Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Referring to the World: An Opinionated Introduction to the Theory of Reference

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

It's not until you start looking seriously at what we think we are talking about that you begin to appreciate the complexities of reference in language. I was first exposed to this in Gareth Evans's seminal Varieties of Reference, and here we have a review of an equally interesting contemporary book Referring to the World, by Kenneth A. Taylor. The review discusses a number of the issues considered by Taylor, issues that arise by virtue of the fact that the words may actually refer to objects or properties, or be merely an "objectual representation", that is, a word that is "fit" or "ready" for the job of standing for something real, without actually doing so. Only the former can be said to actually assert some fact about the world, so when you say "Pegasus can fly", you are not actually asserting anything. The same, though, is true of statements we make in pure mathematics. It's not necessary to know everything about how a language refers, but it is necessary to know that it is not straight-forward and simple.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jun 12, 2024 10:21 a.m.

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