Date of Degree
Philosophy of mind has been dominated, since Frege, by a puzzle-driven methodology. This tradition aims to provide a coherent system for describing specific semantic features of all conceivable cases where the speaker is confused about the identity of an object. The first chapter develops a theory on which confused identity is a mental state of an agent who either believes falsely that a = b or believes falsely that a ≠ b. Many influential arguments in philosophy are puzzle-driven; Kripke on semantic and speaker reference, Reimer and Kaplan on demonstratives. I show in detail how these and other arguments are invalidated because of doubtful assumptions about confused identity.
The alternative is 'explanation-driven semantics.' Combining Gricean intentionalism and teleosemantic ideas - which are usually thought to be in strict opposition - I show that the basic task of a theory of meaning is to explain how humans express and communicate their thoughts so successfully by linguistic means. Puzzle-driven semantics has no relevance to this project. Confused speakers are 'abnormal' in Millikan's sense: their mental state disrupts the proper function of the relevant singular terms in their idiolect or language of thought.
My positive theory defines a notion of 'edenic reference,' which idealizes away from confusion in defining the proper function of singular terms. Speakers must satisfy certain cognitive constraints if their utterances are to have a role in explaining the maintenance of a practice of using a singular term in a population. A related constraint on coreference states, roughly, that if a speaker utters a simple sentence containing more than one singular term, she cannot be indifferent as to whether they are intended to refer to the same thing or to distinct things. Such indifference is not impossible, but it disturbs the proper function of the linguistic construction - or what Grice called the 'optimal' mental state with respect to a form of linguistic behavior.
Unnsteinsson, Elmar Geir, "Representation without Thought: Confusion, Reference, and Communication" (2015). CUNY Academic Works.