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Logos & Episteme

Volume 4, Issue 4, 2013

Andrew McFarland
Pages 407-432

Misfired Slingshots: A Case Study on the Confusion of Metaphysical and Semantic Considerations

Most philosophers today will acknowledge the pitfalls of confusing metaphysical and semantic issues. Many are also familiar with the classic semi-formal argument that has come to be known as ‘the Slingshot’ and the various philosophical ends to which this argument has been deployed. The combination of the argument’s relatively simple theoretical machinery and its wide range of applications make it ripe for abuse. The slingshot was originally conceived as a semantic argument about designation; what it suggests, but does not prove, is that the closest analogue to singular term reference for any expression is that expression’s semantic extension. In order to derive more metaphysically robust conclusions, however, many classical deployments of the argument make use of several methodologically suspicious tactics. By cataloguing the more frequent abuses of the argument, we may remind ourselves of a valuable philosophical lesson.

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