Event Detail

Wed Mar 18, 2009
234 Moses Hall, 6–8 PM
Working Group in the History and Philosophy of Logic, Mathematics, and Science
Edouard Machery (University of Pittsburgh)
Experimental semantics (or what would Kripke have said if he were Asian?)

Theories of reference have been central to analytic philosophy, and two views, the descriptivist view of reference and the causal-historical view of reference, have dominated the field. In this research tradition, theories of reference are assessed by consulting one’s intuitions about the reference of terms in hypothetical situations. Particularly, in Naming and Necessity, Kripke developed some well-known thought-experiments that were widely taken to undermine descriptivist theories of reference. But what if the intuitions elicited by Kripke’s thought-experiments were not universal? What would be the implications for theories of reference if these intuitions varied across cultures? Machery et al. (2004) presented some evidence that Westerners and East Asians tend in fact to have different intuitions about reference, and they argued that these findings had puzzling philosophical implications. After a brief review of this early work, I will examine some recent objections by Devitt, Marti, Deutsch, and Ludwig and I will describe some additional research done in response to these objections.