External Reference and Residual Magic
Putnam famously criticizes the traditional theory of meaning and reference, and argues that no internal configuration of a cognitive system is able to capture the intended objects of linguistic reference. Indeed, a ‘magical connection’ between language and world would be required for the traditional theory to work. Putnam attempts to replace the magical dependencies assumed by the traditional theory with an externalist account based on causal chains and direct access to the world. However, I argue that he does not carry the exorcism far enough, and that his own theory assumes a literal and substantive interpretation of reference which itself must be relinquished if his critique of the traditional view is carried to its natural conclusion.