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Abstract

In recent years, experimental philosophers have questioned the reliance of philosophical arguments on intuitions elicited by thought experiments. These challenges seek to undermine the use of this methodology for a particular domain of theorizing, and in some cases to raise doubts about the viability of philosophical work in the domain in question. The topic of semantic reference has been an important area for discussion of these issues, one in which critics of the reliance on intuitions have made particularly strong claims about the prospects for philosophical theories of reference and arguments based on claims about reference. In this article, I review the main lines of argument in this area of experimental philosophy, with particular emphasis on the relevance of empirical data about intuitions to philosophical views. I argue that although traditional philosophical theorizing about reference faces little threat from experimental data about intuitions, there is nevertheless much to be gained from collecting and analyzing such data, which holds the promise of greatly enriching our conception of the mechanisms governing judgments about semantic reference in ways that are highly relevant to philosophers.