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Knowledge and RealitySelected Essays$
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Colin McGinn

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199251582

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199251584.001.0001

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The Mechanism of Reference

The Mechanism of Reference

(p.197) 10 The Mechanism of Reference
Knowledge and Reality

Colin McGinn (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

McGinn's aim is two‐fold: to undermine both descriptive and causal theories of reference, and to argue for his preferred, ‘contextual’ theory of reference. McGinn is moved to this position by emphasizing indexicals—which he takes to be the primary referential devices—rather than proper names. Linguistic reference, for McGinn, is a conventional activity governed by rules that prescribe the spatio‐temporal conditions of correct use; the semantic referent of a speaker's term is given by combining its linguistic meaning with the spatio‐temporal context in which the speaker is located. McGinn concludes his defence of this theory by demonstrating the plausibility of its implications for such topics as abstract objects, self‐reference, attribution, the language of thought hypothesis, truth, and the reducibility of reference.

Keywords:   abstract objects, attribution, causal theory of reference, description theory, Donnellan, indexicals, Kaplan, Kripke, language of thought, meaning, self‐reference, semantics, truth

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