The Realpolitik of Reference

How do we fix the reference of a proper name? More importantly, why is that the way we fix reference? Debate on this point has recently been rekindled by Scott Soames, Robin Jeshion, and others. In this paper, I sketch a new pragmatic approach to the justification of reference-fixing procedures, in opposition to accounts that insist on an invariant set of conditions for fixing reference across environments and linguistic communities. Comparing reference to other relations whose instances are introduced through “initiation” procedures, I outline a picture in which the procedures that are successful for fixing the reference of proper names depend in part on regularities in the actual environment.

Biblio Reference

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (2008), 1-20