I am currently reading The Limits of Realism by Tim Button. I'm having trouble understanding the convention of reference that he is using. On page 7, he writes the following:

That picture is of reasoning from a 'God's Eye point of view'.1

Then at the bottom of the page, the following is written:

1Putnam (1980a: 100; 1981c: 49; see also 1982a: 38; 1983a: x, xviii).

What do these years mean? I've looked at the bibliography, but I can't find sources corresponding to these years and the author. Here's the first two pages of the bibliography.

  • 6
    Instead of the first two pages of the bibliography, you should be showing us the page where items authored by Putnam appear! That said, this usage is common when more than one publication by an author(s) for a given year appears in the bibliography. Note that Carnap (on your page "two") has two items for 1928, and they are listed as 1928a and 1928b. As for the a-b assignment ordering, this is probably according to the (possibly guessed) chronological order the items were written or appeared (e.g. use received date for papers). Dec 3, 2022 at 6:50
  • @DaveLRenfro Found it! I did not notice that the bibliography was alphabetically ordered. Dec 3, 2022 at 7:04

2 Answers 2


This answer merely adds detail to the answer given by @Allure.

In his book, Button uses a referencing system that seems to be somewhat non-standard. He combines a footnote style of referencing (with footnote numbers in each chapter being separately numbered from '1') with an author-date system. The superscript after the word view in the text indicates, as you have correctly shown, that there is a similarly numbered footnote at the bottom of the page.

The referencing system at the bottom of the page is an author-date system exactly as @Allure has indicated. In the 2013 edition (i.e., 1st edition) of Button's book (ISBN 978–0–19–967217–2) the sentence you have quoted appears on page 7. The bibliography for the book commences on page 245 and commencing on page 253 is a list of works by H. Putnam. If you look through that list, you will find two works with a 1980 publication date, one listed as 1980a, the other as 1980b; the work listed as 1980a is entitled How to be an Internal Realist and a Transcendental Realist (at the same time).


Most likely, Putnam has written multiple works which are all being cited. There are four of them, written in different years (1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983), and the citation gives more details on where to find the relevant information in all four of those sources.

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    Actually, there's at least nine. The "a" implies there's at least a "b", and "1981c" implies there's at least three in that year. Prolific guy. Dec 3, 2022 at 16:35

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