London Ed writes,
I would like to bounce some of the central ideas [of a book] off you. The idea at the very centre is that fictional names, i.e. empty names, individuate. A fictional name like 'Frodo', in the sense it is used in The Lord of the Rings, tells us which character Tolkien is talking about. For example, in chapter II of Book II ("The Council of Elrond"), it says that Frodo is the one chosen to carry the Ring to Mordor, out of the nine characters in the Fellowship of the Ring. I.e. the name 'Frodo', as Tolkien uses it, tells us which character is chosen to carry the Ring.
Is that true? Can a fictional name, an empty name, a name that has no bearer, a name that refers to nothing, tell us which individual the writer is talking about? Can the writer even be said to be talking about anyone? In my view, he can. When Tolkien writes (p. 264 of my edition) "'I will take the Ring', he said, 'though I do not know the way'", he is talking about Frodo. That is, the sentence 'Tolkien is talking about Frodo' is true, and 'Tolkien is talking about Gandalf' is false.
So that's the central idea of the book, that fictional names individuate. Does it even make sense?
1. You seem to think that all and only fictional names are empty names. 'Vulcan,' however, used to refer to a hypothetical planet in an orbit between Mercury and the Sun, is an empty name, but not a fictional name. (In the "Star Trek" series, however, 'Vulcan' is a fictional name since it n ames, not a hypothetical planet, but a fictional one.) So not every empty name is a fictional name. And I should think that not every fictional name is empty. Names of real people as they (the names) figure in historical novels, legends, songs, movies, and whatnot are non-empty but arguably fictional. Think of the Faust legends, or the many stories and books and movies about Doc Holliday.
2. But although it is not perfectly obvious, I grant that every purely fictional name is empty, at least in the sense that no purely fictional name has an existing bearer or referent.
3. You maintain that purely fictional names like 'Frodo' do not refer to anything. They don't refer to anything that exists, obviously, but they also do not refer to Meinongian nonexistent objects or to merely intentional objects.
4. So I take it you do not make the following distinction that I make between two senses of 'empty':
Empty1: A name is empty1 iff it has no existing referent.
Empty2: A name is empty2 iff it has no referent whatsoever, whether existing, subsisting, Meinongian, or merely intentional.
5. Here is a question for you. If 'Frodo' and 'Gandalf' do not refer to anything at all, and therefore are without referents of any sort, then they have the same extension, the null extension or null set. Does it follow that the names have the same meaning? Is meaning exhausted by reference? If yes, then the two names have the same meaning, which is wrong. Or do the names differ in sense? If yes, then what are senses? What is the sense of an empty proper name?
6. To talk about Frodo is not the same as to talk about Gandalf. But you don't admit that there is anything at all that these names refer to. So how can one talk about either character? Can a term be about something if there is nothing the term refers to? What is aboutness? How can it be the case that both (i) 'Frodo' does not refer to anything and (ii) one can use 'Frodo' to talk about Frodo? Is talk about Frodo talk about the sense of 'Frodo'? Surely talk about is talk about something.
7. You maintain that fictional names individuate. What would it be for them not to individuate? Which theory or theories are you opposing? And what exactly do you mean by 'individuate'? There are no fictional individuals on your view, so how could any name individuate one?