Fixing Reference

Imogen Dickie

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book develops an account of aboutness-fixing for thoughts about ordinary objects, and of reference-fixing for the singular terms we use to express them. Extant discussions of this part of meta-semantics tread a weary path through descriptivist proposals, causalist alternatives, and attempts to combine the most attractive elements of each. The account developed here is a new beginning. It starts with two basic principles. The first connects aboutness and truth: a belief is about the object upon whose properties its truth or falsity depends. The second connects truth and justification: justification is truth-conducive; in general and allowing exceptions, a subject whose beliefs are justified will be unlucky if they are not true, and not merely lucky if they are. These principles—one connecting aboutness and truth; the other truth and justification—combine to yield a third principle connecting aboutness and justification: a body of beliefs is about the object upon which its associated means of justification converges; the object whose properties a subject justifying beliefs in this way will be unlucky to get wrong and not merely lucky to get right. The first part of the book proves a precise version of this principle. Its remaining chapters use the principle to explain how the relations to objects that enable us to think about them—perceptual attention; understanding of proper names; grasp of descriptions—do their aboutness-fixing and thought-enabling work. The book includes discussions of the nature of singular thought and the relation between thought and consciousness.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages333
ISBN (Electronic)9780191816758
ISBN (Print)9780198755616, 9780198801795
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameContext and Content


  • Reference
  • Aboutness
  • Ordinary objects
  • Proper names
  • Demonstratives
  • Descriptive names
  • Singular thought


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