Applying the Causal Theory of Reference to Intentional Concepts

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    Abstract

    We argue that many recent philosophical discussions about the reference of everyday concepts of intentional states have implicitly been predicated on descriptive theories of reference. To rectify this, we attempt to demonstrate how a causal theory can be applied to intentional concepts. Specifically, we argue that some phenomena in early social development (e.g., mimicry, gaze following, and emotional contagion) can serve as reference fixers that enable children to track others’ intentional states and, thus, to refer to those states. This allows intentional concepts to be anchored to their referents, even if folk psychological descriptions turn out to be false.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)212-230
    JournalPhilosophy of science
    Volume80
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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