Comments on “Reference: rationalism’s reality problem”

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Pierce semeiotics

Johan's picture

Most of the time I do prefer accounts of how reference is accomplished by people in practice. But I am also fascinated by the renewed interest in the semeiotics of Charles Sanders Pierce, and attempts to make it work as a kind of materialist explanation of aboutness. It seems to be particularly useful when considering meaning in a world larger than human practice, as in Eduardo Kohn’s book How Forests Think.

The stuff of reference

Julia's picture

Though I have some intuitions about the deficits of the correspondence theory of truth, I have a hard time understanding your points of criticism, e.g. “How can an abstraction interact with a dog?”
Why do you need those things to interact or “physically connect”? Do other things do that? Maybe I don’t understand traditional theories of reference enough to understand what doesn’t work about them.

I guess I don’t see why a concept/a sentence/an abstraction on the one hand, and a thing or a situation in the real world that they refer to on the other hand, would have to be from the same “stuff” (i.e. ideal vs. material). In fact, I don’t see why you would have to invoke this classification at all, since even the things that sentences can refer to (e.g. situations) aren’t strictly material but packed with “ideas” (for lack of a better term). Or am I completely missing the point here?

I would love if you could elaborate on that.

Rationalists are mostly physicalists

Starting with the logical positivists, nearly rationalists have all been committed to physicalism. So the non-physicality of their theories of reference is a problem for them, at least!

For someone who isn’t committed to physicalism, this may not be a problem. However, there aren’t any good non-physical theories of reference either, as far as I know.

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