On Causal Theories of Proper Names

  • Wei Xiao Yang
Keywords: Reference, naming, proper names, causal theory of reference, Evans, Devitt


The purpose of this paper is to examine and critique Evans’ and Devitt’s post-Kripkean theories of naming. I argue that both authors correctly identify a crucial error in Kripke’s causal picture of naming: his claim that initial baptisms are necessary for the reference of proper names. However, I claim that Evans’ theory produces unintuitive results when faced with two problems: the “qua-problem” and the problem of incorrect causal source. I suggest that these issues arise due to his claim that the reference of a proper name is its dominant causal source of information. Finally, I argue that Devitt’s theory deals successfully with these issues by allowing for multiple groundings and by specifying the importance of referring to an object under a correct “kind” term.