London Ed writes and I respond in blue:
Still thinking about how to frame the main argument, so please help me out here.
There is a woman called ‘Clinton’. Clinton is a politician.
I claim there is a semantic connection between the name ‘Clinton’ that is used in the second sentence, but mentioned in the first sentence. It is this connection which licenses the inference to ‘some woman is a politician’. My central claim is that this exhausts the semantics of the proper name. The function of the name is simply to connect the second sentence to the first.
My question is, what arguments best support my claim. Some ideas.
(1) It’s just obvious that ‘Clinton’ refers back to the first sentence. The meaning of the two sentences is unchanged whether we write ‘he’ or ‘the man’. But since ‘he’ is just a pronoun, whose only function is to back-refer, it follows that ‘Clinton’ here is no primary reference.
BV: Your second example, then, is this:
There is a man named 'Clinton.' He is a politician.
And so 'Clinton' in the second sentence of the first example is merely a device of back reference. Is that what you are maintaining?
We agree, of course, that 'he' is a pronoun the antecedent of which is 'Clinton.' And so 'he' refers back to 'Clinton.' Back reference is a word-word relation. The antecedent of a pronoun is a word, not the (extralinguistic) thing to which the word refers, assuming it refers to something. What I deny is that 'he' in this context merely back refers. I maintain that it also refers to Bill Clinton, a chunk of extralinguistic reality, where 'refers' picks out a word-WORLD relation.
Back reference is an intralinguistic relation; reference is an extralinguistic relation. The reference of 'he' piggybacks on the reference of 'Clinton.' It picks up the reference of 'Clinton.'
But it is more complicated than this. For there is reference, not back reference, within a language. For example,
" 'Red' " refers to 'red.'
There is nothing to stop us from naming words. This is a case of intralinguistic reference, not back reference. Therefore, one cannot identify intralinguistic reference with back reference. All back reference is intralinguistic, but not all intralinguistic reference is back reference. A fortiori, one cannot identify extralinguistic reference with back reference.
It is also worth noting that 'back' in 'back reference' is an alienans adjective.
It is not clear what your thesis is. Are you an eliminativist about extralinguistic reference? That is, do you deny that proper names refer extralinguistically? Or perhaps you are an identitarian. Perhaps you hold that there is extralinguistic reference of proper names but that it reduces to back reference. (Some say that there are mental states all right, but that what they are are brain states. This is an identitarian, not an eliminativist, position. Notionally they are different even if it can be shown that identitarianism collapses of necessity into eliminativism.)
Or perhaps you maintain neither of these theses. I'd guess you are an eliminativist from your opening statement. I take it that you accept that there is a real world of concrete things external to language. If language 'hooks on' to these things, then presumably not via proper names. How then? Via bound variables in the Quinean way? Or do you hold that language does not hook on to language-external things at all?
I suggest that you will never gain a hearing for your ideas unless you can answer convincingly questions such as the foregoing.
For most of us it is a datum that there is extralinguistic reference to existing concrete things in space and time. We take it as given that in the paradigm cases reference is a word-world relation. The theoretical problems, then, are to understand how reference is possible and how it is achieved. But you seem to be denying the datum: you seem to be denying that there is extralinguistic reference, or at least, extralinguistic reference via proper names.