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Sunday, May 18, 2014

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The point about ‘character’ versus ‘sense’ is well-made. But, at least in fiction, it is clear that this ‘character’ is rule-determined. Consider

There is a person called ‘Frodo Baggins’ in LOTR.
Frodo is a hobbit.
There is a another person called ‘Frodo Baggins’ in Ohio.
Frodo is not a hobbit.

Note the two token sentences in bold. If they occurred sequentially, with the introductory indefinite sentences, they would be inconsistent: they could not both be true. However, ‘in context’, they can both be true. But ‘in context’ does not mean that the inference is not rule-governed, only that the rules are more complex than for a simple two-sentence syllogism.

>> Consider the song Carmelita about an apparently purely fictional character named 'Carmelita.' That name carries the sense 'female.'<<

John Stuart Mill considers a similar argument about the name ‘John Smith’, namely that it connotes being Anglo-Saxon. But he says that there are many non-white people called by that name. And the ‘sense’ of being Anglo-Saxon, or male, does not impact the truth-value. A woman can change her name to ‘John’ if she wants. Or a boy can be called ‘Sue’, no? Frege makes a similar point about the word ‘but’. It has a different meaning to ‘and’, but this does not impact truth-value. He calls this ‘tone’, I think.

>>This argument seems OK in relation to empty names. Do you mean it to apply to non-empty names as well?

The argument is meant initially to apply to empty proper names. It is the first step in a longer sequence of arguments, which I omit here. I.e. start with empty proper names. Then (argument not given here) move to non-empty names.

Ed, You characterise the role of proper names as one of individuation. I'm not sure about this. I would say it is more one of identification, as when you say that a name tells us which individual is being described, or whose description is to be augmented. Surely the individuating role is played by the articles 'a' and 'another', as in your example, There is a hobbit called 'Frodo'. There is another hobbit called 'Frodo'. If proper names were sufficient for individuation how could we even understand that there could be two Frodos? We would not be able to formulate the problem of the two Frodos, and its implications for logic. Something more must be going on.

>> If proper names were sufficient for individuation how could we even understand that there could be two Frodos?
<<

Proper name (a written symbol) plus sense. As Bill notes, proper names can change their sense, in a way set by context. Kaplan calls this aspect of their meaning 'character'. But 'character' is still set by linguistic cues and rules, as the example above shows.

>>Surely the individuating role is played by the articles 'a' and 'another', as in your example<<

Well hardly. The indefinite article 'a' does not tell us which individual it is. And the article 'another', merely tells us which individual it isnt. Or have I missed something?

The individuation is done by some sortal or several attached (e.g., 'hobbit') plus the uniqueness character associated with the semantic properties of proper names.

Perhaps I'm reading 'individuate' differently.

The indefinite article 'a' does not tell us which individual it is.
Sure. But before we can do that we need to establish that there are some individuals to be distinguished. That's what the 'there is a ...' construction achieves, and that's how I understand 'individuate'.
There is a hobbit.
There is another hobbit.
Ergo, there are at least two individuals.
And not a proper name in sight. So the thought is that it's not the names that individuate but the 'there is a ...' constructions. Names, possibly qualified by 'sense', merely identify previously established individuals. This seems a prerequisite for explaining 'sense'.

@everyone: I am using 'individuation' here as I defined it earlier, namely telling-which-individual is the subject of the proposition. Obviously there is the medieval sense, which has two components, namely (1) the fact that the individual cannot be further divided-we can divide a species into parts, e.g. 'animal' into giraffe, man etc. We can divide man into Socrates, Plato etc, but the individual can't be further subdivided. Thus 'individuum', undividable. Then (2) the fact that Socrates and Plato, or even two 'identical' twins, are different individuals, and thus divided from each other. These are the two 'negative senses' of individuation as defined by Henry of Ghent, e.g. I am using the term in neither of these senses. I mean 'telling which individual'.

@Peter: I don't see what hobbit has to do with it. E.g.

There is a being called ‘Frodo Baggins’ in LOTR. Frodo is a hobbit.

There is practically no description in the first sentence ('being'). Yet the proper name attaches just the same as before. The proper name is a 'bare individuator'. Or have I misunderstood your point?

@David: "I would say it is more one of identification, as when you say that a name tells us which individual is being described, or whose description is to be augmented." OK but this is just terminology. I chose 'individuate' because it is an intransitive verb, and does not tempt us to suppose a relation between language and reality. Whereas 'the name 'Plato' identifies Plato' does so tempt us.

Thanks, Ed. I was concerned that you seemed to be asking proper names to do more work that I thought they could. I have a worry regarding 'character/sense'.

1. There is a person called ‘Frodo Baggins’ in LOTR.
2. Frodo is a hobbit.
3. There is a another person called ‘Frodo Baggins’ in Ohio.
4. Frodo is not a hobbit.

Here 'Frodo' in (4) refers back to the most recently introduced 'Frodo' in (3). Arguably this is a syntactic business related to the ordering of sentences.

5. There is a person called ‘Frodo Baggins’ in LOTR.
6. Frodo is a hobbit.
7. There is a another person called ‘Frodo Baggins’ in Ohio.
8. Frodo is not a hobbit.
9. Unlike other hobbits, Frodo has small feet.

Here the 'Frodo' in (9) seems to refer back to the 'Frodo' introduced in (5), breaking or over-riding the usual rule. Somehow the 'unlike other hobbits' suggests to us that this Frodo is a hobbit and hence must be the individual introduced in (5). But this 'inference' is hardly syntactic, relying as it does on the exclusive properties of hobbit and non-hobbit attributed respectively to the two Frodos. So the worry is that if the theory is to accommodate the resolution of polyvalent names it may need to go beyond the merely syntactic.

@David "But this 'inference' is hardly syntactic, relying as it does on the exclusive properties of hobbit and non-hobbit attributed respectively to the two Frodos."

Well Bill introduced the term 'syntactic', which I interpreted to mean 'rule governed', and which I oppose to 'object dependent'. Does your example demonstrate that empty proper names are semantically dependent upon some object – a Meinongian object? Surely not. Clearly the rule is highly complex and difficult to implement as an algorithm. Back reference is a well-known and intractable problem in computer science.

Perhaps the complex rule is something like: determine which narrative the sentence is part of, and apply the usual simple rule. A bit like when we are channel hopping and watching a film, the news and a football match consecutively. We can easily work out which narrative (or game) each fragmentary episode is part of).

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