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Volume 10, 1997

Cognitive Semantics I

Robert Hanna
Pages 134-154

Extending Direct Reference

It is an interesting and important linguistic fact that we sometimes use singular terms — proper names or indexicals — to refer to wholly future individuals. Given this fact, and given the further fact that wholly future individuals are contingent and indeterminate, neither the “descriptivist” theory of singular reference, nor the “causal theory,” nor Gareth Evans’s “mixed” theory, nor even the “classical” direct reference theory developed by David Kaplan, can account for future singular reference. Only a semantic strategy drawn from direct reference theory is able to solve the puzzle. But in order to solve it, the very idea of direct reference must be extended by invoking two important supplementary notions: (1) “reference delivery systems,” and (2) “referential handiness or skill.” With the addition of these notions — which are updatings of some ideas sketched by Martin Heidegger in Being and Time — direct reference theory effectively accounts for the possibility of future singular reference. But just insofar as the puzzle is solvable along these lines, it follows that the theory of reference cannot be “naturalized.”

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