The Philosopher’s Lexicon: De Dicto/De re Distinction

Stories & Soliloquies

Welcome back to The Philosopher’s Lexicon. My primary goal in this series is to explore common philosophical vocabulary, hopefully transforming these words from useless jargon into meaningful terms. My secondary goal is to highlight how contentious some of these terms can be – especially those which seem obvious. These definitions will not be comprehensive by any means, so please feel free to add your own understanding of each term as we go. 

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This week’s entry into the lexicon is the distinction between claims that are made de dicto and claims that are made de re. Literally, a “de dicto” proposition carries its meaning in the words that are said, while a “de re” proposition carries its meaning in the thing that exists behind the words. This is most easily understood in an example. For this, most explanations turn to Quine. The Stanford Encyclopedia of…

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