Empty names, fictional names, mythical names

Noûs 39 (4):596–631 (2005)
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John Stuart Mill (1843) thought that proper names denote individuals and do not connote attributes. Contemporary Millians agree, in spirit. We hold that the semantic content of a proper name is simply its referent. We also think that the semantic content of a declarative sentence is a Russellian structured proposition whose constituents are the semantic contents of the sentence’s constituents. This proposition is what the sentence semantically expresses. Therefore, we think that sentences containing proper names semantically express singular propositions, which are propositions having individuals as constituents. For instance, the sentence ‘George W. Bush is human’ semantically expresses a proposition that has Bush himself as a constituent. Call this theory Millianism. Many philosophers initially find Millianism quite appealing, but find it much less so after considering its many apparent problems. Among these problems are those raised by non-referring names, which are sometimes (tendentiously) called empty names. Plausible examples of empty names include certain names from fiction, such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’, which I shall call fictional names, and certain names from myth and false scientific theory, such as ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Vulcan’, which I shall call mythical names. I have defended Millianism from objections concerning empty names in previous work (Braun 1993). In this paper, I shall re-present those objections, along with some new ones. I shall then describe my previous Millian theory of empty names, and my previous replies to the objections, and consider whether the theory or replies need revision. I shall next consider whether fictional and mythical names are really empty. I shall argue that at least some utterances of mythical names are



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David Braun
University at Buffalo

Citations of this work

Nonexistent objects.Maria Reicher - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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References found in this work

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Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
Themes From Kaplan.Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.) - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Situations and attitudes.Jon Barwise & John Perry - 1981 - Journal of Philosophy 78 (11):668-691.

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