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By George Powell

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Extra resources for Language, Thought and Reference

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In broad terms, the difference is this: the radical pragmatist takes intuitions on what is said by an utterance at more or less face value, whereas the minimal semanticist views such intuitions with deep suspicion. The minimal semanticist has a problem however: suspicious as she may be about speaker intuitions, she can’t do away with them entirely on pain of sacrificing any claim her theory might have to empirical significance. Faced with this problem, she’s more or less forced to carve out some privileged set of intuitions which she takes to offer genuine evidence on semantic content, leaving the rest to be mopped up by whatever happens after the derivation of that semantic content.

Given what I shall come on to say about relational individual concepts, I’m inclined to view the two concepts as distinct although, given that they share an internal dimension, intimately linked. What I want to suggest here is that there’s a close link between the internal and external dimensions of descriptive individual concepts. One upshot of this is that a cognitive agent may not rationally revise all the information within the internal dimension of a descriptive individual concept without also revising its external dimension; she cannot, for instance, jettison the information that x is the oldest woman in the world from the internal dimension of a descriptive concept while retaining this condition as the concept’s external dimension on pain of entertaining the contradictory belief that the oldest woman in the world is not the oldest woman in the world.

Thus my concept of my neighbour Bob may contain the information x is a teacher, x is called ‘Bob’, x is male. I can, nevertheless, come to revise all of these pieces of information without rendering my concept contradictory; that is to say that, for any condition x is G which appears within the internal dimension of by Bob concept, I can rationally come to believe that Bob is not G. I’ve so far laid out a reasonably simple ontology for individual concepts: on the one hand, there are descriptive individual concepts which pick out their designata satisfactionally and thus contribute a complex condition to the truth conditions of thoughts in which they occur, while on the other there are de re individual concepts which pick out their designata relationally and thus contribute nothing but their designata to truth-conditions.

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