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Singular Reference: A Descriptivist Perspective
Philosophical Studies Series v. 113
Singular reference is the relation that a singular term has to a corresponding individual. For example, "Obama" singularly refer to the current US president. Descriptivism holds that all singular terms refer by means of a concept associated to the term. The current trend is against this. This book explains in detail (mainly for newcomers) why anti-descriptivism became dominant in spite of its weaknesses and (for experts) how these weaknesses can be overcome by appropriately reviving descriptivism.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"This book advances a contextualist descriptivist account of singular reference, along the lines of "token-reflexive" and "causal-descriptivist" proposals already in the literature. The book is very clear, economical and well-structured; the view, which Orilia defends from criticisms with clear-headed arguments, is certainly one worth having as consistently articulated here in the theoretical landscape; and the author argues for the comparative strength vis-a-vis the different explanatory burdens of such an account in a very compelling way." Prof. Manuel Garcia-Carpintero, Department of Logic, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Barcelona "The foundation of any philosophy of language is its account of singular reference. All attempts to understand how language and mind connect to the world must focus on singular reference to ourselves and to the ordinary objects that surround us. Philosophers such as Frege, Russell and Reichenbach offered descriptivist approaches to singular reference. But the alternative referentialist approaches of Donnellan, Kripke, Kaplan and others have won wide support. This book investigates the motivations and resources available to both approaches and reveals that referentialist theories remain inadequate to the problems that arise in connection with propositional attitudes and empty singular terms. The book proposes a new theory which incorporates central aspects of a descriptivist approach while avoiding the errors pointed out by referentialists. The theory offers a uniform treatment of the semantics and pragmatics of (anaphoric and non-anaphoric uses of) determiner phrases, definite descriptions, proper names and indexicals. This work will be of interest to researchers in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and theoretical linguistics. The wealth of information provided in it and its detailed explanations make the book an ideal resource accessible to graduates and upper level undergraduates." Professor G. Landini, Department of Philosophy, University of Iowa