Competence and proper names
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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This paper is concerned with the semantics of proper names from two different points of view. As everyboy knows, there is a standard account of the semantics of proper names - it is Kripke's account, essentially. And there is a certain amount of neuropsychological research on proper names, or on the mental representation, or processing of proper names -not too small an amount, at this point. There is a certain amount of evidence, and there are a few theories, none of them regarded as definitive, if I read the state of the art correctly. It may be thought that such neuropsychological work is simply irrelevant to the concerns of semantics, and vice-versa. For semantics is concerned with the truth conditions of sentences per se, and neuropsychology has nothing to say about that; neuropsychology, on the other hand, is concerned with several mental performances involving proper names -retrieving them from memory, or using them as cues to a person's face- and with their place within semantic memory (in case they have a special place), and semantics has nothing to say about that. The truth conditions that semantics is after are defined on the ground of a metaphysical notion of truth, whereas the only notion of truth that can be relevant to psychology is an epistemological notion: i.e. psychology may be interested in, and may have something to say about the procedures by which we come to regard a sentence as true, not about the conditions on which it is "objectively" true.
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