Dissertation, Lund University (2003)

The problem of empty names derives from the fact that empty names fail to refer. The reference failure of empty names implies that sentences containing empty names lack truth-conditions. As a consequence those sentences are meaningless, according to many theories of meaning. The present dissertation addresses the problem of empty names and proposes a solution to the problem at hand. In brief, the solution defends a notion of reference which allows for reference to possible individuals and holds that empty names refer to possible individuals. Thus, it is argued that sentences containing empty names should be given a counterfactual analysis. Another essential argument argues that empty names are obstinate rigid designators. In a well-known passage in Naming and Necessity Kripke claims that empty names cannot refer to possible individuals since there is an infinite number of possible and actual individuals which the empty name would refer to. This argument is challenged in order to defend reference to possible individuals. These positive arguments support a concept of reference according to which a proper name refers to an individual in the actual world if there is at least one possible world in which the individual the proper name refers to exists. The possible world may or may not be the actual world. With respect to empty names the possible world is never the actual world. It is claimed that according to this view all sentences containing empty names can be assigned semantic values in a satisfactory manner. Furthermore, arguments are provided in order to rule out alternative solutions to the problem of empty names. These views included Meinongian views broadly understood and the pretense theory. A different type of argument is given in the discussion of deflationism since the main point made is that empty names pose a serious problem for the view. It is suggested that the best way of avoiding the problem is to replace the disquotational concept of reference presently embraced which implies that empty names are non-referring with a disquotational concept of reference which encompasses empty names as referring terms.
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