[SydPhil] Current Projects: Testing Usage and Intuitions: Michael Devitt and Nicolas Porot

Kristie Miller kristie_miller at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 4 17:36:17 AEST 2017

This coming Thursday’s current projects seminar, 3,00 in the Muniment Room, will be Michael Devitt presenting:

Michael Devitt and Nicolas Porot

Experiments on theories of reference have mostly tested referential intuitions. We think that experiments should rather be testing linguistic usage. This paper has four aims. Substantive Aim (I): to test classical description theories of proper names against usage by “elicited production”. Our results count decisively against those theories. Methodological Aim (I): In response to Martí (2009), Machery et al. (2009) conducted a truth-value judgment test that they claimed tested usage. Martí (2014) disagreed. We aim to investigate this issue. We argue that Machery et al. are right and offer some experimental support for that conclusion. Substantive aim (II): Machery et al. provided evidence that the usage of a name varied, being sometimes descriptive, sometimes not. That would be a damaging discovery for the theory of reference. So our aim was to test usage to see if we replicated this variation. In seven out of eight experiments we did not. Methodological Aim (II): to test the reliability of the folk’s referential intuitions by comparing them with the results of our tests of usage. Past tests led us to predict that we would find those intuitions unreliable. Surprisingly, that is not what we found. Our results suggest that tests of referential intuition are susceptible to unpredictable wording effects, casting doubt on them as effective ways to test theories of reference.

All welcome

Associate Professor Kristie Miller
Senior ARC Research Fellow
Joint Director, the Centre for Time
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and
The Centre for Time
The University of Sydney
Sydney Australia
Room 407, A 14

kmiller at usyd.edu.au
kristie_miller at yahoo.com
Ph: +612 9036 9663

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