Proper Names Workshop
Some of the most interesting questions in philosophy and science are the ones whose answers at first seem most obvious: How do we know what exists? Why does an apple fall from a tree instead of floating up? One of the central questions in philosophy of language and linguistic semantics in the 20th century was how we refer using proper names. It may seem obvious that a name refers to the person who bears it through an accord in that individual’s speech community, and, similarly, that this referent is featured in the semantic content of utterances involving the name. This simple answer is reflected in Saul Kripke’s influential proposal dating from the 1970s. But by itself it fails to account for observations about the full range of uses of names. How can our theory cover names without referents, like Athena or Bugs Bunny? Consider identity statements, in connection with which one of the central figures in the early literature on proper names, Gottlob Frege, remarked: “Identity challenges reflection”.
Since Hesperus and Phosphorus both refer to the same planet, Venus, how can Hesperus is Phosphorus mean something more than Hesperus is Hesperus? Closely related is the question of how to account for problems of de re belief attribution and denial: Thales didn’t believe that Hesperus was Phosphorus should not be taken to attribute to Thales a failure to appreciate the law of identity. And how are referential uses of names related to predicative uses, as inThere are ten Venuses in the directory? The challenge is to capture the distinctive aspects of these various uses while still providing a unified, overarching analysis of names, one which does justice to the intuitively appealing, simple answer entertained above.
Contemporary work on these issues is being conducted by both linguists and philosophers, and the nature of the topic and some of the recalcitrant problems facing extant accounts call for their collaborative interaction. Accordingly, our invited participants include scholars from both fields. The workshop will consist of six extended sessions over two days, each led by one of our invited speakers, with ample time for discussion and interaction with the distinguished group of invited discussants. We have a website where participants can share papers and links to other relevant work, in preparation for our discussions.
Others with appropriate background are cordially invited to join us.