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A Gricean theory of reference Beebe, Michael Douglas

Abstract

I propose to analyse referring, the typical function of proper names and definite descriptions, in terms of speakers' intentions rather than in terms of the meanings of words. Grice's theory of meaning explains how a speaker can mean something simply by making an utterance with the proper sort of intention, and I attempt to apply this theory of meaning to referring. I see two related reasons for thinking a Gricean theory of reference correct. First, I try to show that our speech practice is such as to demand a Gricean-type theory; we simply do depend rather often on hearers' recognition of speakers' intentions to achieve reference. Second, the causal theory of proper names, which I investigate in Chapter 5. seems to demand a Gricean theory of reference. In Chapter 1, I am concerned with whole utterance meaning, and with the problem of going from occasional meaning to conventional meaning. Lewis' analysis of convention is deployed in a way which I think vindicates Grice's hope that conventional or timeless meaning may be analyzed in terms of occasional meaning. In Chapter 2, I attempt to extend the Gricean program to parts of utterances. That is, I argue that an utterance may have meaningful parts and grammatical structure entirely without benefit of convention. Primitive cases of referring and predicating can arise at this pre-conventional level, and here certainly referring is to be explained by a Gricean theory. Chapter 3 contains the body of my argument for a Gricean theory of reference. I try to show that our referring practice is in fact one which depends on the characteristic form of the Gricean intention: the speaker, by his utterance, intends that the hearer shall be affected in some way, intending this to come about at least in part by hearers' recognition of speakers' intentions. The first three section of Chapter 3 are devoted to arguing for the Gricean character of reference, and the remaining two to developing suitable epistemic foundations for such a theory. If a speaker's intention is primary, the meanings of the words he uses are (with qualifications) secondary, so we must be able to explain how a speaker is connected with the object of his reference in some way which does not essentially involve his being able to say something true about that object. I use Kaplan's theory of relational belief, with .its emphasis on the causal element in a belief, to provide this connection. Having a relational belief about an object connects one with it, and allows one to have an intention directed towards it. Chapter ^ is a criticism of the standard theory of reference with Searle and Strawson cast as its defenders. Chapter 5 is a presentation and elaboration of the 'causal' or the 'historical explanation' theory of names, the new theory of names which, I claim, requires a Gricean theory of reference.

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