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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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Siu-Fan Lee - Can There Be a Davidsonian Theory of Empty Names?

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Siu-Fan Lee

Hong Kong Baptist University

Can There Be a Davidsonian Theory of Empty Names?

1. Introduction

For more than a century, theories of proper names have been dominated by two traditions.1 The Millian view holds that the linguistic function of a proper name is completely exhausted by the fact that it names its bearer (Kripke 1979). The descriptive view holds that a proper name refers in virtue of some associated information or descriptions. Kripke (1980) attributed the descriptive view to Frege (1892a), who proposed that a proper name has a sense which determines reference, and Russell (1905, 1912, 1918), who maintained that ordinary names are truncated definite descriptions.2 While Kripke has convinced many that the descriptive view is fundamentally wrong, the Millian view has yet to solve several problems which motivate the descriptive view. These include Frege’s puzzle about identity (Kripke 1979; Salmon 1986), the problem of empty names and the related problem of negative existentials (Braun 1993, 2005; Salmon 1998; Kripke 2013).

Empty names pose a problem for the Millian view because supposedly if the semantic function of a name is exhausted by its having a bearer, then a name that does not have a bearer should have no semantic function whatsoever. Yet intuitively, empty names not only are meaningful in actual linguistic practices but also share many features with denoting names. To start with, empty names are distinct even though they have no referent....

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