Edward Ockham of Beyond Necessity is back from his Turkish holiday and reports that, besides lazing on the beach at Bodrum, he
. . . spent some time thinking about singular concepts. Do you accept singular meaning? Either you hold that a proper name has a meaning, or not (Aquinas held that it does not, by the way). If it does, then what is it that we understand when we understand the meaning of a proper name? The scholastics held that there was a sort of equivalence between meaning and signifying ("unumquodque, sicut contingit intelligere, contingit et significare"). What I signify, when I use a term in the context of a proposition, is precisely what another person understands, when he grasps that proposition that I have expressed.
Do I accept singular meaning? That depends on what we mean by 'meaning' and by 'singular.' Let's see if we can iron out our terminology.
1. Without taking 'sense' and 'reference' in exactly the way Frege intended them to be taken, I would say that 'meaning' is ambiguous as between sense and reference. Unfortunately, Edward seems to be using 'meaning' to mean 'sense.' Of course, he is free to do that.
2. Edward also uses the word 'signify.' I should like him to explain exactly how he is using this word. Is the signification of a proper name the same as what I am calling its sense? Or is the signification of a proper name its referent? Or neither? Or both?
3. Suppose I assertively utter a token of 'Peter is tired' in the presence of both Peter and Edward. My assertion is intended to convey a fact about Peter to Edward. The latter grasps (understands) the proposition I express by my assertive tokening of the sentence in question. And of course I understand the same proposition. What I signify -- 'express' as I would put it -- by my use of 'Peter' is what Edward understands when he grasps the proposition I express.
4. Now the issue seems to be this. Is the meaning or signification or sense I express, and that I understand, when I say 'Peter' a singular meaning? More precisely: is it an irreducibly singular meaning, one that cannot be understood as logically constructed from general concepts such as man, philosopher, smoker?
5. I say No! I don't deny that 'Peter' has a sense. It has a sense and a referent, unlike 'Vulcan' which has a sense but no referent. But the sense of 'Peter' is not singular but general. So, to answer Edward's question, I do not accept singular meaning.
Corollary: the haecceity of Peter - Peterity to give it a name -- cannot be grasped. All thinking is general: no thinking can penetrate to the very haecceity and ipseity of the thing thought about. One cannot think about a particular except as an instance of multiply exemplifiable concepts/properties. This is 'on all fours' with my earlier claim that there are no singular or individual concepts. The individual qua individual is conceptually ineffable. So if we know singulars (individuals) at all, we do not know them by conceptualization.
If Edward disagrees with this he must tell us exactly why. He should also tell us exactly how he is using 'proposition' since that is another potential bone of contention. Is he a Fregean, a Russellian, or a Geachian when it comes to propositions? Or none of those?