It's Just Semantics: What Fiction Reveals About Proper Names

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2008-04-18

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Abstract

Sentences like the following entail puzzles for standard systematic theories about

language:

(1) Bertrand Russell smoked a pipe.

(2) Sherlock Holmes smoked a pipe.

Prima facie, these sentences have the same semantic structure and contain

expressions of the same semantic type; the only difference between them is that

they contain different proper names. Intuitively, (1) and (2) are true, but they are

made true and false, respectively, in different ways. Presumably (1) is true

because the individual, Bertrand Russell, has or had the property of being a pipe

smoker. In contrast, (2) is true for a reason something like this: the sentence

'Holmes smokes a pipe' or an equivalent thereof, or a sentence entailing this

sentence, was inscribed in the Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle (2002).

I show that the existence of fictional names, and the truths uttered using them, are

not adequately explained by any extant account of fictional discourse. A proper

explanation involves giving a semantics for names that can account for both

referential and fictional uses of proper names. To this end, I argue that names

should not be understood as expressions that immediately refer to objects.

Rather, names should be understood as expressions that encode information

about a speaker's act of introducing novel uses for them. Names are not linked to

objects, but to what I call "contexts of introduction". I explain how this allows

room for an explanation of fictional names, and how it also accommodates

Kripkean uses of proper names.

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