How to Bridge the Gap between Meaning and Reference Author(s): Howard K. Wettstein Source: Synthese, Vol. 58, No. 1, Belief, Meaning, and Creativity (Jan., 1984), pp. 63-84 Published by: Springer Stable URL: . Accessed: 06/10/2014 22:58 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, resear
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  How to Bridge the Gap between Meaning and ReferenceAuthor(s): Howard K. WettsteinSource: Synthese, Vol. 58, No. 1, Belief, Meaning, and Creativity (Jan., 1984), pp. 63-84Published by: Springer Stable URL: . Accessed: 06/10/2014 22:58 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . Springer   is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Synthese. This content downloaded from on Mon, 6 Oct 2014 22:58:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  HOWARD K. WETTSTEIN HOW TO BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN MEANING AND REFERENCE 1. INTRODUCTION There is a temptation, during a revolution, to minimize the significant differences among the revolutionary parties. The activists themselves, due to their deep and unanimous opposition to the old regime and their exhilaration at recent successes, often find it difficult to overcome the illusion of general agreement on fundamentals. The past two decades has been a period of revolutionary activity in the philosophy of language. The members of the old regime are, as it were, the pro ponents of the Fregean picture of how words hook up with the world, the idea that singular terms express descriptive concepts and refer to those items that satisfy the concepts. Frege's perspective has been vigorously attacked by those recently called by one anthologist the new theorists of reference , srcinally Donnellan, Kaplan, Kripke, and Putnam. Singular terms refer, according to the latter theorists, not by expressing concepts but in some much more immediate and direct way. The definite description, Frege's paradigm, has been replaced by a new paradigm or two, the demonstrative expression and/or the Millian proper name that merely tags but does describe its bearer. I plead guilty, as one of the advocates of the newer approach, to the charge of laboring under the illusion of agreement on fundamentals. I became suspicious, however, when I was accused of advocating the causal theory of reference, a view that seemed foreign to my thinking but was supposedly central to or even definitive of the new approach.1 The question I shall address, the question mentioned in the title, will highlight profound disagreements among the new theorists and will provide an opportunity to further develop the direct reference ap proach. I shall restrict my discussion to indexical reference, specifically to reference by means of pronouns and demonstratives. That there is a gap between meaning and reference in the case of indexical expressions has been a cornerstone of the new approach. Consider the first person pronoun. Each of us can use it to refer to ourselves, yet it is not ambiguous. Its lexical meaning remains constant Synthese 58 (1984) 63-84. 0039-7857/84/0581-0063 $02.20 ? 1984 by D. Reidel Publishing Company This content downloaded from on Mon, 6 Oct 2014 22:58:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  64 HOWARD K. WETTSTEIN from your use of it to mine. I am not then the referent of my use of T simply in virtue of its lexical meaning. There is, so to speak, not enough to this meaning, as opposed to the meaning of, say, 'the first President of the United States', to determine one individual rather than another. The same is true for the demonstrative 'that'. 'That' can be used to refer to anything at all. Its lexical meaning does not vary, however, from use to use. The reference of an utterance of 'that' is thus not determined solely by its meager lexical meaning. What exactly bridges the gap between the meager lexical meaning of such an indexical expression and its determinate reference? What factor(s) enter into the deter mination of the reference of an indexical, over and above its meaning?2 The answer I shall give, as a first approximation, is that the gap is to bridged by features of the context of utterance. My idea is that the reference is determined by the very features which make the reference available to the auditor.31 shall argue for this idea by way of criticizing its two main opponents: (1) The causal theory of reference. Although this title is often used sloppily to characterize the view of virtually any opponent of the Fregean description paradigm, it more accurately refers to a view about reference that parallels other causal theories in philosophy, the causal theory of perception, knowledge, and so on. The causal theorist maintains that the gap is to be bridged by the existence of a causal connection between the utterance of the indexical and the referent. Specifically, the referent of a token of 'that' is the unique item that stands in the appropriate causal relation to the production of that token.4 (2) The intentional theory. Causal theories are often championed by physicalists who see such theories as offering hope for a reduction of apparently intentional, mental phenomena in terms of physical causa tion. A philosopher who is disinclined to pursue such a reductionist program might insist that reference is irreducibly intentional. One form such a proposal may take yields another answer to our question. The gap between meaning and reference is bridged, on this view, by the fact that the speaker utters the indexical with the intention of communicat ing about a particular item he has in mind. What makes some particular book the referent of 'That is an interesting book' is not, on this view, anything about the causal history of the utterance, but rather This content downloaded from on Mon, 6 Oct 2014 22:58:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  MEANING AND REFERENCE 65 something about the mental state of the speaker, specifically his intention to refer to the item he has in mind.5 One of the recurrent themes in the new theory of reference, one that it shares with the approach of Wittgenstein, is that an individualistic or agent-centered picture of language and thought is inadequate and needs to be replaced or at least supplemented by a picture that sees language as a social institution.6 To maintain that the reference of an indexical expression is determined by the causal history of the utterance or by the referential intentions of the speaker is to maintain an individualistic view, at least by comparison with my approach. The reference of a token of 'that' is determined, on these views, by considerations about the speaker, specifically his causal history or intentional states. Features of the context of utterance, e.g. interactions between the speaker and addressee like pointing gestures, by means of which the addressee interprets the demonstrative utterance, play no semantic role. Such contextual cues may facilitate communication but they do not make it the case that one thing rather than another is the referent. My view, however, is that such contextual cues and indeed a whole range of extra-contextual cues, provided, e.g. by the social and cultural environment, have semantic significance. It is by means of such cues that the gap between meaning and reference is to be bridged. Not only are natural languages social institutions, they are social institutions. I shall emphasize the institutional character of natural language in the following respect. The (or at least a) primary purpose of natural language is to allow for communication concerning the items speakers have in mind and about which they wish to inform others, ask questions, and so on.7 Natural languages, however, like other in stitutions, e.g. the law, provide for the fulfillment of the institution's primary functions by means of a complex system of rules and con ventions. The institutional rules and conventions, although their point is to facilitate communication, attain a life of their own once instituted. It is thus important for one who wishes to communicate his beliefs by means of English sentences to find institutionally acceptable means for doing so. Failing to find such means, he may find himself having said, in an institutional sense, something other than what he meant, even something other than what he succeeded in conveying. His auditor, that is, may be able to tell what he is getting at despite his having said, strictly speaking, something quite different. A frequently noted exam This content downloaded from on Mon, 6 Oct 2014 22:58:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

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Jul 23, 2017


Jul 23, 2017
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