Edited By Piotr Stalmaszczyk and Luis Fernández Moreno
Siu-Fan Lee - Can There Be a Davidsonian Theory of Empty Names?
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Hong Kong Baptist University
Can There Be a Davidsonian Theory of Empty Names?
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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