Millianism and Descriptivism are without question the two most prominent views with respect to the semantics of proper names. However, debates between Millians and Descriptivists have tended to focus on a fairly narrow set of linguistic data and an equally narrow set of problems, mainly how to solve with Frege’s puzzle and how to guarantee rigidity. In this paper, I focus on a set of data that has been given less attention in these debates—namely so-called predicative uses, bound uses, and shifted uses of names. I first show that these data points seem to favor a Descriptivist view over a Millian view, but I then introduce an alternative view of names that not only provides a simple and elegant way of dealing with the data, but also retains rigidity without becoming subject to the problems raised by Frege’s puzzle. This is the view that names are variables, also called Variabilism.
- proper names
- philosophy of language