A causal theory of reference is a theory of how terms acquire specific referents. Such theories have been used to describe many referring terms, particularly logical terms, proper names, and natural kind terms. In the case of names, for example, a causal theory of reference typically involves the following claims:
- a name's referent is fixed by an original act of naming (also called a "dubbing" or, by Saul Kripke, an "initial baptism"), whereupon the name becomes a rigid designator of that object.
- later uses of the name succeed in referring to the referent by being linked to that original act via a causal chain.
Weaker versions of the position (perhaps not properly called "causal theories"), claim merely that, in many cases, events in the causal history of a speaker's use of the term, including the term was first acquired, must be considered to correctly assign references to the speaker's words.
Causal theories of names became popular during the 1970s, under the influence of work by Saul Kripke and Keith Donnellan. Kripke and Hilary Putnam also defended an analogous causal account of natural kind terms.
Other articles related to "causal theory of reference, causal theory, theory, reference, theory of reference":
... Gareth Evans argued that the causal theory, or at least certain common and over-simple variants of it, have the consequence that, however remote or ... (Imagine a name briefly overheard in a train or café.) The theory effectively ignores context and makes reference into a magic trick ... Evans describes it as a "photograph" theory of reference ...
Famous quotes containing the words reference, causal and/or theory:
“I think, for the rest of my life, I shall refrain from looking up things. It is the most ravenous time-snatcher I know. You pull one book from the shelf, which carries a hint or a reference that sends you posthaste to another book, and that to successive others. It is incredible, the number of books you hopefully open and disappointedly close, only to take down another with the same result.”
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