Friday, November 10: Matt Moss

Please join us this Friday as Matt Moss (Philosophy, New York University) presents work on proper names.

Date and time: Friday, November 10, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.

Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)

Title: Covarying names


Predicativism about proper names predicts that a given name can vary in what individual it stands for across times or possible worlds — that names are not, as a matter of their semantic type, rigid. This follows from its treatment of bare singular occurrences of names as definite descriptions, where a given name “N” is analyzed as the x s.t. x bears-“N”. This in turn conflicts with broad consensus that names are rigid generally, and are so in virtue of their semantic type. Some predicativists (Elbourne 2005, Matushansky 2008) modify the view to make names rigid generally, but do so in a way that is methodologically problematic (Schoubye forthcoming). I consider these methodological problems prima facie reason for predicativists to reject the consensus about name rigidity. To do so, the predicativist needs good counterexamples — felicitous non-rigid occurrences of names — and an argument that predicativism best explains them.

Here I focus on examples where bare singulars receive a “covarying” or “relativized” reading (Gray 2012, Fara 2015). This is a reading where the bare singular does not pick out some one satisfier, but different satisfiers depending on the world or time of evaluation. The reading becomes available when it is presupposed that at most one individual satisfies a given bare singular at any point of evaluation — that is, when the bare singular acts as a role-type description in the sense of Rothschild 2007. I explain why we should predict bare singulars only get the non-rigid reading in peculiar contexts, and give cases where rigid and non-rigid readings are both available in the same context. I then survey a range of outstanding worries about this picture and its dialectical strength, and conclude by considering data that speak against classing names with descriptions, but rather with pronouns and “some”-indefinites (Coppock and Beaver 2015).References:

Coppock, Elizabeth and Beaver, David. 2015. “Definiteness and determinacy.” Linguistics and Philosophy 38 (5): 377-435

Elbourne, Paul. 2005. Situations and Individuals. MIT Press.
Gray, Aidan. 2012. Names and Name-bearing: An Essay on the Predicate View of Names. PhD dissertation, University of Chicago.

Matushansky, Ora. 2008. “On the Linguistic Complexity of Proper Names.” Linguistics and Philosophy 31 (5): 573–627.
Rothschild, Daniel. 2007. “Presuppositions and Scope.” Journal of Philosophy 104 (2):71–106.
Schoubye, Anders. Forthcoming. “The Predicative Predicament.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

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