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indeterminacy of reference

christopher hookway

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


The ‘inscrutability’ or ‘indeterminacy’ of reference ( Quine, 1990 , p. 50) is a thesis of Q uine's related to the indeterminacy of translation : there is no fact of the matter what kinds of objects the terms of a language refer to. By making compensating adjustments in the translations of other words in a sentence, a predicate might be interpreted as applying to rabbits, to stages in the history of rabbits, to volumes of space one mile north of rabbits, and so on. Such indeterminacy is compatible with determinacy in the translation of sentences as a whole ( Quine, 1990 , p. 50). See also ontological relativity . : Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 1984 ), ch. 16 . : Word and Object ( Cambridge , MA : MIT Press , 1960 ), ch. 2 . : Pursuit of Truth ( Cambridge , MA : Harvard University Press , 1990 ), chs 2–3 . ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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