About this topic
Summary How can a name which is empty contribute to a sentence which is true or false? If it can contribute, what is its contribution? If it cannot so contribute, how can we explain away the judgement of apparently meaningful sentences containing empty names? In particular how can we account for the preponderance of apparently true negative existential claims?
Key works Russell 1905 argues that ordinary proper names should be treated as definite descriptions which should in turn be analysed away in context with quantifiers. One of Russell's arguements for this descriptivism is that it allows empty names to have a meaning. Kripke 1980 argues against descriptivist theories of names and is sympathetic to a Millian theory. This theme is continued by Kripke 2013 which argues that empty names do not provide a test case for theories of names and that traditional descriptivists do not solve the problem of negative existentials. A Millian solution to the problem of negative existentials is tentatively proposed. Whilst rejecting Millianism, Evans 1982 agrees with Kripke that (most) names depend on a referent to be meaningful. Evans 1982 argues forcefully against Kripke's approach to negative existentials and proposes his own solution. Evans' own solution is, however, subject to the same problems. Burge 1974 shows how one can systematically accommodate meaningful empty names in an ontologically perspicuous way. See also Sainsbury 2005.
Introductions Sainsbury 2009 is an introduction to empty names and related issues such as fictional characters, and truth in fiction.
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135 found
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1 — 50 / 135
  1. Conservative Meinongianism: An Actualist+ Meta/Ontology.T. Parent - manuscript
    David Lewis acclimated us to talk of “nonactual concreta that exist,” regarding talking donkeys and the like. I shall argue that this was not for the best, and try to normalize a way of describing them as “actual concreta that do not exist.” The basis of this is a defense of the Meinongian thesis “there are objects of which it is true that there are no such objects,” re: fictitious and illusory objects. I first formulate the problem of negative existentials (...)
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  2. Existence and Free Logic.Dolf Rami - manuscript
    In this paper I aim to defend a first‐order non‐discriminating property view concerning existence. The version of this view that I prefer is based on negative (or a specific neutral) free logic that treats the existence predicate as first‐order logical predicate. I will provide reasons why such a view is more plausible than a second‐order discriminating property view concerning existence and I will also discuss four challenges for the proposed view and provide solutions to them.
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  3. Non‐Standard Neutral Free Logic, Empty Names and Negative Existentials.Dolf Rami - manuscript
    In this paper I am concerned with an analysis of negative existential sentences that contain proper names only by using negative or neutral free logic. I will compare different versions of neutral free logic with the standard system of negative free logic (Burge, Sainsbury) and aim to defend my version of neutral free logic that I have labeled non-standard neutral free logic.
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  4. The Varieties of Gappy Propositions.Seyed N. Mousavian - forthcoming - In Chris Tillman (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Propositions. Routledge.
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  5. Fictional Discourse: A Radical Fictionalist Semantics By Stefano Predelli. [REVIEW]Thomas Hodgson - 2021 - Analysis.
    Fictional Discourse: A Radical Fictionalist Semantics By PredelliStefanoOxford University Press, 2020. viii + 184 pp.
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  6. Turning Aboutness About.Alexander Sandgren - 2021 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
    There are two families of influential and stubborn puzzles that many theories of aboutness (intentionality) face: underdetermination puzzles and puzzles concerning representations that appear to be about things that do not exist. I propose an approach that elegantly avoids both kinds of puzzle. The central idea is to explain aboutness (the relation supposed to stand between thoughts and terms and their objects) in terms of relations of co-aboutness (the relation of being about the same thing that stands between the thoughts (...)
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  7. Two Informational Theories of Memory: A Case From Memory-Conjunction Errors.Danilo Fraga Dantas - 2020 - Disputatio 12 (59):395-431.
    The causal and simulation theories are often presented as very distinct views about declarative memory, their major difference lying on the causal condition. The causal theory states that remembering involves an accurate representation causally connected to an earlier experience. In the simulation theory, remembering involves an accurate representation generated by a reliable memory process. I investigate how to construe detailed versions of these theories that correctly classify memory errors as misremembering or confabulation. Neither causalists nor simulationists have paid attention to (...)
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  8. Truth Without Reference: The Use of Fictional Names.María de Ponte, Kepa Korta & John Perry - 2020 - Topoi 39 (2):389-399.
    Singular terms without referents are called empty or vacuous terms. But not all of them are equally empty. In particular, not all proper names that fail to name an existing object fail in the same way: although they are all empty, they are not all equally vacuous. “Vulcan,” “Jacob Horn,” “Odysseus,” and “Sherlock Holmes,” for instance, are all empty. They have no referents. But they are not entirely vacuous or useless. Sometimes they are used in statements that are true or (...)
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  9. Russellians Can Solve the Problem of Empty Names with Nonsingular Propositions.Thomas Hodgson - 2020 - Synthese 197:5411–5433.
    Views that treat the contents of sentences as structured, Russellian propositions face a problem with empty names. It seems that those sorts of things cannot be the contents of sentences containing such names. I motivate and defend a solution to the problem according to which a sentence may have a singular proposition as its content at one time, and a nonsingular one at another. When the name is empty the content is a nonsingular Russellian structured proposition; when the name is (...)
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  10. A Russellian Analysis of Buddhist Catuskoti.Nicholaos Jones - 2020 - Comparative Philosophy 11 (2):63-89.
    Names name, but there are no individuals who are named by names. This is the key to an elegant and ideologically parsimonious strategy for analyzing the Buddhist catuṣkoṭi. The strategy is ideologically parsimonious, because it appeals to no analytic resources beyond those of standard predicate logic. The strategy is elegant, because it is, in effect, an application of Bertrand Russell's theory of definite descriptions to Buddhist contexts. The strategy imposes some minor adjustments upon Russell's theory. Attention to familiar catuṣkoṭi from (...)
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  11. The Truth and Nothing but the Truth: Non-Literalism and The Habits of Sherlock Holmes.Heidi Savage - 2020 - Southwest Philosophy Review 36 (2).
    Abstract: Many, if not most philosophers, deny that a sentence like ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’ could be true. However, this attitude conflicts with the assignment of true to that sentence by natural language speakers. Furthermore, this process of assigning truth values to sentences like ‘Sherlock Holes smokes’ seems indistinguishable from the process that leads speakers to assign true to other sentences, those like ‘Bertrand Russell smokes’. I will explore the idea that when speakers assign the value true to the first sentence, (...)
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  12. A New Puzzle for Phenomenal Intentionality.Peter Clutton & Alexander Sandgren - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6.
    Phenomenal intentionality theories have recently enjoyed significant attention. According to these theories, the intentionality of a mental representation (what it is about) crucially depends on its phenomenal features. We present a new puzzle for these theories, involving a phenomenon called ‘intentional identity’, or ‘co-intentionality’. Co-intentionality is a ubiquitous intentional phenomenon that involves tracking things even when there is no concrete thing being tracked. We suggest that phenomenal intentionality theories need to either develop new uniquely phenomenal resources for handling the puzzle, (...)
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  13. Semantic Verbs Are Intensional Transitives.Justin D’Ambrosio - 2019 - Mind 128 (509):213-248.
    In this paper I show that we have strong empirical and theoretical reasons to treat the verbs we use in our semantic theorizing—particularly ‘refers to ’, ‘applies to ’, and ‘is true of ’—as intensional transitive verbs. Stating our semantic theories with intensional vocabulary allows us to partially reconcile two competing approaches to the nature and subject-matter of semantics: the Chomskian approach, on which semantics is non-relational, internalistic, and concerns the psychology of language users, and the Lewisian approach, on which (...)
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  14. Semantics of Fictional Terms.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2019 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 38 (2):73-100.
    The paper provides an opinionated survey of recent contributions – roughly, in the last decade – to our understanding of how names and other referring expressions work in fictional discourse and addresses well-known philosophical worries that they raise. Views about the semantics of referring expressions in fictional discourse are usually accompanied by metaphysical views on the ontology of fictional characters, so this will also come under our focus.
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  15. Singular Reference in Fictional Discourse?Manuel García-Carpintero - 2019 - Disputatio 11 (54):143-177.
    Singular terms used in fictions for fictional characters raise well-known philosophical issues, explored in depth in the literature. But philosophers typically assume that names already in use to refer to “moderatesized specimens of dry goods” cause no special problem when occurring in fictions, behaving there as they ordinarily do in straightforward assertions. In this paper I continue a debate with Stacie Friend, arguing against this for the exceptionalist view that names of real entities in fictional discourse don’t work there as (...)
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  16. Consequences of Reference Failure.Michael McKinsey - 2019 - New York and Oxford: Routledge.
    This book defends the Direct Reference (DR) thesis in philosophy of language regarding proper names and indexical pronouns. It uniquely draws out the significant consequences of DR when it is conjoined with the fact that these singular terms sometimes fail to refer. Even though DR is widely endorsed by philosophers of language, many philosophically important and radically controversial consequences of the thesis have gone largely unexplored. This book makes an important contribution to the DR literature by explicitly addressing the consequences (...)
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  17. Fiction and Representation.Zoltán Vecsey - 2019 - Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
  18. Propositions, Meaning, and Names.Tristan Grøtvedt Haze - 2018 - Philosophical Forum 49 (3):335-362.
    The object of this paper is to sketch an approach to propositions, meaning and names. The key ingredients are a Twin-Earth-inspired distinction between internal and external meaning, and a middle-Wittgenstein-inspired conception of internal meaning as role in language system. I show how the approach offers a promising solution to the problem of the meaning of proper names. This is a plea for a neglected way of thinking about these topics.
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  19. Russellians Can Have a No Proposition View of Empty Names.Thomas Hodgson - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (7):670-691.
    Russellians can have a no proposition view of empty names. I will defend this theory against the problem of meaningfulness, and show that the theory is in general well motivated. My solution to the problem of meaningfulness is that speakers’ judgements about meaningfulness are tracking grammaticality, and not propositional content.
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  20. Simple Trinitarianism and Empty Names.Shieva Kleinschmidt - 2018 - Religious Studies 54 (3):325-335.
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  21. Reference Fiction, and Omission.Samuel Murray - 2018 - Synthese 195 (1):235-257.
    In this paper, I argue that sentences that contain ‘omission’ tokens that appear to function as singular terms are meaningful while maintaining the view that omissions are nothing at all or mere absences. I take omissions to be fictional entities and claim that the way in which sentences about fictional characters are true parallels the way in which sentences about omissions are true. I develop a pragmatic account of fictional reference and argue that my fictionalist account of omissions implies a (...)
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  22. Empty Representations: Reference and Non-Existence By Manuel García-Carpintero and Genoveva Martí. [REVIEW]T. Parent - 2018 - Analysis 78 (1):172-173.
  23. Fictional, Metafictional, Parafictional.François Recanati - 2018 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 118 (1):25-54.
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  24. Which Witch is Which? Exotic Objects and Intentional Identity.Alexander Sandgren - 2018 - Synthese 195 (2):721-739.
    This paper is about intentional identity, the phenomenon of intentional attitudes having a common focus. I present an argument against an approach to explaining intentional identity, defended by Nathan Salmon, Terence Parsons and others, that involves positing exotic objects. For example, those who adopt this sort of view say that when two astronomers had beliefs about Vulcan, their attitudes had a common focus because there is an exotic object that both of their beliefs were about. I argue that countenancing these (...)
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  25. Critical Notice of 'On Reference' by Andrea Bianchi (Ed.).Lukas Skiba - 2018 - Analysis 78 (1):160-171.
    ‘On Reference’ is a collection of 18 original articles. While united in their concern with reference, they deal with a large variety of topics, ranging from questions concerning the nature of reference, through the interaction of reference and cognition, to more specific questions about the semantics of particular referring expressions. The contributions are of high quality: thought provoking, insightful and engagingly written. Many have the potential to substantially advance the debate in their field. In this critical notice I will do (...)
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  26. Mistake is to Myth What Pretense is to Fiction: A Reply to Goodman.Björn Lundgren - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (3):1275-1282.
    In this reply I defend Kripke’s creationist thesis for mythical objects against Jeffrey Goodman’s counter-argument to the thesis, 35–40, 2014). I argue that Goodman has mistaken the basis for when mythical abstracta are created. Contrary to Goodman I show that, as well as how, Kripke’s theory consistently retains the analogy between creation of mythical objects and creation of fictional objects, while also explaining in what way they differ.
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  27. M. García-Carpintero & G. Martí (Eds.), Empty Representations: Reference and Non-Existence. [REVIEW]Fredrik Haraldsen - 2016 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 23 (2):263-274.
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  28. Truths Containing Empty Names.Michael McKinsey - 2016 - In Piotr Stalmaszczyk & Luis Fernandez Moreno (eds.), Philosophical Approaches to Proper Names. Peter Lang. pp. 175-202.
    Abstract. On the Direct Reference thesis, proper names are what I call ‘genuine terms’, terms whose sole semantic contributions to the propositions expressed by their use are the terms’ semantic referents. But unless qualified, this thesis implies the false consequence that sentences containing names that fail to refer can never express true or false propositions. (Consider ‘The ancient Greeks worshipped Zeus’, for instance.) I suggest that while names are typically and fundamentally used as genuine terms, there is a small class (...)
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  29. The Problem of Empty Names and Russellian Plenitude.Joshua Spencer - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (3):1-18.
    ‘Ahab is a whaler’ and ‘Holmes is a whaler’ express different propositions, even though neither ‘Ahab’ nor ‘Holmes’ has a referent. This seems to constitute a theoretical puzzle for the Russellian view of propositions. In this paper, I develop a variant of the Russellian view, Plenitudinous Russellianism. I claim that ‘Ahab is a whaler’ and ‘Holmes is a whaler’ express distinct gappy propositions. I discuss key metaphysical and semantic differences between Plenitudinous Russellianism and Traditional Russellianism and respond to objections that (...)
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  30. Vacuous Names in Early Analytic Philosophy: Frege, Russell, and Moore.Mark Textor - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (6):316-326.
    Empty proper names give rise to intriguing questions. Frege, Moore and Russell stand at the beginning of analytic philosophy's engagement with these questions. In this paper I will therefore introduce and assess their views on the topic of empty names and draw connections to recent work.
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  31. Fictional Characters, Mythical Objects, and the Phenomenon of Inadvertent Creation.Zsófia Zvolenszky - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (2):1-23.
    My goal is to reflect on the phenomenon of inadvertent creation and argue that—various objections to the contrary—it doesn’t undermine the view that fictional characters are abstract artifacts. My starting point is a recent challenge by Jeffrey Goodman that is originally posed for those who hold that fictional characters and mythical objects alike are abstract artifacts. The challenge: if we think that astronomers like Le Verrier, in mistakenly hypothesizing the planet Vulcan, inadvertently created an abstract artifact, then the “inadvertent creation” (...)
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  32. Frege on Existence and Non‐Existence.Karen Green - 2015 - Theoria 81 (4):293-310.
    Despite its importance for early analytic philosophy, Gottlob Frege's account of existence statements, according to which they classify concepts, has been thought to succumb to a number of well-worn criticisms. This article does two things. First, it argues that, by remaining faithful to the letter of Frege's claim that concepts are functions, the Fregean account can be saved from many of the standard criticisms. Second, it examines the problem that Frege's account fails to generalize to cases which involve definite descriptions (...)
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  33. Pretense and Fiction-Directed Thought.Michael R. Hicks - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (6):1549-1573.
    Thought about fictional characters is special, and needs to be distinguished from ordinary world-directed thought. On my interpretation, Kendall Walton and Gareth Evans have tried to show how this serious fiction-directed thought can arise from engagement with a kind of pretending. Many criticisms of their account have focused on the methodological presupposition, that fiction-directed thought is the appropriate explanandum. In the first part of this paper, I defend the methodological claim, and thus the existence of the problem to which pretense (...)
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  34. Reference and Existence: The John Locke Lectures. [REVIEW]Fred Kroon - 2015 - Philosophical Quarterly 65 (261):861-865.
  35. The Nonexistent, by Anthony Everett: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, Viii + 246, £40. [REVIEW]Frederick Kroon - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (1):185-187.
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  36. Saul A. Kripke Reference and Existence: The John Locke Lectures. Oxford University Press, 2013. Xiii + 170 Pp. GBP £22.50. Isbn 978‐0‐19‐992838‐5. [REVIEW]Björn Lundgren - 2015 - Theoria 81 (2):182-188.
  37. Do Apparently Empty Names Help Millianism Prevail Against Widescopism? A Note.Seyed N. Mousavian - 2015 - Analytic Philosophy 56 (3):253-265.
  38. Pragmatics of No Reference.Seyed N. Mousavian - 2015 - Mind and Language 30 (1):95-116.
    According to Millianism, the semantic content of a proper name is its semantic referent. Many names, however, lack semantic referent; hence, so-called ‘empty’ names. Empty names raise various problems for Millianism. T.C. Ryckman, Fred Adams, Garry Fuller, Robert Stecker, Kenneth Taylor, and Nicole Wyatt, among others, have defended Millianism against these problems by appeal to pragmatics . I introduce Millianism and the problems raised by empty names for the view, then examine Pragmatic Millianism , its strength, its varieties, and why (...)
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  39. Gönderim Üzerine.Bertrand Russell - 2015 - Felsefe Tartismalari (49):55-72.
  40. The Importance of Fictional Properties.Sarah Sawyer - 2015 - In Stuart Brock & Anthony Everett (eds.), Fictional Objects. Oxford, UK: pp. 208-229.
    Semantic theories of fictional names generally presuppose, either explicitly or implicitly, that fictional predicates are guaranteed a referent. I argue that this presupposition is inconsistent with anti-realist theories of fictional characters and that it cannot be taken for granted by realist theories of fictional characters. The question of whether a fictional name refers to a fictional character cannot be addressed independently of the much-neglected question of whether a fictional predicate refers to a fictional property.
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  41. Inadvertent Creation and Fictional Characters.Zsófia Zvolenszky - 2015 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 22 (Supp. 1):169-184.
    In several papers, Petr Koťátko defends an “ontologically modest account of fictional characters”. Consider a position (which I have been defending) that is anything but ontologically restrained: positing fictional characters like Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace as abstract artifacts. I will argue, first, that such a position turns out to offer a nice fit with Petr Koťátko’s proposal about narrative fiction, one that fares better than an alternative pretense-based theory that doesn’t posit Bolkonsky as existing in any sense. Second, (...)
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  42. Artifactualism and Inadvertent Authorial Creation.Zsófia Zvolenszky - 2015 - Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics Vol. 7/2015.
    In a series of papers (two of them in previous ESA Proceedings), I have been defending a fictional artifactualist position according to which fictional characters (like Prince Bolkonsky in Tolstoy’s War and Peace are non-concrete, human created objects (which are commonly labeled abstract artifacts). In this paper, I aim to bring together from my previous work two lines of defending fictional artifactualism: that (for the fictional artifactualist) making room for (i) authorial creation and for (ii) inadvertent authorial creation are tenable (...)
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  43. Empty Representations: Reference and Non-Existence.Manuel García-Carpintero & Genoveva Martí (eds.) - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
    The contents of linguistic and mental representations may seem to be individuated by what they are about. But a problem arises with regard to representation of the non-existent - words and thoughts that are about things that don't exist. Fourteen new essays get to grips with this much-debated problem.
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  44. Nomes Vazios.Teresa Marques & Manuel García-Carpintero - 2014 - Compêndio Em Linha de Problemas de Filosofia Analítica.
    Os nomes próprios são termos singulares que intuitivamente indicam os objectos do discurso ou pensamento. Alguns nomes falham na sua função de referir, sem que, aparentemente, deixem de desempenhar um papel representacional. Isso é paradoxal: Por um lado, os objectos referidos deveriam fazer parte de uma caracterização correcta dos nomes próprios. Por outro lado, o significado das frases que incorporam nomes vácuos sugere que tais objectos são extrínsecos aos pensamentos transmitidos. Isto é o problema que se levanta com a existência (...)
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  45. Empty Names and Pragmatic Millianism.Seyed N. Mousavian - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):49-58.
    Millianism is the view that the semantic content of a proper name is its semantic referent. Empty names, names with no semantic referents, raise various problems for Millianism. To solve these problems, many have appealed to pragmatics, thus ‘Pragmatic Millianism’. Pragmatic Millianism employs the relation of association between names and descriptions as well as some pragmatic processes to substitute empty names with descriptions associated with. The resultant content should account for the intuitions raised by utterances of sentences containing empty names. (...)
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  46. Czy Można Być Przekonanym, Że Sherlock Holmes Jest Detektywem? O Sensowności Zdań Z Nazwami Fikcjonalnymi.Tomasz A. Puczyłowski - 2014 - Studia Z Kognitywistyki I Filozofii Umysłu 8 (1).
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  47. Empty Thoughts and Vicarious Thoughts in the Mental File Framework.François Recanati - 2014 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 14 (1):1-11.
    Mental files have a referential role—they serve to think about objects in the world—but they also have a meta-representational role: when ‘indexed’, they serve to represent how other subjects think about objects in the world. This additional, meta-representational function of files is invoked to shed light on the uses of empty singular terms in negative existentials and pseudo-singular attitude ascriptions. -/- For a longer version see "Empty Singular Terms in the Mental-File Framework" In Manuel Garcia-Carpintero & Genoveva Marti (eds.), Empty (...)
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  48. Fictional Realism and Negative Existentials.Tatjana von Solodkoff - 2014 - In Manuel García-Carpintero & Genoveva Martí (eds.), Empty Representations: Reference and Non-Existence. Oxford University Press. pp. 333-352.
    In this paper I confront what I take to be the crucial challenge for fictional realism, i.e. the view that fictional characters exist. This is the problem of accounting for the intuition that corresponding negative existentials such as ‘Sherlock Holmes does not exist’ are true (when, given fictional realism, taken literally they seem false). I advance a novel and detailed form of the response according to which we take them to mean variants of such claims as: there is no concrete (...)
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  49. Artifactualism and Authorial Creation.Zsofia Zvolenszky - 2014 - Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics 6:457–469.
    Artifactualism about fictional characters, positing Harry Potter as an abstract artifact created by J. K. Rowling, has been criticized on the grounds that the idea of creating such objects is mysterious and problematic. In the light of such qualms, it is worth homing in on an argument in favor of artifactualism, showing that it is the best way to include the likes of Harry Potter in our ontology precisely because it incorporates authorial creation. To that end, I will be exploring (...)
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  50. Quantificational Logic and Empty Names.Andrew Bacon - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13.
    The result of combining classical quantificational logic with modal logic proves necessitism – the claim that necessarily everything is necessarily identical to something. This problem is reflected in the purely quantificational theory by theorems such as ∃x t=x; it is a theorem, for example, that something is identical to Timothy Williamson. The standard way to avoid these consequences is to weaken the theory of quantification to a certain kind of free logic. However, it has often been noted that in order (...)
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