INDEFINITE DESCRIPTIONS AS REFERRING TERMS
Languages of publication
The author argues that indefinite descriptions are referring terms. This is not the ambiguity thesis: that sometimes they are referring terms and sometimes something else, such as quantifiers (as argued by Chastain and recently Devitt). On his view they are always referring terms; and never quantifiers. The author defends this thesis by modifying the standard conception of what a referring term is: a modification that needs to be made anyway, irrespective of the treatment of indefinites. He derives this approach from his speech-act theoretic semantics (2004). The basic thought is that referring terms have as their meanings speech-acts of a certain kind called proto-referring acts. These are acts in which speakers advertise or present intentions to denote, where denotation is a word-world relation, and advertising an intention is acting as if one has intentions, where it is open whether one has them or not, or whether the referring term used denotes or not. The author shows how this works for proper names. The meaning of a proper name is the speech-act proto-referring act type defined by a certain referential tree. This gives us the basis for an account of proper name meaning irrespective of denotation: a uniform treatment of full and empty names. Applied to indefinites, we can capture cases where speakers perform proto-acts - in which they advertise an intention to denote something - where they intend to denote, but others where they do not, but they still perform the proto-act: advertising an intention to denote.
Publication order reference
CEJSH db identifier