Advertisement

Synthese

pp 1–23 | Cite as

Russellians can solve the problem of empty names with nonsingular propositions

  • Thomas Hodgson
Article
  • 79 Downloads

Abstract

Views that treat the contents of sentences as structured, Russellian propositions face a problem with empty names. It seems that those sorts of things cannot be the contents of sentences containing such names. I motivate and defend a solution to the problem according to which a sentence may have a singular proposition as its content at one time, and a nonsingular one at another. When the name is empty the content is a nonsingular Russellian structured proposition; when the name is not empty the content is a singular Russellian structured proposition.

Keywords

Content Empty names Propositions Reference Russellianism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I thank Maria Baghramian, Michael Bench-Capon, Niall Connolly, Daniel Deasy, Finnur Dellsén, Jonathan Farrell, Giulia Felappi, Geoff Georgi, Minyao Huang, Ivan V. Ivanov, Genoveva Martí, James Miller, Edward Nettel, Dilip Ninan, Joey Pollock, Elmar Geir Unnsteinsson, Keith Wilson, and Zsófia Zvolensky, several anonymous referees, and audiences at University College Dublin, an Early Career Mind Network forum at the University of Glasgow, a Dublin Philosophy Research Network workshop, and the Context Dependence in Language, Action and Cognition conference at the University of Warsaw. This research was supported by an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship.

References

  1. Adams, F., & Dietrich, L. A. (2004). What’s in a (n empty) name? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 85(2), 125–148.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0279-0750.2004.00191.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, F., & Fuller, G. (2007). Empty names and pragmatic implicatures. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 37(3), 449–462.  https://doi.org/10.1353/cjp.2007.0024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adams, F., Fuller, G., & Stecker, R. (1993). Thoughts without objects. Mind & Language, 8(1), 90–104.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0017.1993.tb00272.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adams, F., Fuller, G., & Stecker, R. (1997). The semantics of fictional names. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 78(2), 128–148.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0114.00032.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Adams, F., & Stecker, R. (1994). Vacuous singular terms. Mind & Language, 9(4), 387–401.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0017.1994.tb00314.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Adams, R. M. (1979). Primitive thisness and primitive identity. The Journal of Philosophy, 76(1), 5–26.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2025812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Adams, R. M. (1981). Actualism and thisness. Synthese, 49(1), 3–41.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01063914.Google Scholar
  8. Adams, R. M. (1986). Time and thisness. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 11(1), 315–329.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4975.1986.tb00501.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Alward, P. (2005). Between the lines of age: Reflections on the metaphysics of words. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 86(2), 172–187.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0114.2005.00221.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bach, K. (1981). What’s in a name. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 59(4), 371–386.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00048408112340341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bach, K. (1999). The myth of conventional implicature. Linguistics and Philosophy, 22(4), 327–366.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005466020243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Berg, J. (2012). Direct belief: An essay on the semantics, pragmatics, and metaphysics of belief. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Besson, C. (2011). Empty natural kind terms and Dry-Earth. Erkenntnis, 76(3), 403–425.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-011-9286-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boër, S. E. (1975). Proper names as predicates. Philosophical Studies, 27(6), 389–400.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01236458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Braun, D. (1993). Empty names. Noûs, 27(4), 449–469.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2215787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Braun, D. (1998). Understanding belief reports. The Philosophical Review, 107(4), 555–595.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2998375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Braun, D. (2005). Empty names, fictional names, mythical names. Noûs, 39(4), 596–631.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0029-4624.2005.00541.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Braun, D. (2008). Complex demonstratives and their singular contents. Linguistics and Philosophy, 31(1), 57–99.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-008-9032-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Bromberger, S. (2011). What are words? Comments on Kaplan (1990), on Hawthorne and Lepore, and on the issue. Journal of Philosophy, 108(9), 486–503.  https://doi.org/10.5840/2011108925.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Burge, T. (1973). Reference and proper names. The Journal of Philosophy, 70(14), 425–439.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2025107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Caplan, B. (2004). Creatures of fiction, myth, and imagination. American Philosophical Quarterly, 41(4), 331–337.Google Scholar
  22. Caplan, B. (2005). Against widescopism. Philosophical Studies, 125(2), 167–190.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-004-7814-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Caplan, B. (2006). Empty names. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (2nd ed., Vol. 4, pp. 132–136). Oxford: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Cappelen, H. (1999). Intentions in words. Noûs, 33(1), 92–102.  https://doi.org/10.1111/0029-4624.00143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Connolly, N. (2010). How the dead live. Philosophia, 39(1), 83–103.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-010-9258-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Cullison, A., & Caplan, B. (2010). Descriptivism, scope, and apparently empty names. Philosophical Studies, 156(2), 283–288.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-010-9589-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Donnellan, K. S. (1970). Proper names and identifying descriptions. Synthese, 21(3), 335–358.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00484804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Donnellan, K. S. (1974). Speaking of nothing. The Philosophical Review, 83(1), 3–31.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2183871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dummett, M. (1973). Frege: Philosophy of language. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  30. Evans, G. (1973). The causal theory of names. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 47, 187–208.  https://doi.org/10.1093/aristoteliansupp/47.1.187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Evans, G. (1982). The varieties of reference. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Everett, A. (2003). Empty names and ‘gappy’ propositions. Philosophical Studies, 116(1), 1–36.  https://doi.org/10.1023/B:PHIL.0000005533.25543.36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Everett, A. (2005). Recent defenses of descriptivism. Mind & Language, 20(1), 103–139.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0268-1064.2005.00279.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Fara, D. G. (2015). Names are predicates. Philosophical Review, 124(1), 59–117.  https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-2812660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Fitch, G. W. (1994). Singular propositions in time. Philosophical Studies, 73(2), 181–187.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01207665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Geurts, B. (1997). Good news about the description theory of names. Journal of Semantics, 14(4), 319–348.  https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/14.4.319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Glick, E. N. (2017). What is a singular proposition?. Mind.  https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzw063.
  38. Gray, A. (2013). Name-bearing, reference, and circularity. Philosophical Studies, 171(2), 207–231.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-013-0262-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hawthorne, J., & Lepore, E. (2011). On words. Journal of Philosophy, 108(9), 447–485.  https://doi.org/10.5840/2011108924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hodgson, T. (2017). The structure of content is not transparent. Topoi.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-017-9520-6.
  41. Hodgson, T. (2018). Russellians can have a no proposition view of empty names. Inquiry, 61(7), 670–691.  https://doi.org/10.1080/0020174X.2017.1372307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hornsby, J. (1976). Proper names: A defence of Burge. Philosophical Studies, 30(4), 227–234.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00372494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hunter, D. (2005). Soames and widescopism. Philosophical Studies, 123(3), 231–241.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-004-5359-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ingram, D. (2016). The virtues of thisness presentism. Philosophical Studies, 173(11), 2867–2888.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-016-0641-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ingram, D. (2018). Thisnesses, propositions, and truth. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 99(3), 442–463.  https://doi.org/10.1111/papq.12181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Jackson, B. (2006). Logical form: Classical conception and recent challenges. Philosophy Compass, 1(3), 303–316.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2006.00017.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Jeshion, R. (2014). Two dogmas of Russellianism. In M. García-Carpintero & G. Martí (Eds.), Empty representations: Reference and non-existence (pp. 67–90). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kaplan, D. (1989). Demonstratives. In J. Almog, J. Perry, & H. Wettstein (Eds.), Themes from Kaplan (pp. 481–563). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Kaplan, D. (1990). Words. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 64(1), 93–119.  https://doi.org/10.1093/aristoteliansupp/64.1.93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kaplan, D. (2011). Words on words. Journal of Philosophy, 108(9), 504–529.  https://doi.org/10.5840/2011108926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. King, J. C. (2017). Structured propositions. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.) The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, fall 2017 edn. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/propositions-structured/.
  52. Kripke, S. A. (1979). A puzzle about belief. In A. Margalit (Ed.), Meaning and use (pp. 239–283). Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kripke, S. A. (1980). Naming and necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Kripke, S. A. (2013). Reference and existence: The John Locke lectures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ludlow, P. (2003). Externalism, logical form, and linguistic intentions. In A. Barber (Ed.), Epistemology of language (pp. 399–415). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Markosian, N. (2004). A defense of presentism. In D. W. Zimmerman (Ed.), Oxford studies in metaphysics (Vol. 1, pp. 47–82). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Matushansky, O. (2008). On the linguistic complexity of proper names. Linguistics and Philosophy, 31(5), 573–627.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-008-9050-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Mousavian, S. N. (2011). Gappy propositions? Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 41(1), 125–157.  https://doi.org/10.1353/cjp.2011.0003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Neale, S. (1999). Coloring and composition. In K. Murasugi & R. J. Stainton (Eds.), Philosophy and linguistics (pp. 35–82). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  60. Nelson, M. (2002). Descriptivism defended. Noûs, 36(3), 408–435.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0068.00378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Nelson, M. (2016). Existence. In: E. N. Zalta (Ed.) The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, winter 2016 edn. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/existence/.
  62. Orilia, F., & Swoyer, C. (2016). Properties. In: E. N. Zalta (Ed.) The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, winter 2016 edn. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/properties/.
  63. Perry, J. (2012). Reference and reflexivity (2nd ed.). Stanford, CA: CSLI.Google Scholar
  64. Pickel, B. (2017). Structured propositions in a generative grammar. Mind.  https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzw074
  65. Plantinga, A. (1983). On existentialism. Philosophical Studies, 44(1), 1–20.  https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00353411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Predelli, S. (2015). Who’s afraid of the predicate theory of names? Linguistics and Philosophy, 38(4), 363–376.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-015-9177-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Putnam, H. (1975). The meaning of “meaning”. Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 7, 131–193.Google Scholar
  68. Recanati, F. (1993). Direct reference: From language to thought. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  69. Reimer, M. (2001). The problem of empty names. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 79(4), 491–506.  https://doi.org/10.1093/ajp/79.4.491.Google Scholar
  70. Rickless, S. C. (2012). Why and how to fill an unfilled proposition. Theoria, 78(1), 6–25.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-2567.2011.01114.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Russell, B. (1911). Knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 11(1), 108–128.  https://doi.org/10.1093/aristotelian/11.1.108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Sainsbury, R. M. (2014). Sense without reference. Departing from Frege: Essays in the philosophy of language (pp. 205–223). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  73. Salmon, N. (1987). Existence. Philosophical Perspectives, 1, 49–108.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2214143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Salmon, N. (1998). Nonexistence. Noûs, 32(3), 277–319.  https://doi.org/10.1111/0029-4624.00101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Salmon, N. (2014). What is existence? In M. García-Carpintero & G. Martí (Eds.), Empty representations: Reference and non-existence (pp. 245–261). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sloat, C. (1969). Proper nouns in English. Language, 45(1), 26–30.  https://doi.org/10.2307/411749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Soames, S. (1998). The modal argument: Wide scope and rigidified descriptions. Noûs, 32(1), 1–22.  https://doi.org/10.1111/0029-4624.00084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Soames, S. (2010). What is meaning?. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Spencer, J. (2013). Unnecessary existents. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 43(5), 766–775.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00455091.2013.870737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Stanley, J. (1997). Names and rigid designation. In B. C. Hale & C. Wright (Eds.), A companion to the philosophy of language (pp. 555–585). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  81. Sullivan, A. (2012). Multiple propositions, contextual variability, and the semantics/pragmatics interface. Synthese, 190(14), 2773–2800.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-012-0084-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Taylor, K. A. (1997). François Recanati’s direct reference: From language to thought: Accomodationist neo-Russellianism. Noûs, 31(4), 538–556.  https://doi.org/10.1111/0029-4624.00062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Taylor, K. A. (2000). Emptiness without compromise: A referentialist semantics for fictional names. In A. Everett & T. Hofweber (Eds.), Empty names, fiction and the puzzles of non-existence (pp. 17–36). Stanford, CA: CSLI.Google Scholar
  84. Taylor, K. A. (2015). Names as devices of explicit co-reference. Erkenntnis, 80(2), 235–262.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-014-9706-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Van Inwagen, P. (1977). Creatures of fiction. American Philosophical Quarterly, 14(4), 299–308.  https://doi.org/10.2307/20009682.Google Scholar
  86. Williamson, T. (2002). Necessary existents. In A. O’Hear (Ed.), Logic, thought, and language (pp. 269–287). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Williamson, T. (2013). Modal logic as metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wyatt, N. (2007). The pragmatics of empty names. Dialogue, 46(4), 663–681.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S001221730000216X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University College DublinBelfield, Dublin 4Ireland

Personalised recommendations