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Reference: Philosophical Theories

Elsevier Ltd
DOI: 10.1016/b0-08-044854-2/01138-x
  • Demonstratives
  • Descriptions
  • Indexicals
  • Meaning
  • Proper Names
  • Pronouns
  • Representation
  • Semantics
  • Sense
  • Singular Terms
  • Truth


The first section of this article gives a preliminary explanation of the concept of reference. The second section is an analysis of descriptivism, the first systematic theory of reference. The third section begins with criticisms of descriptivism, and then details the development of the causal-historical theory of reference, which has been the orthodox view of reference since the 1970s. The fourth section is an exposition of three concepts that play major roles in recent debates – skepticism, naturalism, and minimalism about reference. The final section gives a brief summary of the article (including a short list of the theories surveyed and acronyms employed).

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