Comments on “Reference: rationalism’s reality problem”

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Pierce semeiotics

Johan 2020-08-31

Most of the time I do prefer accounts of how reference is accomplished by people in practice. But I am also fascinated by the renewed interest in the semeiotics of Charles Sanders Pierce, and attempts to make it work as a kind of materialist explanation of aboutness. It seems to be particularly useful when considering meaning in a world larger than human practice, as in Eduardo Kohn’s book How Forests Think.

The stuff of reference

Julia 2020-09-07

Though I have some intuitions about the deficits of the correspondence theory of truth, I have a hard time understanding your points of criticism, e.g. “How can an abstraction interact with a dog?”
Why do you need those things to interact or “physically connect”? Do other things do that? Maybe I don’t understand traditional theories of reference enough to understand what doesn’t work about them.

I guess I don’t see why a concept/a sentence/an abstraction on the one hand, and a thing or a situation in the real world that they refer to on the other hand, would have to be from the same “stuff” (i.e. ideal vs. material). In fact, I don’t see why you would have to invoke this classification at all, since even the things that sentences can refer to (e.g. situations) aren’t strictly material but packed with “ideas” (for lack of a better term). Or am I completely missing the point here?

I would love if you could elaborate on that.

Rationalists are mostly physicalists

David Chapman 2020-09-07

Starting with the logical positivists, nearly rationalists have all been committed to physicalism. So the non-physicality of their theories of reference is a problem for them, at least!

For someone who isn’t committed to physicalism, this may not be a problem. However, there aren’t any good non-physical theories of reference either, as far as I know.

Casual theory of reference

BenayaK 2022-11-06

I’m sure that there are other problems with that theory, but isn’t the causal theory of reference physicalist enough? The thought after all a physical thing, generated by the physical thinking process and usually whatever the thought I’d about.

Causal reference

David Chapman 2022-11-07

Well… There’s multiple difficulties here. There isn’t a “the” causal theory of reference, there’s several vague theories. None of the theories work. And, there also is no “the” theory of causality. There’s several vague theories, none of which work. Intuitive theories of causality don’t seem to be compatible with physicalism. A physics-grounded theory requires that everything be caused by everything within its preceding light cone, which makes it useless.

Causal reference

BenayaK 2022-11-07

“Intuitive theories of causality don’t seem to be compatible with physicalism. A physics-grounded theory requires…” - there seem to be an implicit false dichotomy here, where a theory is either physics-grounded, out incompatible with physicalism. But that attitude would make pretty much everything about the manifest image incompatible with physicalism.

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