Competence and proper names

Diego Marconi
Università degli Studi di Torino
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, 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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