The Roots of Reference
"Our only channel of
information about the world is the impact of external forces on
our sensory surfaces. So says science itself. There is no
clairvoyance. How, then, can we have parlayed this meager
sensory input into a full-blown scientific theory of the world?
This is itself a scientific question. The pursuit of it, with
free use of scientific theory, is what I call naturalized
epistemology. The Roots of Reference falls within that domain.
Its more specific concern, within that domain, is reference to
concrete and abstract objects: what such reference consists in,
and how we achieve it.
Part I is a statement of general psychological presumptions
regarding perception and learning. The underlying notions of
cause and disposition are examined in a philosophical spirit. In
Part II those considerations are brought to bear more
particularly on the learning of language.
Part II comes firmly to grips with the nature of reification and
reference. The process is inseparable from language, and
unequivocally identifiable only to the degree that the language
resembles ours in certain structural respects. Stages of
reification are sorted our, rudimentary to full-fledged. The
full phase is heralded by the use of the relative clause with
its relative pronoun and subsidiary pronouns, it is these
pronouns that recur in logical notation as the bound variables
Part III concludes with a conjectural sketch of the development
of reification in the race and the individual. Especial
attention is directed to the positing of abstract objects:
properties, classes, numbers. It is traced in large part to the
serendipity of fruitful confusions. Truth, after all, can issue
from fallacious proofs; to condemn the outcome for its
fallacious origin is simply to add the genetic fallacy to what
had gone before. Let us count our blessing."