Type-Ambiguous names

Anders J. Schoubye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The orthodox view of proper names, Millianism, provides a very simple and elegant explanation of the semantic contribution (and semantic properties) of referential uses of names, namely names that occur as bare singulars and as the argument of a predicate. However, one problem for Millianism is that it cannot explain the semantic contribution of predicative uses of names (as in e.g. 'there are two Alberts in my class'). In recent years, an alternative view, so-called The–Predicativism, has become increasingly popular. According to The–Predicativists, names are uniformly count nouns. This straightforwardly explains why names can be used predicatively, but is prima facie less congenial to an analysis of referential uses. To address this issue, The–Predicativists argue that referential names are in fact complex determiner phrases consisting of a covert definite determiner and a count noun--and so, a referential name is a (covert) definite description. In this paper, I will argue that despite the appearance of increased theoretical complexity, the view that names are ambiguous between predicative and referential types is in fact superior to the unitary The–Predicativist view. However, I will also argue that to see why this (type-) ambiguity view is better, we need to give up the standard Millian analysis. Consequently, I will first propose an alternative analysis of referential names that (a) retains the virtues of Millianism, but (b) provides an important explanatory connection to the predicative uses. Once this analysis of names is adopted, the explanation for why names are systematically ambiguous between referential and predicative types is both simple and elegant. Second, I will argue that The–Predicativism has the appearance of being simpler than an ambiguity view, but is in fact unable to account for certain key properties of referential names without making ad hoc stipulations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715–767
Issue number503
Early online date24 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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