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Should a Causal Theory of Reference Borrowing be a Descriptive-Causal Theory?

Organon F, 2018, vol. 25, No 4, pp. 473-494.
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In a reference theory a distinction can be made between a theory of reference fixing and a theory of reference borrowing. M. Devitt and K. Sterelny, and especially the former, have been relevant figures in the present debate on reference theories. They have supported a descriptive-causal theory of reference fixing for proper names and natural kind terms, but they have held a purely causal theory of their reference borrowing. Once I have put forward the main elements of Devitt’s and Sterelny’s theory of reference fixing I will focus on their reference borrowing theory. In this regard I will examine some of the differences between Devitt’s and Sterelny’s causal theory of reference borrowing and Putnam’s thesis of the division of linguistic labor concerning natural kind terms. After taking into consideration the views of some causal theorists who have not rejected or have even explicitly admitted that there are descriptive requirements in a reference borrowing theory for proper names and natural kind terms, I will allege that a causal theory of reference borrowing for competent speakers should not be a purely causal theory, but a descriptive-causal theory, where the minimum descriptive component is some general categorial term that is true or approximately true of the referent of the term.

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