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Evidence, Experiment and Argument in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language

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Edited By Martin Hinton

This volume is concerned with issues in experimental philosophy and experimental linguistics. Examining experiments in language from a variety of perspectives, it asks what form they should take and what should count as evidence. There is particular focus on the status of linguistic intuitions and the use of language corpora. A number of papers address issues of methodology in experimental work, while other contributions examine the use of thought experiments and what the hypothetical can tell us about the actual. The aim of this collection is to bring together the work of linguists and philosophers in order that they may learn from one another, and to help both groups understand how the use of experimental methods can affect the arguments they employ and the claims they make.
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Mark Pinder - Folk Semantic Intuitions, Arguments from Reference and Eliminative Materialism

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Mark Pinder

University of Hertfordshire

Folk Semantic Intuitions, Arguments from Reference and Eliminative Materialism

1. Introduction

According to Edouard Machery, Ron Mallon, Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich (henceforth MMNS), arguments from reference are “arguments that derive philosophically significant conclusions from the assumption of one or another theory of reference” (Mallon et al. 2009: 332).

Here, a theory of reference is a theory that seeks to provide a systematic basis upon which worldly items are assigned to some collection of words and phrases, or to the concepts they express. We will be concerned with two principal types. First, descriptivist theories of reference hold that competent speakers associate reference-fixing descriptions with the relevant terms or concepts, and that the referent of a given term or concept is whatever satisfies, or comes sufficiently close to satisfying, the relevant reference-fixing descriptions. Second, causal-historical theories of reference hold that a term or concept t refers to an entity x just in case there has been an appropriate causal chain of users acquiring t from other users, such that the chain began with an initial ‘baptism’ of x.

According to MMNS, arguments from reference can be found “in nearly every corner of philosophy, including the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of race, and meta-ethics” (Mallon et al. 2009: 332). Herein, I focus on one of their principal examples: an argument offered by Paul Churchland (1981) in defence...

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