Reference, identity and essence

Adriano Naves de Brito


In contemporary philosophy of language one can distinguish two main approaches on the reference of singular terms to objects: the descriptive theory (of Fregean orientation) and the causal theory (of Millean orientation). Disregarding the way both theories and their variants explain the use of proper nouns in a linguistic community, the reference of singular terms to objects is explained by them respectively either by the mediation of descriptions or by the negation of any mediation to make the reference. This paper briefly describes these two theoretical approaches and explores their commitments with a theory of object. It discusses the role played by the interpretation of the relation of identity in the choice of a theory of object and particularly in the adoption of an essentialist one. At the end it outlines an application of the developed argument to terms for natural species.

Key words: proper nouns, reference, identity, essence, necessity.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [Updated on September 23, 2016].

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