Substitution in a sense

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The Reference Principle (RP) states that co-referring expressions are everywhere intersubstitutable salva congruitate. On first glance, (RP) looks like a truism, but a truism with some bite: (RP) transforms difficult philosophical questions about co-reference into easy grammatical questions about substitutability. This has led a number of philosophers to think that we can use (RP) to make short work of certain longstanding metaphysical debates. For example, it has been suggested that all we need to do to show that the predicate ‘( ) is a horse’ does not refer to a property is point out that ‘( ) is a horse’ and ‘the property of being a horse’ are not everywhere intersubstitutable salva congruitate. However, when we understand ‘substitution’ in the simplest and most straightforward way, (RP) is no truism; in fact, natural languages are full of counterexamples to the principle. In this paper, I introduce a new notion of substitution, and then develop and argue for a version of (RP) that is immune to these counterexamples. Along the way I touch on the following topics: the relation between argument forms and their natural language instances; the reification of sense; the difference between terms and predicates; and the relation between reference and disquotation. I end by arguing that my new version of (RP) cannot be used to settle metaphysical debates quite as easily as some philosophers would like.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3069-3098
Number of pages30
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number12
Early online date25 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

© The Author, 2017


  • Disquotation
  • Predicates
  • Properties
  • Propositions
  • Reference
  • Sense
  • Singular terms
  • Substitution
  • The Reference Principle

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