Analysis 46 (2):73 - 76 (1986)

Common names, for Mill, have both connotation and denotation. Thus ‘horse’ connotes certain properties, and the name ‘horse’ denotes the things that have those properties. By contrast, proper names have no connotations; they do not denote in virtue of the possession of certain properties by their denotations, but so to speak, directly. Thus Socrates received his name by being dubbed ‘Socrates’; and he might just as well have been given any other name. This contrast is misleading. After all, we might have named horses by another name, too; e.g., ‘cow’ or ‘Pferd’. However, once the convention by which they are called ‘horses’ is established, it is not correct to call them ‘cows’. A horse is not a cow. Just so Socrates could have been named ‘Plato’ or ‘Moses’, but once he has been named ‘Socrates’, it is just as wrong to call him ‘Plato’ as it is to call a horse a ‘cow’. What is correctly called a ‘horse’ is so called in virtue of its possession of certain properties, just as what is called ‘Socrates’ is so called in virtue of his possession of the requisite properties. From this point of view, proper names are words like any others. (Leonard Linsky, Oblique Contexts, University of Chicago Press 1983, pp. 16f.)
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DOI 10.1093/analys/46.1.73
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