Metalinguistic Descriptivism for Millians

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):443-457 (2013)

Alexis Burgess
Pomona College
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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DOI 10.1080/00048402.2012.711760
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References found in this work BETA

Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 431-433.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1981 - Philosophy 56 (217):431-433.
Good News About the Description Theory of Names.Bart Geurts - 1997 - Journal of Semantics 14 (4):319-348.
Giorgione Was so-Called Because of His Name.Kent Bach - 2002 - Philosophical Perspectives 16 (s16):73-103.

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