David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Mind 109 (436):721-756 (2000)
It is widely believed that the semantic function of an ordinary proper name (e.g. 'Aristotle') is inexplicable in terms of the semantic function of an ordinary definite description (e.g. 'the last great ancient philosopher'), given a Russellian analysis of the latter. This paper questions this belief by suggesting a possible semantic explication. In brief, I propose that an ordinary proper name is a mere placeholder for an arbitrary ordinary definite description true of a given individual. The proposal is set out and justified in detail, as well as compared with both traditional description theories of ordinary proper names and the theory that an ordinary proper name just means its referent. I contend that the proposed theory is better than the former sort of theory, and at least as good as the latter one.
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