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Ways of thinking: an essay on referential coordination

Clarke, HHP; (2016) Ways of thinking: an essay on referential coordination. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Referential coordination occurs when a thinker is rational in treating her thoughts as being about the same thing. This is manifested primarily in the thinker’s dispositions to make inferences, paradigmatically the disposition to infer an existential generalisation conjoining two or more properties without recourse to an additional premise concerning an identity. It therefore presents an indispensable way for identity to figure in thought. This topic is often addressed in the form of discussions of so-called Frege cases, identity judgements, or coreference de jure. I argue that referential coordination should be treated as an independent and prior explanatory problem. The problem referential coordination presents is to explain the rationality of the paradigmatic inferential dispositions. I discuss three prominent theories of thought in relation to this problem: the appeal to propositional contents akin to Frege’s notion of sense; the appeal to mental representations that can be typed in some way; and the appeal to mental files and their functional properties. Representatives of these theories fail to provide an explanation that is at once non-circular, psychologically realistic, and sufficiently general. I propose an alternative coordination functions explanation. This uses an amended version of mental file theory that distinguishes between mental files and file predications, and combines this with an apparatus of defaults and defeaters familiar from entitlement epistemology. File predications, the associations of files with bits of information, serve as the basis of the paradigmatic inferential dispositions, and so have normative functional properties that provide a default indication of sameness of reference open to defeat by conflicting information. This relatively deflationary explanation is distinctive in dispensing with any explanatory notion of a concept. It can be extended to providing a similarly deflationary account of the rational role of identity judgements and thoughts about oneself and one’s immediate environment.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Ways of thinking: an essay on referential coordination
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1521086
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