Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Causal chains

Why do we get to single out a single causal chain as the one of interest in theories of reference like Kripke's theory of names? There are many many causal chains conneting us to lots of things. The farther removed in space and time the supposed end of one chain is, the more stuff there is causally intervening between it and us. Whenever one learns a name or a natural kind term, there are causal connections to things beside the person or stuff named. There are causal connections to things in the air, pollution, sound waves, light waves, nearby objects, (possibly) distant objects. Yet, for some reason we are allowed to single out one particular chain of causes as the one forming the basis of reference. Is this just for narrative convenience? It would make quite a convoluted story to cover everything that causally intervenes between the ends of the "chains."

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