type-free framework, e.g. as proposed in Orilia (2000, 9). These details are however immaterial for present purposes. What is central is that definite descriptions are not treated as incomplete symbols in the sense of Russell 1905. Thus, if the predicate F semantically means property P, any definite description the F has as semantic meaning the property (of properties) [THE P]. For further explanations on this approach to quantifier phrases see Orilia (1994, 2000a) and Montague inspired textbooks such as Chierchia and McConnell-Ginet 1991. It may be worth noting that, although my treatment of definite descriptions as quantifier phrases is essentially that of Montague and Barwise and Cooper, these authors do not propose a complete reduction of singular terms to definite descriptions as I do, for they offer no descriptivist analysis of indexicals and proper names. They do treat the latter as quantifier phrases, but in a way that presupposes an unanalysed use of proper names as referring to individuals [see, e.g., Barwise and Cooper (1981, p. 166)]. 28 As promised in note 17, above, we can now say that thinking about something can be analysed (roughly) as follows: a subject S thinks about an object x iff S entertains a proposition P with a constituent of the form [THE F] such that F uniquely identifies x. This is in line with what Gareth Evans (1996) has called Russells principle. The property F in question may be a property of the form represented by g, where g is a particular perceptual representation, which explains why veridical perception allows us to think about external objects.


Francesco Orilia

5. Singular terms and singular reference We set the stage in the introduction, by saying that singular terms purport to pick up a unique object. But we can in the present approach go beyond this intuitive level and cash somehow this metaphoric way of speaking. In order to do so, consider first these two questions: (Q1) (Q2) When exactly does an expression E purport to pick up a unique object and thereby deserve to be called a genuine singular term?29 When exactly does a (genuine) singular term succeed in picking up an object, i.e. singularly refer to one entity x?

Toward answering them, let us introduce some useful terminology. Call interpretation an assignment of a unique semantic meaning to an expression type E belonging to language L, in accordance with the syntactic and semantic rules of L. I shall use Int(E) to designate the semantic meaning assigned to E by interpretation Int.30 We can assume that, for any expression E exemplified by token t, the pragmatic rules can select one or more most plausible semantic interpretations in relation to a context C in which t is uttered. Let us classify as a C/t-interpretation any such contextual interpretation of E. Similarly, let us call M a C/t-meaning of E, if M is assigned to E by a C/t-interpretation. For example, if a token t of bank is uttered in a financial context C, then surely there is a C/t-interpretation that assigns the property of being a bank in the finantial sense to bank. This property is then classifiable as a C/t-meaning of bank. On the contrary the property of being a river bank is likely to be not so classifiable. On this basis, we can provide the following definition: (CM) Conveying a Meaning. An utterer S of a token t of E in context C conveys with t (and with E) a meaning M in C iff there is a contextual C/t-interpretation Int such that int(E) = M.

Let us now tackle (Q1). We cannot simply answer by saying that the expression E must be a surface singular term, i.e. a singular term in the purely
29 My use of the qualifier genuine here should not be confused with the rather popular use of it in Mart 1995. According to her, indexicals and proper names, as opposed to definite descriptions, are genuinely referential devices insofar as they refer to individuals in accordance with the referentialist doctrine. In my terminology, as we shall see, all singular terms (syntactically individuated) can be genuine, insofar as, roughly speaking, they can be interpreted as properties of properties of the form [THE P], i.e., in essence, as Russellian definite descriptions. 30 I assume that an interpretation of a compound expression E is recursively constructed on interpretations of the subconstituents of E in a way that relies on basic interpretations for the primitive expressions.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


grammatical sense (see note 1, above). For example, note that in Latin there is no article and thus equus alatus (winged horse) can be interpreted either as a definite description or, e.g., as a predicative expression (like an English indefinite description). Clearly, only in the former case does equus alatus purport to pick up a unique individual. Similarly, in English, we know that expressions that at the level of surface grammar have the form the F can be interpreted as generics or as equivalent to expressions of the form every F , that indexicals can be interpreted as anaphoric pronouns,31 and that, as we shall see in more detail below, proper names and indexicals can be interpreted as general terms. Clearly, an expression is a genuine singular term (i.e., purports to pick up a unique object) only with respect to an interpretation. Thus, to answer (Q1), we need to specify what kind of meaning an expression E must be assigned by an interpretation Int to license the claim that E is a singular term in relation to such an interpretation Int. From the point of view of English, we need consider three cases in answering (Q1): (i) E is a surface description, (ii) E is a surface proper name, (iii) E is a surface indexical. (As regards (iii), reasons of space prevent me from giving an explicit account of the subcase wherein E is an indexical phrase.) Let us consider all of them in turn. As regards (i), we can assume there is agreement on this:32

(SDT) Singular Description Thesis. A surface definite description the F is a genuine singular term with respect to interpretation Int iff Int (the F) = [THE P], where P is a property that is a semantic meaning of F (that is, for some int, int(F) = P).

The EMC description theory accepts (SDT) and moreover offers a similar answer in relation to (ii) and (iii), by assuming the Disguise View. In so doing, the EMC theory relies on the fact that an interpretation can, so to speak, supply elliptical or implicit elements that are missing at the surface grammatical level, a definite article in this case.33 Moreover, it assumes that any surface proper

31 Castaeda's (1967) quasi-indicators are anaphoric pronouns (albeit of a special kind) and as such are not to be considered genuine indexicals. Though they are very relevant to the topics discussed here, I cannot deal with them for reasons of space. For accounts of them compatible with the present approach, see Orilia 1994 and Kapitan 1998. 32 Apart from possible qualms over details that here we may dismiss as irrelevant. 33 The above Latin example shows that there are good reasons to assume this, independently of my analysis of English proper names and indexicals as genuine singular terms. Quite generally, grammarians assume that there are meanings or deep structure items that have a zero realisation at the surface grammatical level. For example, thematic roles such as AGENT, PATIENT, BENEFICIARY can have a zero realisation in English, but not in Latin and Ancient Greek, where they are realised as nominative, accusative and dative case endings.


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name or indexical G can be semantically interpreted as a general term expressing a certain property, the property of being a G, we may say. Thus EMC accepts these theses: (GPT) Generic Proper Name Thesis. For any surface proper name N, there is an interpretation IntN such that IntN(N) is the property of being an N. (GIT) Generic Indexical Thesis. For any surface indexical D, there is an interpretation IntD such that IntD(D) is the property of being a D. Given the popularity of referentialism, thesis (GPT) is not easily digestible, but still it has its own supporters (cf. Burge 1973, Bach 1987, Orilia 2000a and references therein). Thesis (GIT) is even less digestible than (GPT), but is around at least since Hegel (1977, Ch. I) and Bradley (1883, p. 63).34 According to the former thesis, there are proper name properties such as being an Aristotle or being a John Smith. According to the latter, there are indexical properties characterisable as (if some violence to grammar is forgiven) being an I, being a that, being a there, and so on. I shall call basic indexical properties the four properties of this kind expressed by I, this, here and now, respectively (in keeping with the indications of note 7 above, where a somewhat formal notation is more fitting I shall designate these properties by I, THIS, HERE, NOW). Even though there is linguistic usage that (at least partly) justifies (GPT) and (GIT),35 they can gain credibility only if we can characterise somehow the strange properties that they ask us to admit. As regards proper name properties, I refer the reader to Orilia 2000a, on the basis of which I claim that for any proper name N, IntN (N) is a property analysable as (but not identical to) the property of being called N.36 As regards indexical properties, I shall tackle this problem in 8, below (although for reasons of space I will deal only with the basic ones). The EMC description theory can then propose, beside (SDT), the following theses:
34 As far as I understand them, these philosophers claim that indicators are just general terms (see Voltolini 1996, for problems in their view). I less drastically claim that they can function both qua general terms and qua singular terms, as clarified by (GIT) and (SIT), below. Furthermore, my position must be distinguished from Nunbergs (1993) proposal, according to whom indexicals, qua singular terms, are sometimes definite descriptions (when they are used descriptively as opposed to referentially). In my view, indexicals qua singular terms are always definite descriptions (albeit in disguise), as clarified by (SIT), below. 35 On the use of proper names as general terms see Orilia 2000a. On the use of indexicals as general terms see Cohen 1980. For an extensive use of indexicals as general terms, see Castaeda (1989, 1990). 36 Orilia 2000a also defends the approach to proper names that is assumed here from the obvious Kripke-style objections.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


(SNT) Singular Proper Name Thesis. For any surface proper name N, there is an interpretation Int such that Int(N) = [THE IntN(N)], and just with respect to such an interpretation is N called a genuine singular term. (SIT) Singular Indexical Thesis. For any surface indexical D, there is an interpretation Int such that Int(D) = [THE IntD(D)], and just with respect to such an interpretation, is D called a genuine singular term.37 By taking together (SDT), (SNT), and (SIT), we thus have a general answer to (Q1). Let us now turn to (Q2). Both sentences and sentence tokens can be said to be true (semantically or pragmatically, as the case may be), to the extent that they express a truth, i.e. a true proposition. A truth can be called semantic or pragmatic, depending on whether the proposition in question is a semantic or a pragmatic meaning of the sentence (token) in question. In a similar vein, we should distinguish between semantic and pragmatic singular reference. Intuitively, a linguistic type such as the greatest even prime number (given a semantic interpretation) singularly refers to a number. Contrariwise, the linguistic type the table singularly refers to nothing, for there are many tables. But a token of the table can pragmatically singularly refer to an object x in a context C. In the present approach, semantic singular reference can very simply be analysed as follows: (SSR) Semantic Singular Reference. An expression E (a surface singular term) semantically refers to x with respect to interpretation Int iff, for some property P, Int(E) = [THE P], and P uniquely identifies x. Let us now turn to pragmatic singular reference. Clearly, we can expect that a token t of a surface singular term E singularly refers in a context C to an object x only if t is used as a singular term in C. Given the foregoing, this can be understood on the basis of the next definitions, (PUD) and, in particular, (STU). (Even if difficult at first glance, they should become easier in the light of the forthcoming examples (1) and (2), below.) (PUD) Predicative Use of a Determiner Property. A property [DET F] is used predicatively by speaker S in context C with respect to a token t iff S conveys in C with t the meaning [DET F] and t occurs in a sentence token t such that S conveys with t a proposition wherein [DET F] occurs in predicate position.
37 Castaeda held theses analogous to (SNT) and (SIT). For the former cf. 1989, Ch. 2 and for the latter see 1990, p. 305. His account of the definite article based on his guise theory (cf. Castaeda 1989, Chs. 13 and 14) was however quite different from my Russellian account.


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(STU) Singular Term Use. A token t of E uttered by speaker S in context C is used as a singular term in C by S iff (i) there is a C/t-interpretation Int of E such that E is a genuine singular term with respect to Int (i.e., S conveys with t a meaning of the form [THE F]) and (ii) Int(E) is used predicatively in C by S with respect to t. Let us also record the following: (STU_P)As a particular case of used as a singular term, we can define used as a first-person pronoun, by adding to the definiens of (STU) the following clause: (iii) Int(E) = [THE I]. Mutatis mutandis, we can similarly define used as basic locative pronoun (Int(E) = [THE HERE]), used as basic temporal pronoun (Int(E) = [THE NOW]) and used as basic demonstrative pronoun (Int(E) = [THE THIS]). Note that (SIT) grants that the English words I, here, now and this can be used in these ways; i.e., I can be used as a first person pronoun, and so on. Consider now a token t, of the linguistic type E, uttered in context C. It is important to realise that a meaning assigned to E by a contextual C/t-interpretation is not necessarily a pragmatic meaning of t, for the latter is not simply the result of lexical and syntactic disambiguations such as those required by bank or by every man loves a woman. We can plausibly assume that a C/t-meaning of E, M, can be transformed into another meaning M, given pragmatic rules that take into account features of the context C (see Bach 1994). Let us call any such M a pragmatic C-transform of M. For example, when an indirect speech act takes place in a context C, a token t of an expression E (say, I wonder when the train leaves) is superficially a declarative sentence token, but is implicitly in the imperative mode. In this case, a certain proposition P is a C/t-meaning, which is then pragmatically transformed into a request R (or a practition in the sense of Castaeda 1975). R is then a pragmatic C-transform of P. Of course, a pragmatic transformation could be vacuous, thereby leaving the meaning in question as it was. For example, if the proposition P is a C/t-meaning of 2 + 2 = 4, where C is a standard arithmetical context, the pragmatic C-transform of P is likely to be P itself). On this basis, we can define pragmatic meaning as follows: (PM) Pragmatic Meaning. M is a pragmatic meaning of a token t of E in context C iff M is a pragmatic C-transform of a C/t-meaning of E.

Now, the Ellipsis View, as I see it, essentially claims that if a C/t-meaning of E has the form [DET F], and it is predicatively used, then it may have a prag-

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


matic C-transform of the form [DET [F & H]],38 where H may be called a completing property with respect to F in context C. Let us consider some examples. Imagine that in a context in which we are speaking of Swiss agriculture, Tom utters a token t of (1) Every farmer is wealthy.

Suppose that there is a unique C/t-meaning of (1), i.e. the proposition (1a) [EVERY FARMER](WEALTHY).39

To illustrate (PUD), note first that [EVERY FARMER], since it occurs in predicate position in (1a), is used predicatively by Tom in context C with respect to token t. Further, note that (1a) is trivially false, for there are unwealthy farmers (say, in underdeveloped countries). But clearly the speaker did not mean to express this falsehood. By a principle of charity, given obvious features of the context, he can be understood as speaking about Swiss farmers. That is, from the standpoint of the Ellipsis View, being Swiss is in context C completing with respect to the property of being a farmer. In other words, we can assign proposition (1b), below, as pragmatic meaning to the token t of (1) in question (with respect to context C). (1b) [EVERY [FARMER & SWISS]](WEALTHY).40

Imagine now that John utters a token t of (2), below, in the context C of a conversation with Mary, as they are both on a ride in the London bus 13. (2) The bus driver is married.

Suppose that there is a unique C/t-meaning of (2), i.e. the proposition (2a) [THE BUS_DRIVER](MARRIED).41 To further illustrate (PUD), note that [THE BUS_DRIVER] is used predicatively by John in context C with respect to t, as (2a) witnesses. Moreover, to illustrate (STU), note that (i) John must have uttered a token t of the bus driver; (ii) there must be a C/t-interpretation Int such that the bus driver is a genuine singular term with respect to Int, and (iii) t is used as a singular term
38 [F & H] is a conjunctive property resulting from the conjunction of the property F and the property H. Conjunctive properties are assumed to obey the following obvious principle: [F & H](x) (Fx & Hx). 39 Which is equivalent to x(FARMER(x) WEALTHY(x)). 40 Which is equivalent to x((SWISS(x) & FARMER(x)) WEALTHY(x)). 41 Which is equivalent to 1x(BUS_DRIVER(x) & MARRIED(x)).


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by John in C. Now, (2a) is a trivially false proposition, for there are many bus drivers. But it should not be considered as a pragmatic meaning of (2). By a principle of charity, given obvious features of the context, Mary can expect to be understood as talking about the particular bus driver that exemplifies the property driving the London bus 13. Following the Ellipsis View, this property is completing with respect to being a bus driver in context C. That is, (2b), below, is assignable as pragmatic meaning to t, in context C. (2b)

These examples suggest that, on the basis of intersubjective pragmatic rules, a property H can be completing (implicit and contextually salient) with respect to another property F in a context C. In sum, if the Ellipsis View is correct, then there are completing properties, and the following thesis is plausible: (COMP) Completion Thesis. If property H is completing with respect to property F in context C and [DET F] is used predicatively by some speaker S in context C, then [DET [F & H]] is a pragmatic C-transform of [DET F]. Of course, if a property P is not in need of completion in a given context C, [DET P] can remain untouched: (NO_COMP) No Completion Thesis. If there is no property H that is completing with respect to F in context C and [DET F] is used predicatively by some speaker S in context C, then [DET F] is a pragmatic C-transform of [DET F]. On this basis, we can understand pragmatic singular reference as follows: (PRT) Pragmatic Reference Thesis. A token t of a surface singular term E pragmatically refers to x in context C iff there is a pragmatic meaning [THE F] of t with respect to context C such that [THE F] uniquely identifies x.43

42 Which is equivalent to 1x((BUS_DRIVER(x) & DRIVING_LONDON_BUS_13(x)) & MARRIED(x)). 43 This is Pragmatic reference simpliciter, since it is based on the notion of pragmatic meaning simpliciter. I shall assume that speaker and hearer pragmatic reference, mutatis mutandis, are defined in a similar vein. Donnellans distinction between attributive and referential uses of descriptions can then be handled in the way proposed by Castaeda (1981, p. 279). Unfortunately there is no room to dwell on the details here.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


To see how (PRT) works, consider the above bus driver example, and the token t of the bus driver uttered by John in the bus riding context C, with x as the bus driver. The property of driving the London bus 13 is completing with respect to being a bus driver (or so we assume). Then, by (COMP), [THE [BUS_DRIVER & DRIVING_LONDON_BUS_13]] is a pragmatic C-transform of [THE BUS_DRIVER], since the latter is a C/t-meaning of the bus driver, a meaning used predicatively in C by John. Thus, by (PM), [THE [BUS_DRIVER & DRIVING_LONDON_BUS_13]] is a pragmatic meaning of t in context C. Moreover, the property [BUS_DRIVER & DRIVING_LONDON_BUS_13] uniquely identifies the driver x. So, by the Pragmatic reference Thesis (PRT), t refers to x in context C. By appealing to (NO_COMP), rather than (COMP), we can see that (PRT) also allows us to take a token of a complete description (e.g., the greatest even prime number) to pragmatically refer to a unique entity (the number 2) in a (mathematical) context C. Of course, given the theses (GNT) and (SNT) about proper names, (PRT) also appropriately accounts for pragmatic reference by tokens of proper names, whether these are taken to be incomplete or complete descriptions (John Smith on the one hand and, perhaps, Henry VIII Tudor, on the other hand). We shall see in 7-9 below what is needed in order to render (PRT) appropriate to account for indexical reference, i.e., pragmatic reference by indexical tokens. Before that, we shall consider the main problems that the Ellipsis View allegedly suffers from. 6. Problems with the Ellipsis View In the foregoing I have heavily relied on a version of the Ellipsis View. But it is widely assumed that this view suffers from insurmountable problems, in particular, those labeled by Devitt and Sterelny (1999) the problem of principled basis, the ignorance problem and the the error problem, respectively. [See also Wettstein (1978, 1980).]44 These problems can be raised with respect to all kinds of incomplete quantifier phrases. I shall address them in relation to
44 These problems possibly explain the popularity of the rival Restricted Domain View, according to which the context can restrict the discourse domain (Castaeda 1989, Ch. 3, Recanati 1996, etc.). It is not clear however that this approach is a real alternative, for it might be parasitic on the Ellipsis View. For how can a discourse domain be restricted without a completing property that delimits quantifier ranges? Be this as it may, given EMC, the restricted domain approach does not seem helpful in characterising speaker pragmatic meanings of incomplete quantifier phrases (unless, perhaps, we complicate the picture, by introducing some sort of mode of presentation for domains of discourse; see Recanati 1996, 5), for a (restricted) discourse domain is not the kind of thing we can entertain or be acquainted with. I see the same problem in a new approach to incomplete descriptions recently proposed by Predelli 2000, as it appeals to possible worlds. All in all, the Ellipsis View is in my perspective the best option. (to be continued on p. 26)


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incomplete descriptions (which in my view include indexicals and (some) proper names). As regards the ignorance problem, I shall deal in particular with indexicals, since the problem is particularly hot with them. But the answers that I shall provide can be generalised in obvious ways to all kinds of incomplete quantifier phrases. First Problem. Typically there are many potential candidates for the role of completing property. For example, reconsider the bus driver case. Suppose that there is only one bus driver in London called Gaskon, that this is well-known to all Londoners and that he is driving the London bus 13. So why couldnt the completing property rather be the property of being called Gaskon? Consequently, why couldnt the pragmatic meaning in question be [THE [BUS_DRIVER & CALLED_GASKON]], rather than [THE [BUS_DRIVER & DRIVING_LONDON_BUS_13]]? In general, for any incomplete description (possibly, a description in disguise), the following seems true: (PPB) The Problem of Principled Basis. There seems to be no principled basis to choose one among the many potential candidates for the role of completing property in order to identify the pragmatic meaning of a token of an incomplete definite description. The critics of the Ellipsis View typically argue that we cannot solve this problem by choosing the speaker meaning of the token in question as the pragmatic meaning simpliciter. Whether or not the arguments they offer for this conclusion are sound, the conclusion is correct for the simple reason that in general we cannot equate speaker pragmatic meaning with pragmatic meaning simpliciter. In fact, the speaker may have wrong beliefs about objective features of the context or may make mistakes in using the pragmatic rules, or may even have a deviant pragmatic competence. But the defender of the Ellipsis View can concede the point and argue against the presupposition that renders (PPB) a problem, i.e., that there must be a unique pragmatic meaning of a given token. That is, I would like to hold the following thesis: (MT) Multiplicity Thesis. There may be many different pragmatic meanings of a single token in a given context.

(continued from p. 25) Fortunately, the alleged problems with it can be solved, as I hope to show. The account that I shall provide is necessary here, for although defences of the Ellipsis View have been recently provided (see Neale 2000 and references therein), they do not address all the issues that I need take into account for my form of descriptivism based on entertainable propositions.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


There seems to me no good reason to deny (MT). As a general point, it is a well-known phenomenon that the context may often fail to eliminate all the ambiguities arising from the multiplicity of semantic meanings of natural language expressions. As regards incomplete descriptions in particular, the point of using an incomplete description the F is to cause the receiver to think about a certain object x, without caring which properties (beside F) the receiver attributes to x in his thinking act. This suggests the following principle:

(CPP) Completing Property Principle. If H is a completing property for F in context C and P is a proposition that (i) has H as constituent and (ii) is a pragmatic meaning of (a token t of an expression E) in context C, then H is also a completing property for F in context C, provided that the proposition P that results from replacing all occurrences of H in P with H is entertainable and has the same truth-value as P.45 In view of (CPP), both driving the London bus 13 and being called Gaskon, for example, could be completing with respect to being a bus driver (in the context of the above bus driver example). It may be objected that (MT) makes successful communication impossible, for it allows for two distinct speaker and hearer meanings for one single token, both of which count as pragmatic meanings simpliciter. But, as we have noted above, successful communication does not require strict identity of speaker and hearer meanings, but simply sufficient similarity in relation to the goals of the communication process in question. And when this sufficient similarity exists, the two meanings are likely to be both pragmatic meanings simpliciter, in spite of their numerical diversity. Let us now turn to the error problem.46 (EP) The Error Problem. A token of an incomplete description may appear to refer (by intersubjective standards) to an object x, and yet, due to a mistake of the speaker, x does not exemplify the completing property intended by the speaker.

45 Note that, in the light of this principle, there is a lot of elbow room in assigning pragmatic meanings to an incomplete description occurring in an extensional context, but not as much if the description occurs with narrow scope in a propositional attitude attribution context. This suggests that incomplete descriptions (indexicals in particular) will tend to be interpreted with wide scope in such contexts. This goes in the direction of Castaedas claim that indexicals always take large scope in these contexts (See, e.g., Castaeda 1981). I am not sure however that narrow scope interpretations of indexicals should be ruled out altogether. Unfortunately, there is no room to discuss this in detail here.


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Again, the defender of the Ellipsis View may concede the point and reject the presupposition that renders it a problem, namely, once more, the identification of speaker pragmatic meaning and pragmatic meaning simpliciter. We have already rejected it and therefore we can turn to the ignorance problem. (IP) The Ignorance Problem. The utterer S of a token t of an incomplete description may be unable to exhibit upon request a corresponding token t of a complete description, even though t, by intersubjective standards, appears to refer to a certain object x.

For example, imagine a situation in which Tom says to Mary: (3) This is red.

Suppose the communication is by all standards successful, e.g., when asked to pick up the object he meant, Tom grabs the object x, and Mary does the same, when asked to pick up the object classified by Tom as red. Yet, let us suppose, neither Mary nor Tom is able to provide a complete description that semantically refers to x. A situation like this is no doubt quite possible. Now, we noted that a case of successful communication suggests that speaker meaning and hearer meaning are both pragmatic meanings. Thus, in this example (given the Ellipsis View as I propose to use it within the EMC description theory), both the speaker (Tom) and the hearer (Mary) pragmatic meanings should be of the form [THE [THIS & H]] (where H is completing with respect to being a this in context C ).47 This raises the following question: (T/M) The Tom/Mary Question. Why is neither Tom nor Mary able to exhibit a linguistic type that semantically expresses a meaning of the form [THE [THIS & H]] and that semantically refers to x?

46 My reply to the Problem of Principled Basis bears some analogy to Blackburns (1988). According to Blackburn, if different completing properties are equally good candidates, the utterer of an incomplete description makes an indeterminate statement that allows for various possible sharpenings. The indeterminate statement can be considered true, if all possible sharpenings are true: false, if all possible sharpenings are false; neither true nor false, otherwise. In my approach, there is ambiguity just where in Blackburns approach there is truth-value gap. Thus, our approaches, though related, are different. Schiffer 1995 argues against the Blackburn line on the ground that it hardly fits the referentialist approach to indexicals, which he takes for granted. Schiffer could perhaps by the same token argue against my reply to the Problem of Principled Basis, but of course this would leave my general proposal unscathed, since I reject the referentialist approach to indexicals. 47 Obviously [THE THIS] by itself is not sufficient to refer to x, because the generic meaning of an indexical is too generic to uniquely identify any object (see 8, below).

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


(IP) is embarrassing for the Ellipsis View only if a question like this cannot be plausibly answered. We shall address this issue in 9. Before doing it, we shall consider a closely related problem in 7 and develop some relevant theoretical machinery in 8. 7. The irreducibility of indexical reference Following the lead of Castaeda (1966, 1967, 1968, etc.),48 it has been widely emphasised (notably by Perry 1979) that indexical reference is irreducible in the following sense: (IIR) Irreducibility of Indexical Reference. A subjects disposition to utter an indexical token that pragmatically refers to x does not guarantee a simultaneous disposition to utter a co-referring non-indexical token (and vice versa).49

Examples such as those of Castaedas (1968) editor of Soul or the amnesiac military hero Quintus, Perrys (1979) sugar spiller and Kaplans (1989) kidnapped heiress witness that (IIR) is a constraint that any theory of indexical reference must accommodate. Consider the war hero Quintus.50 Suppose that, upon regaining consciousness after a terrible head injury causing him an allencompassing amnesia, he yells: (4) I am in pain!

The speaker meaning is here a true belief of Quintus. But because of the amnesia, he could not replace I with a non-indexical term (say, his proper name) that refers to him. Consider now Perrys sugar spiller. He is shopping in a grocery store, when he realises that there is a torn sack of sugar in his grocery cart. Accordingly, he asserts: (5) I am making a mess!

The speaker meaning of the sentence token in question is a true belief that is causally responsible for an ensuing intentional action to the effect that the sugar spiller takes care of the mess. A sentence obtained by replacing I in (5) with another term that refers to the spiller (say, the person who is spilling sugar) cannot be taken to express a belief of this kind and thus, we may assume, the sugar spiller would not equally be disposed to utter it. Turn now to Ka48 49

See also Castaeda 1999 and Kapitan 1999. This way of putting the matter was inspired by Harcourt (1999, p. 331). 50 Here I consider a variation on the theme of Castaedas original example.


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plans kidnapped heiress. After a long ride in the darkness of a car trunk, when the car at last stops in a quiet place, she whispers: (6) It is quiet here.

The speaker meaning is a true belief of the heiress. Given her impoverished knowledge of her surroundings, she could not replace here with a non-indexical term such as 30 miles north of Berkeley, or the like. A good theory of indexicals must be able to characterise these speaker meanings. In so doing, it must allow for the possibility that they are also pragmatic meanings simpliciter, for certainly the three sentence tokens in question could successfully communicate information to whoever was in a position to perceive them. 8. The Token-reflexive Rules We have seen that the Pragmatic Reference Thesis, (PRT) of 4, works in the sense that it insures that tokens of proper names and descriptions can have a pragmatic referent. But, one might urge, tokens of pure indexicals must have referents, in the light of widely accepted token-reflexive rules along these lines: (I-R*) An utterance of I refers to whoever utters it. (H-R*) An utterance of here refers to the location of the utterance. (N-R*) An utterance of now refers to the time of the utterance.51 Unfortunately, as they stand, these rules are not acceptable. However, as we shall see, the EMC theory will prove from more basic principles, rather than simply assume, appropriately corrected versions of them. As regards (I-R*), note that I may be used in quotation marks or as a general term in philosophical prose. Moreover, two or more people may collectively produce a written text in a first person mode (say, I would like to meet you tomorrow) wherein they use the pronoun I rather than we, e.g. in order to mislead the receiver. In this case I, though used qua singular term, refers to nothing in the sense in which the author of most Beatles songs
51 (I-R*)-(N-R*) come verbatim from Sidelle 1991, except for the labels. (H-R*) takes a token t of here to refer to the location of t, rather than the location of the utterer of t, on account of what Sidelle calls the answering machine paradox. I shall implicitly assume in the following that this paradox should be solved in the way suggested by Sidelle. Rules of this kind can be called token reflexive, for they highlight what Reichenbach 1947 called the tokenreflexivity of indexicals. This is not to say that the theories that accept versions of these rules thereby accept Reichenbachs theory of indexicals as a whole. For example, Kaplan (1989, pp. 519-520) criticises Reichenbach, but still accepts versions of these rules (see, e.g., his (D2), p. 520).

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refers to nothing (for there are two authors of most Beatles songs). Similarly, as regards (H-R*), suppose that a token h of here is uttered in a certain room r of a certain building b. Clearly, h is located in both r and b and even in the whole universe (Sidelle 1991, n. 4, p. 527). This suggests that, for different place extension kinds Ks, we can distinguish different relations of type utterance t is locatedK in place p. For example, utterance t is locatedroom in place p iff t is located in p and p is a room; or utterance t is locatedbuilding in place p iff t is located in p and p is a building. We may assume that features of the context and the pragmatic rules can select a place extension kind. Similar remarks, mutatis mutandis, apply to (N-R*), and we should thus assume that there are time extension kinds (instants, minutes, days, etc.) selectable by features of the contexts and pragmatic rules.52 In sum, the above principles should be reformulated as follows: (I-R) If in a context C there is a unique utterer S of a token i of I used as first person pronoun by S, then i pragmatically refers to S with respect to C. If in a context C that selects place extension kind K there is a unique place p such that a token h of here used as basic locative pronoun and uttered in C is locatedK in p, then h pragmatically refers to p in context C. If in a context C that selects time extension kind K there is a unique time m such that a token n of now used as basic temporal pronoun and uttered in C is atK m, then n pragmatically refers to m in context C.



In a similar vein, the following principle for the demonstrative this seems plausible:53

52 Clearly, a context may select simultaneously many different place or time extension kinds. If Tom, located in a certain room of a certain house, utters it is cold here, it may not be determined whether Tom should be understood as saying it is cold in this room as opposed to it is cold in this house. This is no problem, given the Multiplicity Thesis (MT) of 5 above. But even so, the notions of place and time extension kinds, as here presented, are certainly too simplistic and of course a more complete pragmatic theory should refine them. But I think they suffice for present purposes. 53 For simplicitys sake I shall neglect the fact that this, in contrast to that, is typically used for objects in the proximity of the speaker. These details are irrelevant for present purposes.


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If in a context C there is a token t of this used as basic demonstrative pronoun by speaker S, while S focuses on54 a unique object x, then t pragmatically refers to x in context C.

Given the widespread agreement on (more or less precise versions of) these principles, it makes sense to take them as constraints. That is, either we take them as primitive principles, or we propose more general principles wherefrom the constraints in question can be derived. Clearly, the latter is a better option for it would allow us to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of indexical reference (especially if these more general principles are universal, i.e. not relative to a specific natural language; principles (I-R)-(T-R) are not universal in this sense, for they are about certain English indexical words). It turns out, as we shall see, that we can infer these constraints, if we accept two sets of universal principles (in addition to the theoretical machinery so far developed), which I shall now present. The first set of principles corresponds to the claim (in favor of which Castaeda has argued extensively55) that indexical properties have a performative or executive character. For example, a speaker who uses a token qua first person pronoun (i.e., roughly, conveys the determiner property [THE I]), thereby exemplifies the property of being an I. In view of (STU_P), 4, these performativity principles are as follows: (I-P) (H-P) An individual S exemplifies the property of being an I, if S uses a token t qua first person pronoun.56 A place p exemplifies the property of being a here, if in a context C that selects place extension K, a speaker S uses a token t as a basic locative pronoun in such a way that t is locatedK in p. A time n exemplifies the property of being a now, if in a context C that selects time extension K, a speaker S uses a token t as a basic temporal pronoun in such a way that t is atK time n. An item x exemplifies the property of being a this, if in a context C a speaker S uses a token t as a basic demonstrative pronoun, while focusing on x.



54 To focus on must be understood in a rather flexible way. For example, one can focus on something either by pointing to it (e.g., when using this in overt speech) or simply pointing ones attention toward an object in ones phenomenal field (possibly using this in inner speech). There is no room in this paper to get into the intricacies involved here. For present purposes an intuitive notion of focusing on an object should suffice. 55 See for instance Castaeda 1989, Ch. 4, Pilot 1990 and Castaeda 1990. 56 Since we understand to utter in a very broad sense, the principle (I-P) grants that speaker S is an I, even if token t is not uttered outloud, but simply in inner speech. A similar remark applies to (H-P)-(T-P), below.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


The second set of principles has to do with how to complete indexical properties. These completion principles are as follows:57 (I-C) In a context C in which a token t is uttered, the property of uttering the G (where G is any property uniquely identifying t)58 is completing with respect to being an I. In a context C that selects place extension kind K and in which a token t is uttered, the property of being the place where the G is locatedK (where G is any property uniquely identifying t) is completing with respect to being a here.59 In a context C that selects time extension kind K and in which a token t is uttered, the property of being the time atK which the G occurs (where G is any property uniquely identifying t) is completing with respect to being a now. In a context C in which token t is uttered, the property of being an item focused on by the utterer of the G when the G is uttered (where G is any property uniquely identifying t) is completing with respect to being a this.




You will have noted that in stating these completion principles I appealed to an identifying property G of the relevant token t rather than to t itself. The reason is that, in compliance with EMC, t as such, qua objective physical entity, cannot enter as a constituent in a completing property, for otherwise such a completing property would not be entertainable and could not be used as constituent of a pragmatic meaning. But how can we be sure that an entertainable property G that uniquely identifies t always exists in any context in which t is uttered? We noted above that in a communicative process60 the participants get acquainted with tokens through the mediation of mental token representa57 In discussing Castaedas theory of indexical reference, Pilot 1990 raised the issue of how very generic properties like the indexical ones can allow us to pick a definite individual in a given context. In his reply to Pilot, Castaeda 1990 appealed to the determinable/determinate distinction for properties. My completion principles provide a different answer to Pilots question. 58 For example, suppose that t is the only one-letter token (in the whole universe) heard by a Swiss philosopher at the time of utterance. Then, G could be the property of being a oneletter token heard by a Swiss philosopher. It should be clear that the property of uttering the G is not meant to be a Russellian property with the object denoted by the G as a constituent, but rather a Fregean entertainable property with a descriptive content, the property of properties [THE G], as a constituent (cf. formula (DD) in 4). 59 It might be worth recalling that being a here is assumed to be the property expressed by here, when this term is used qua basic locative pronoun. Of course, here can be used otherwise, e.g., as a demonstrative pronoun. Principle (H-C) has nothing to do with this use of here. 60 The existence of a communicative process is, as I see it, a conditio sine qua non for assuming that there also exists something worth calling a context. Without a context there is no pragmatic meaning and therefore no pragmatic reference. A communicative process may however involve, let us recall, just a single speaker talking to oneself, possibly in inner speech.


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tions.61 Hence, to the extent that an entity t is a linguistic token involved in a communication context, then there also exists a token representation g such that the property of being represented by g uniquely identifies t. Thus, the following principle holds: (TIP) Token Identification Principle. Given a context C involving a token t, there is at least one property G uniquely identifying t.

We have now amassed all the ingredients that allow us to back up (I-R)-(I-T). For illustration, I shall show how (I-R) can be derived. THEOREM 1. The token-reflexive principle (I-R) follows from (I-P) and (I-C).

Proof. We shall assume the antecedent of (I-R) and try and prove its consequent. By the antecedent of (I-R) and the definition of used as first person pronoun (cf. (STU_P) in 5), there is a token i of I uttered by a unique speaker S, and a C/i-interpretation Int such that: Int(I) = [THE I], and [THE I] is used predicatively by S in C with respect to i. By (TIP), there is a property H = being utterer of the G, such that G in fact uniquely identifies i. By (I-C), H is completing with respect to being an I. Hence, by (COMP) and (PM), [THE [I & H]] is a pragmatic meaning of i in context C. Since by assumption there is a unique utterer of i, i.e. of the G, and this utterer is S, then H uniquely identifies S. By (I-P) and the antecedent of (I-R), the speaker S is an I. It follows that [I & H] uniquely identifies S as well. Since, as we saw, [THE [I & H]] is a pragmatic meaning of i in context C, it follows by (PRT) that i pragmatically refers to S in context C, which is the consequent of (I-R), as desired. The fact that we can prove this theorem, and corresponding theorems for (H-R), (N-R) and (T-R), tells us that, once we accept the performative and completion principles, the account of pragmatic reference embodied in (PRT) works for indexicals as well as for descriptions and proper names. Intuitively, (PRT) should work for indexicals just as for proper names and descriptions, in view of the uniform treatment proposed for all singular terms. This suggests (given the present perspective) that the performative and completion principles are correct. In the light of this sort of transcendental deduction of the performative and completion principles, I uphold them as part of the EMC description theory. I promised above a characterisation of indexical properties. A property or concept can be characterised in two ways. If it is not primitive, by providing
61 If we want to allow for robots as participants in a communication process, we can assume that they will have some electronic counterpart of our mental token representations.

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an analysis, as when we say that knowledge is analysable as justified true belief; otherwise, by somehow describing its role in our conceptual framework. This is all we can do when the property is primitive and thus unanalysable. For example, negation and conjunction, if taken to be primitive, are still characterisable as the concepts obeying the natural deduction principles of Double Negation and Reductio ad Absurdum, and &-Introduction and &-Elimination, respectively. Now, the above performativity and completion principles do provide, in a similar vein, a characterisation of the basic indexical properties. Moreover, this characterisation suggests that they are not analysable in non-indexical terms.62 For example, it could be thought that being a speaker or the like is the analysans for being an I. But it is not so, because an analogue of (I-C) does not hold for being a speaker or the like. The following example shows it. While John is speaking, Tom whispers to his friend Mary, sitting nearby: the person who is speaking is boring. Undoubtedly, he should be taken to refer to John. Contrariwise, had he said I am boring, he should have been taken to refer to himself. It could be thought that some of the basic indexical properties could be analysed in terms of the other ones, say, being a this in terms of being an I. There is no room to investigate this proposal in detail here, but my impression is that this attempt can hardly succeed, since each of them is peculiarly characterised by its own completion principles. (see also Castaeda 1989, Ch. 4, 4). In any case, nothing crucial hinges on this point here and I shall thus assume without further ado that the basic indexical properties are all primitive. 9. The ignorance problem and the irreducibility of indexicals At last, let us go back to the problems from 6-7 left open. Take the irreducibility of indexical reference [(IIR) of 7] first. We were left with the task of characterising speaker meanings corresponding to the relevant tokens of (4), (5) and (6), with the constraint that these meanings must be propositions believed by the utterers of the tokens in question and possibly pragmatic meanings simpliciter. Obviously, in line with (IIR), these meanings should not be expressible in non-indexical terms. As regards (4), we can plausibly characterise the speaker meaning as follows: (4a) [THE [I & REPRESENTED_BY_g]](IN_PAIN),

where g is the ego-representation occurring in Titus episode of self-consciousness underlying his utterance of (4). Under the given circumstances, this
62 This is in line with Castaeda 1989, Ch. 4, 2, although I am not sure that the arguments offered by Castaeda are absolutely compelling.


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is a true proposition, and a belief of Titus, compatible with his devastating amnesia (in view of the ephemeral character of the property: presented by g).63 As regards (5), for reasons explained above, we need a speaker meaning that is also a belief capable of causing an intentional action. As noted in 3, it is plausible to assume that such a belief must involve an ego-representation. The speaker meaning of (5) should then be taken to be (5a) [THE [I & REPRESENTED_BY_g]](MAKING_MESS),

where g is the ego-representation occurring in the sugar spillers episode of self-consciousness underlying his utterance of (5). As regards (6), we can appeal to a mental representation g in the heiress mind, caused by her perceptual contact with her immediate surroundings. Thus, we can propose the following speaker meaning in relation to (6): (6a) [THE [HERE & REPRESENTED_BY_g]](QUIET).

Since these meanings cannot be semantic, as explained in 3, and given the unanalysability of the basic indexical properties, there is no reason to think that they could be expressed non-indexically. But they can be meanings, for they comply with EMC. Moreover, they can be pragmatic meanings simpliciter. I shall illustrate why this is so, by focusing on (4a). Suppose that i is a token representation in a passerbys mind caused by the fact that Quintus uttered the relevant token i of I. Then, by (I-C), [THE [I & UTTERER_OF_A_TOKEN_REPRESENTED_BY_i]] is a pragmatic meaning simpliciter of the token i uttered by Quintus. Now, note that, in virtue of what we said about the representing relation in 3, the following proposition holds:
(I-PRES) Suppose that, simultaneously, (i) a subject S utters a token t; (ii) t is represented in someones mind by the token representation t; (iii) Ss mental events involve the occurrence of an ego-representation g. Then, the two properties, uttering the token represented by t, and being represented by g, are two (contingently) equivalent (co-extensive) properties, both of which uniquely identify S.

In view of this, it is sufficient to appeal to (MT) and (CPP) of 6 to realise that the [THE [I & REPRESENTED_BY_g]] of (4a) must be a pragmatic meaning simpliciter of the token i just as much as the meaning [THE [I & UTTE63 Note that a similar analysis could be offered for the token of I wont let this happen again uttered by the sensory deprived subject considered by Elizabeth Anscombe (1981, p. 31). For the envisaged state of sensory deprivation does not presumably prevent this subject from having an ego-representation.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference


RER_OF_A_TOKEN_REPRESENTED_BY_i]]. Therefore, (4a) must be a pragmatic meaning simpliciter of the token of (4) uttered by Quintus.64 Let us now turn to the ignorance problem (IP) and to the Tom/ Mary question (T/M) of 6. A plausible answer is available, once properties of the type represented by g (where g is a mental representation) are assumed. We have seen in fact that there is no reason to expect that such properties can be explicitly verbalised, i.e. semantically expressed. We may thus suppose that (typically)65 pragmatic meanings of the type [THE [F & REPRESENTED_BY_g]] are involved when an instance of the ignorance problem arises. For example, we may plausibly suppose that the speaker and hearer meanings, in the above example, have the form [THE [THIS & REPRESENTED_BY_g]] and [THE [THIS & REPRESENTED_BY_g ]], respectively, where g represents, in Toms mind, the external object x and g does the same in Marys mind. By a reasoning analogous to the one presented above in relation to (4a), we can see that both these meanings count as pragmatic meanings simpliciter, which explains why Tom and Mary communicated successfully. 9. Conclusion According to the received view, an appeal to descriptivism is a dead end in an attempt to account for singular reference by proper names and indexicals. In contrast to this, I have argued elsewhere (Orilia 2000a) for an account of proper names as (incomplete) descriptions, while relying on a view of incomplete descriptions as elliptical (what I have called above the Ellipsis View). Here I have opposed the received view by proposing that indexicals are also incom64 The above analyses of Titus case suggests that in general the speaker meanings of sentence tokens of the form I am F are of the form [THE [I & REPRESENTED_BY_g]](F), where g is an ego-representation. This suggestion can be backed up by arguments proposed by Castaeda (1983, p. 324). Moreover, it seems in line with Castaedas rule I-HE* (1983, p. 325). In fact, Castaeda's locution as himself , crucially appearing in this rule, should be cashed by appealing to the notion of an I (Castaeda 1999, Ch. 10), which in turn corresponds to my notion of ego-representation. In a similar vein, we could perhaps assume that the speaker meanings corresponding to tokens of the other indexicals are always similarly private. For example, the speaker meaning of a token of this (in a standard use by speaker S) would always be of the form [THE [THIS & REPRESENTED_BY_g]], where g is a perceptual representation in Ss mind of the physical object focused on (pointed to) by S. If we take this line, given the privacy of these speaker meanings, we have another reason (see also note 45 above) to think that indexicals must always be assumed to have wide scope in propositional attitude attribution contexts (as urged by Castaeda 1981). But perhaps this should only be a default assumption. This default assumption makes sense also when the context is modal, as when I say I could have been a millionaire. Unfortunately, there is no room to investigate this issue here. 65 Of course in some cases there may simply be some inefficiency in the answer retrieval mechanism of the subject, as when we are unable to verbalise an answer that we feel to have on the tip of the tongue.


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plete descriptions and by answering the standard objections against the Ellipsis View. By combining all this with Russellian truth conditions for definite descriptions, I have put forward a general analysis of singular reference that can withstand the objections typically raised against similar approaches. In so doing, I have eschewed Russellian propositions and have appealed only to Fregean propositions with entertainable constituents. The motivation for this is a view of meanings as entertainable entities, i.e. entities that can be in the mind, a view that can favor an integration of semantic theory and cognitive psychology. I have deviated from the classical theory of propositions (Cartwright 1962) in admitting private propositions. But this is hardly avoidable, if we are to account for indexicality, while conceiving of propositions as entertainable entities.66 But in all the other essential respects,67 the approach here proposed is in line with the classical theory: my entertainable Fregean propositions can be at the same time truth value bearers (that can in principle correspond to truthmakers such as Armstrongs states of affairs), accusatives of de dicto propositional attitudes, e.g., beliefs, semantic meanings of sentence types and communication units, i.e. pragmatic meanings of sentence tokens. In contrast, referentialism proposes Russellian singular propositions as truthvalue bearers and communication units only, and must otherwise appeal to Fregean propositions or the like.68 By skipping Russellian propositions (at least qua meanings), the proposed theory thus promises to provide a unifying foundational ground for ontology (propositions as truth bearers for a correspondence theory of truth), psychology (propositions as accusatives of propositional attitudes), linguistics (propositions as semantic meanings) and communication theory (propositions as communication units).*
66 Cf. Castaeda 1999, Ch. 5. It is widely accepted that Frege himself diverged from the classical theory, since he admitted different and primitive senses of the first person pronoun, as this is used by different people (cf. Frege 1918), but interestingly Harcourt 1999 argues that he did not do this on account of the irreducibility of indexicals, of which he was not aware. 67 For reasons independent from the issues here discussed, I am inclined to hold that the classical theory must also be modified by following Priors lead and taking propositions to be essentially tensed (except perhaps in special cases such as mathematical propositions) in such a way that they can change truth value with the passage of time (cf. Prior and Fine 1977). 68 Similarly, Castaeda 1989b appeals to both entertainable propositions (propositional guises) and counterparts of Russellian-Kaplanian singular propositions (PROPOSITIONS, i.e. networks of consubstantiated propositional guises). * Some comments on an earlier version of this paper by Andreas Kemmerling, Christian Nimtz and Hans Peter Schtt convinced me that I should revise some important details of my approach or presentation thereof. I have also benefited from useful comments by or discussions with Ralf Busse, Michael Devitt, Pasquale Frascolla, Aldo Frigerio, Giuseppe Galli, Daniele Gambarara, Manuel Garca-Carpintero, Raffaella Giovagnoli, Tomis Kapitan, Paolo Leonardi, Franco Lo Piparo, Olaf Mller, Carlo Penco, Janos Petfi, Francois Recanati, Marco Santambrogio, Alberto Voltolini, Sandro Zucchi. Last but not least, I would like to thank two anonymous referees for suggestions that helped me to further improve this essay.

A Description Theory of Singular Reference REFERENCES


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