External Reference and Residual Magic

Paul Schweizer


Putnam famously criticizes the traditional theory of meaning and reference, and
argues that no internal configuration of a cognitive system is able to capture
the intended objects of linguistic reference. Indeed, a ‘magical connection’
between language and world would be required for the traditional theory to work.
Putnam attempts to replace the magical dependencies assumed by the traditional
theory with an externalist account based on causal chains and direct access to
the world. However, I argue that he does not carry the exorcism far enough, and
that his own theory assumes a literal and substantive interpretation of
reference which itself must be relinquished if his critique of the traditional
view is carried to its natural conclusion.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; externalism; reference; twin earth argument; brain in a vat; language game

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