Conventionalism and the Causal Theory of Reference

  • Lorena Ramírez-LudeñaEmail author
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 126)


An intuitive view of language is frequently assumed: words are related by competent speakers to descriptions that determine reference. Such a view is generally understood as convention-based in the sense that it emphasises the existence of conventions that determine what descriptions are relevant. However, this descriptivist approach has been shown to be problematic in reconstructing our linguistic practices. In contrast, the Causal Theory of Reference (CTR) provides a plausible account of our use of words. CTR has been understood to be a theory that provides a non-conventionalist approach to language and one that is committed to an implausible version of essentialism. In this chapter, Ramírez-Ludeña presents a version of CTR that addresses the criticisms it has normally received. She also shows the advantages of this version of CTR when compared to the traditional descriptivist model. In the legal field, CTR has been associated with non-positivistic conceptions about law. However, since CTR is not committed to essentialism but rather takes account of the way in which the community uses words, Ramírez-Ludeña also shows how the proposed model is compatible with conceptions in legal philosophy such as that of Hart, which emphasises the conventional character of law.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law DepartmentPompeu Fabra UniversityBarcelonaSpain

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