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Philosophical Approaches to Proper Names

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Edited By Piotr Stalmaszczyk and Luis Fernández Moreno

The articles in this collection focus on philosophical approaches to proper names. The issues discussed include abstract names, empty names, naming and name-using practices, definite descriptions, individuals, reference, designation, sense and semantics. The contributions show the importance and lasting influence of theories proposed by John Stuart Mill, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Donald Davidson, and Saul Kripke. Individual chapters assess traditional analyses and modern controversies, and contribute to the debate on proper names in contemporary philosophy of language.
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André Bazzoni - Names and Individuals

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André Bazzoni

University of California, Berkeley

Names and Individuals1

1. Introduction

What do proper names refer to? Do proper names have meaning?

These questions have revealed to be particularly elusive for philosophers and linguists working on the semantics of names,2 but at least when it comes to the first question two broader theoretical currents have emerged and given rise to a robust literature, namely referentialism—the view that names are singular terms—, and predicativism—the view that names are predicates. I shall not, however, go into the specific discussion of which of those views provides the most adequate semantic analysis of proper names. The present paper is a referentialist paper, in the sense that first, only referentialist theories will be presented and dealt with, and second, a referentialist theory will be proposed as an alternative to the existing ones.3

This paper proceeds as follows. The main goal of section 2 is to assess the two major referentialist theories, descriptivism and the direct-reference or causal theory, in some of their most popular forms. Section 3 presents and develops an alternative approach, which I call the cluster-occurrence theory (‘occurrence theory’ for short). This theory draws on contemporary metaphysical ideas about the notions of individual and identity over time, and it aims at developing two suggestions advanced by Searle, namely that our understanding of the nature of an object involves two different cognitive operations; and that names...

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