Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

The paper considers the hypothesis that proper names are simple demonstratives. In the first part, I provide the general motivation for an indexical treatment of proper names as well as assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing indexical accounts. The second part is devoted to proposing a new account that treats proper names as simple demonstratives, where referents are determined by the speaker’s referential intention. In my proposal, I use the hybrid approach toward indexical expressions developed by Wolfgang Künne (1992) and Stefano Predelli (2006). I argue that this approach allows countering many of the problems haunting existing indexical accounts of proper names. I also consider the two possible objections: the Humpty-Dumpty objection to intentionalism regarding demonstrative reference (Gorvett 2005) and García-Carpintero’s (2018) argument against indexicalism from misdescription of linguistic competence of proper name users. I show how the proposed approach may counter them. The considerations concerning this problem also demonstrate how the treatment of proper names as hybrid demonstratives may allow solving the problems posed by the “Madagascar argument” to the causal-chain theory of proper name reference (Evans 1973) as well as explain the presence of predicative uses of proper names in natural language (Burge 1973).

In recent years there has been a substantial number of proposals treating proper names as a class of indexicals (see Recanati 1993; Pelczar & Rainsbury 1998; Rami 2014), which aim at accommodating the directly referential nature of proper names (Kripke 1972) and the explanation of “proper name ambiguity” or “nambiguity” (Korta, Perry 2011), which troubles many classic proposals of semantic analysis of proper name reference, such as Kripkean causal chain theory. The phenomenon of nambiguity may be captured by appealing to the intuitive notion of “name-sharing”: we are inclined to say, for example, that…


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