Reference/Referential (ch 2)

An expression which represents or stands for something is said to refer to it, but there are different views about how expressions refer. The causal-historical theory of reference holds that expressions refer to things by being causally connected to those things. For example, 'tree' refers to trees, because there is a chain of instances of the word extending backward in time to the original use of the word in relation to trees. The descriptive theory of reference holds that expressions refer by describing features or properties of their referents. On this view, 'tree' may just be an abbreviated description, taking the place of 'green, leafy thing, covered with bark, emits oxygen, does photosynthesis, etc.' Reference in the causal-historical theory is sometimes said to be direct, unlike in the descriptive theory, in which reference occurs by means of description. There is also the question of how reference is related to meaning: Is one prior to the other? Is one dependent on the other? Some theories of reference are analogues of theories of meaning. (See semantics)

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