Øystein Linnebo – Reference by Abstraction

Event Date: 7 November 2011

Senate House – University of London




Professor Øystein Linnebo (Birkbeck):

Reference by Abstraction

Frege suggests that criteria of identity should play a central role in an account of reference, which will be capable of explaining reference to abstract objects. Inspired by Frege’s suggestion, this paper develops a simplified but precise model of how we may come to refer to abstract letter types. We start with an interpreted language concerned with letter tokens. We then add vocabulary suitable for talking about letter types and adopt precise rules which ensure that the extended language is used precisely as if it was concerned with letter types.
Since the rules are logically impeccable and invoke only unproblematic concrete objects, this extension is legitimate. There are nevertheless reasons to interpret the extended language as not only apparently but genuinely referring to letter types. But the reductionist character of the rules is used to argue that the abstract referents are metaphysically “lightweight”.



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