Traditional descriptivism and Kripkean causalism are standardly interpreted as rival theories on a single topic. I argue that there is no such shared topic, i.e. that there is no question that they can be interpreted as giving rival answers to. The only way to make sense of the commitment to epistemic transparency that characterizes traditional descriptivism is to interpret Russell and Frege as proposing rival accounts of how to characterize a subject’s beliefs about what names refer to. My argument relies (...) on a development of the distinction between speaker’s reference and semantic reference. (shrink)
There are some names which cannot be spoken and others which cannot be written, at least on certain very natural ways of conceiving of them. Interestingly, this observation proves to be in tension with a wide range of views about what names are. Prima facie, this looks like a problem for predicativists. Ultima facie, it turns out to be equally problematic for Millians. For either sort of theorist, resolving this tension requires embracing a revisionary account of the metaphysics of names. (...) Revisionary Millianism, I argue, offers some important advantages over its predicativist competitor. (shrink)
Joseph Almog pointed out that Kripkean causal chains not only exist for names, but for all linguistic items (Almog 1984: 482). Based on this, he argues that the role of such chains is the presemantic one of assigning a linguistic meaning to the use of a name (1984: 484). This view is consistent with any number of theories about what such a linguistic meaning could be, and hence with very different views about the semantic reference of names. He concludes that (...) the causal theory is ‘rather trivial’ (1984: 487). In this paper I argue that Almog is correct to hold that the causal theory is trivial, but, contra Almog, argue that the triviality of the existence of causal chains is not a matter of such chains having a presemantic role in assigning linguistic meanings to utterances. Instead, such triviality is due to the fact that the causal theory reflects no more than a truism about the epistemology of convention acquisition. (shrink)
According to what is perhaps the dominant picture of reference, what a referential term refers to in a context is determined by what the speaker intends for her audience to identify as the referent. I argue that this sort of broadly Gricean view entails, counterintuitively, that it is impossible to knowingly use referential terms in ways that one expects or intends to be misunderstood. Then I sketch an alternative which can better account for such opaque uses of language, or what (...) I call “sneaky reference.” I close by reflecting on the ramifications of these arguments for the theory of meaning more broadly. (shrink)
Evans (1973)’s Madagascar case and other cases like it have long been taken to represent a serious challenge for the Causal Theory of Names. The present essay answers this challenge on behalf of the causal theorist. The key is to treat acts of uttering names as events. Like other events, utterances of names sometimes turn out to have features which only become clear in retrospect.
The causal and simulation theories are often presented as very distinct views about declarative memory, their major difference lying on the causal condition. The causal theory states that remembering involves an accurate representation causally connected to an earlier experience. In the simulation theory, remembering involves an accurate representation generated by a reliable memory process. I investigate how to construe detailed versions of these theories that correctly classify memory errors as misremembering or confabulation. Neither causalists nor simulationists have paid attention to (...) memory-conjunction errors, which is unfortunate because both theories have problems with these cases. The source of the difficulty is the background assumption that an act of remembering has one target. I fix these theories for those cases. The resulting versions are closely related when implemented using tools of information theory, differing only on how memory transmits information about the past. The implementation provides us with insights about the distinction between confabulatory and non-confabulatory memory, where memory-conjunction errors have a privileged position. (shrink)
How is it that words come to stand for the things they stand for? Is the thing that a word stands for - its reference - fully identified or described by conventions known to the users of the word? Or is there a more roundabout relation between the reference of a word and the conventions that determine or fix it? Do words like 'water', 'three', and 'red' refer to appropriate things, just as the word 'Aristotle' refers to Aristotle? If so, (...) which things are these, and how do they come to be referred to by those words? -/- In Roads to Reference, Mario Gómez-Torrente provides novel answers to these and other questions that have been of traditional interest in the theory of reference. The book introduces a number of cases of apparent indeterminacy of reference for proper names, demonstratives, and natural kind terms, which suggest that reference-fixing conventions for them adopt the form of lists of merely sufficient conditions for reference and reference failure. He then provides arguments for a new anti-descriptivist picture of those kinds of words, according to which the reference-fixing conventions for them do not describe their reference. This book also defends realist and objectivist accounts of the reference of ordinary natural kind nouns, numerals, and adjectives for sensible qualities. According to these accounts these words refer, respectively, to 'ordinary kinds', cardinality properties, and properties of membership in intervals of sensible dimensions, and these things are fixed in subtle ways by associated reference-fixing conventions. (shrink)
A number of prominent metaphysicians have recently defended a set of ideas which I will call ‘essentialist plenitude.’ Very roughly, and to a first approximation, essentialist plenitude says that wherever there is an object with properties P1, …, Pn there is in fact a plenitude of coincident objects that differ only in the distribution of essentiality and accidentality across P1, …, Pn (§1). The main purpose of this paper is to arouse the suspicion that essentialist plenitude may have far-reaching consequences (...) for the semantics of proper names. More specifically, I will argue that neither descriptivist nor causal theories of proper names work in a plenitude setting (§2). I will close by suggesting that our use of proper names may be thoroughly infected by semantic indecision about which among many coincident objects is referred to (§3). (shrink)
‘On Reference’ is a collection of 18 original articles. While united in their concern with reference, they deal with a large variety of topics, ranging from questions concerning the nature of reference, through the interaction of reference and cognition, to more specific questions about the semantics of particular referring expressions. The contributions are of high quality: thought provoking, insightful and engagingly written. Many have the potential to substantially advance the debate in their field. In this critical notice I will do (...) two things. I will focus on a cluster of four essays (Chs. 10-13) that are concerned with a single topic: the view that proper names are predicates. Apart from illustrating the above mentioned virtues, these essays are well suited to be discussed in conjunction due to their tightly connected subject matter. Before I get to this though, I will give brief summaries of the remaining 14 articles, where space constraints prevent me from discussing them in the detail they deserve. (shrink)
The fact that names refer to individuals is a basic assumption of referentialist theories of proper names, but the notion of individual is systematically taken for granted in those theories. The present paper follows that basic assumption, but proposes to analyze the notion of individual prior to the development of any semantic theory of proper names. It will be argued that a particular perdurantist conception of individual should be adopted, which distinguishes the notions of individual occurrence, and individual simpliciter. A (...) new theory of proper names (called the cluster-occurrence theory) is presented, according to which names refer to individual occurrences, and the intension associated with a name is an individual simpliciter. The merits of the new theory are then assessed in confrontation with its standard rival accounts. (shrink)
Call an account of names satisfactionalist if it holds that object o is the referent of name a in virtue of o’s satisfaction of a descriptive condition associated with a. Call an account of names minimally descriptivistif it holds that if a competent speaker finds ‘a=b’ to be informative, then she must associate some information with ‘a’ which she does not associate with ‘b’. The rejection of both positions is part of the Kripkean orthodoxy, and is also built into extant (...) versions of the file-picture of reference. In this paper, I argue that the rejection of minimal descriptivism only follows from the rejection of satisfactionalism given certain implausible assumptions about the nature of competence with a proper name. I do this by showing that considerations internal to the file-picture - in particular the idea that competence with a proper name constitutes an ‘epistemically rewarding’ relation to its bearer - motivate an acceptance of minimal descriptivism. (shrink)
I argue, in this thesis, that proper name reference is a wholly pragmatic phenomenon. The reference of a proper name is neither constitutive of, nor determined by, the semantic content of that name, but is determined, on an occasion of use, by pragmatic factors. The majority of views in the literature on proper name reference claim that reference is in some way determined by the semantics of the name, either because their reference simply constitutes their semantics (which generally requires a (...) very fine-grained individuation of names), or because names have an indexical-like semantics that returns a referent given certain specific contextual parameters. I discuss and criticize these views in detail, arguing, essentially, in both cases, that there can be no determinate criteria for reference determination—a claim required by both types of semantic view. I also consider a less common view on proper name reference: that it is determined wholly by speakers’ intentions. I argue that the most plausible version of this view—a strong neo-Gricean position whereby all utterance content is determined by the communicative intentions of the speaker—is implausible in light of psychological data. In the positive part of my thesis, I develop a pragmatic view of proper name reference that is influenced primarily by the work of Charles Travis. I argue that the reference of proper names can only be satisfactorily accounted for by claiming that reference occurs not at the level of word meaning, but at the pragmatic level, on an occasion of utterance. I claim that the contextual mechanisms that determine the reference of a name on an occasion are the same kinds of thing that determine the truth-values of utterances according to Travis. Thus, names are, effectively, occasion sensitive in the way that Travis claims predicates and sentences (amongst other expressions) are. Finally, I discuss how further research might address how my pragmatic view of reference affects traditional issues in the literature on names, and the consequences of the view for the semantics of names. (shrink)
One reason to think that names have a predicate-type semantic value is that they naturally occur in count-noun positions: ‘The Michaels in my building both lost their keys’; ‘I know one incredibly sharp Cecil and one that's incredibly dull’. Predicativism is the view that names uniformly occur as predicates. Predicativism flies in the face of the widely accepted view that names in argument position are referential, whether that be Millian Referentialism, direct-reference theories, or even Fregean Descriptivism. But names are predicates (...) in all of their occurrences; they are predicates that are true of their bearers. When a name appears as a bare singular in argument position, it really occupies the predicate position of what in this essay is called a denuded definite description: a definite description with an unpronounced definite article. Sloat provided good evidence for this. The definite article is sometimes pronounced with names in the singular: ‘The Ivan we all love doesn't feel well’. Sloat proposed a disjunctive generalization of when the definite article must be pronounced with a singular name. This essay shows that by slightly revising Sloat's generalization, we arrive at a simple, nondisjunctive, syntactic rule that governs the overt appearance of the definite article with singular names. But Ivan does not necessarily bear the name ‘Ivan’, so one might worry that the sentence “Ivan might not have had ‘Ivan’ as a name” would incorrectly be predicted false. This essay shows that Predicativism does not have this consequence by showing that incomplete definite descriptions in general and incomplete denuded descriptions, such as ‘Øthe Ivan’, in particular are rigid designators. (shrink)
In a series of papers (two of them in previous ESA Proceedings), I have been defending a fictional artifactualist position according to which fictional characters (like Prince Bolkonsky in Tolstoy’s War and Peace are non-concrete, human created objects (which are commonly labeled abstract artifacts). In this paper, I aim to bring together from my previous work two lines of defending fictional artifactualism: that (for the fictional artifactualist) making room for (i) authorial creation and for (ii) inadvertent authorial creation are tenable (...) moves. Indeed, instances of authorial creation (intentional or inadvertent) are what we expect if we accept Saul Kripke’s general view about what determines the reference of proper names, and this view’s consequences for fictional names. Fictional artifactualism emerges as our best choice if we want to admit fictional characters in our ontology and are sympathetic to Kripke’s general view about proper name reference. Fictional artifactualists having taken these two conditions on board need not worry about these features of their view: that authors sometimes create fictional characters and sometimes do so inadvertently. (shrink)
In several papers, Petr Koťátko defends an “ontologically modest account of fictional characters”. Consider a position (which I have been defending) that is anything but ontologically restrained: positing fictional characters like Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace as abstract artifacts. I will argue, first, that such a position turns out to offer a nice fit with Petr Koťátko’s proposal about narrative fiction, one that fares better than an alternative pretense-based theory that doesn’t posit Bolkonsky as existing in any sense. Second, (...) I will explore a recent challenge by Jeffrey Goodman—which I will call the inadvertent creation challenge—that is originally posed for those who hold that fictional characters and mythical objects alike are abstract artifacts. The crux of the challenge is this: if we think that astronomers like Le Verrier, in mistakenly hypothesizing the planet Vulcan, inadvertently create an abstract artifact, then the inadvertent creation” element turns out to be inescapable yet theoretically unattractive. Third, based on considerations about actually existing concrete objects being featured in fictional works (as Napoleon is in War and Peace), I argue that regardless of where one stands on mythical objects, admitting fictional characters as abstract artifacts is enough to give rise to the inadvertent creation challenge; yet this very set of considerations serves to undermine the challenge, indicating that inadvertent creation is not nearly as worrisome after all as Goodman is suggesting. Taking fictional characters (and mythical objects) to be abstract artifacts therefore remains a viable option. -/- . (shrink)
The history behind the ‘Madagascar’ example of Gareth Evans is traced, suggesting that the decisive reference-shift occurred in the 16th, not the 17, century. The difference between this example and the ‘Gödel’ example of Saul Kripke is explained in terms of the distinction between de re and de dicto beliefs and intentions.
In his paper the author argues that interdisciplinary research and collaboration between different scientific branches are important in ensuring that research captures the wider picture. The author ascertains common points in history, ethnology, dialectology, and folkloristics by looking at various examples of onomastic research conducted in Slovakia. The research findings are part of broad pan-Slavic research and are important in Slovak Slavistics as well.
Use of divine names is strictly regulated in the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Unlike most ordinary names, “God,” “Jesus,” and “Allah,” have a particular moral significance for the faithful. Misuse of the names constitutes a form of blasphemy—a sin. Tomes have been written about the origin of holy names in these traditions and the role that they play in devotional practices. I have no such grand theological ambitions here. Instead, in this short essay I will raise a (...) few more narrow questions about the sin of blasphemy from the standpoint of contemporary philosophy of language. Until we have good reason to think otherwise, we should assume that the best semantic theory for ordinary proper names like “Obama” and “Aristotle” extends to names for God. In particular, I think we have reason to assume some causal theory of reference is true of divine names, since some version of it seems true of most every other name. From this assumption I will argue (i) that there are some puzzles for the sin of blasphemy as it is traditionally conceived, and (ii) that we can make progress toward answering the puzzles by acknowledging that divine names are vulnerable to a special kind of reference drift. (shrink)
In “Naming with Necessity”, it is argued that Kripke’s thesis that proper names are rigid designators is best seen as being motivated by an individual-driven picture of modality, which has two parts. First, inherent in proper-name usage is the expectation that names refer to modally robust individuals: individuals that can sustain modal predications like ‘is necessarily human’. Second, these modally robust individuals are the fundamental building blocks on the basis of which possible worlds should be conceived in a modal semantics (...) intended to mirror the conceptual apparatus behind ordinary modal talk. The individual-driven picture is distinct from two views inspired by Kripke, direct reference theory and Millianism. The former covers only the first half of the picture, while the latter explicitly gives up on that half even, opting to remain neutral about what expectation expressions impose on the nature of their referents. (shrink)
It has been persuasively argued by David Kaplan and others that the proposition expressed by statements like (1) is a singular proposition, true in just those worlds in which a certain person, David Israel, is a computer scientist. Call this proposition P . The truth of this proposition does not require that the utterance (1) occur, or even that Israel has ever said anything at all. Marcus, Donnellan, Kripke and others have persuasively argued for a view of proper names that, (...) put in Kaplan’s terms and applied to this example, implies that the proposition expressed by (2) is also simply P .1 The thesis that expressions of a certain category (names, indexicals, demonstratives, pronouns, descriptions, etc.) are referential 2holds that these expressions contribute the object to which they refer, rather than a mode of presentation of that object, to the propositions expressed by statements containing them. The thesis that indexicals and names are referential creates the challenge of explaining the difference in cognitive signiﬁcance between statements like (1) and (2), that express the same proposition[Wettstein, 1986]. The problem has two parts, which.. (shrink)
Frege introduced the distinction between sense and reference to account for the information conveyed by identity statements. We can put the point like this: if the meaning of a term is exhausted by what it stands for, then how can 'a =a' and 'a =b' differ in meaning? Yet it seems they do, for someone who understands all the terms involved would not necessarily judge that a =b even though they judged that a =a. It seems that 'a =b' just (...) says something more than the trivial ’a = a' - it seems to contain more information, in some sense of 'information'. So either we have to add something to explain this extra information, or sever the very plausible links between meaning and understanding. This is what some writers have called 'Frege's Puzzle' It is undeniable that there is a phenomenon here to be explained, and it was Frege's insight to see the need for its explanation. But how should we explain it? Frege's idea was to add another semantic notion - Sinn, or Sense -— to account for the information conveyed. Sense is part of the meaning of an expression: it is the 'cognitive value' of the expression, or that ’wherein the mode of presentation is contained' (Frege 1957 p.57). Sense has a role to play in systematically determining the meanings of complex expressions, and ultimately in fixing the contents of judgements. It is the senses of whole sentences — Gedanken or Thoughts - which are candidates for truth and falsehood, and which are thus the objects of our propositional attitudes. Of course, introducing the notion of sense in this way does not, by itself, tell us what sense is. It only imposes a condition on a theory of meaning (and ultimately) belief: that it must account for distinctions in cognitive value or 'mode of presentation' (this is not a trivial thesis —- some philosophers today would deny that an explanation of Frege's Puzzle must occur within semantics or the theory of meaning: see Salmon 1985). In this paper I want to explore one way of meeting this condition for the theory of names in natural language, by examining Kripke's well-known 'Puzzle about Belief' (Kripke 1979).. (shrink)