Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):443-457 (2013)
|Abstract||Metalinguistic descriptivism is the view that proper names are semantically equivalent to descriptions featuring their own quotations (e.g., ?Socrates? means ?the bearer of ?Socrates??). The present paper shows that Millians can actually accept an inferential version of this equivalence thesis without running afoul of the modal argument. Indeed, they should: for it preserves the explanatory virtues of more familiar forms of descriptivism while avoiding objections (old and new) to Kent Bach's nominal description theory. We can make significant progress on Frege's puzzle and Plato's beard without committing ourselves one way or the other on the semantic values of proper names. The view on offer can also be motivated by analogy with Tarski's schema T, inviting the idea that the equivalence between a name and the associated nominal description has more to do with the semantics of representational locutions than it does with names per se. My response to the modal argument exploits the Kripkean distinction between reference at a world and reference in a world, and can be accepted by metalinguistic descriptivists and Millians alike|
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