Article/Publication Details

On Some Semantic and Cognitive Aspects of Proper Names

(Original title: K niektorým sémantickým a kognitívnym aspektom vlastných mien)
Filozofia, 2006, vol. 61, No 4, pp. 265-280.
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The paper deals with the understanding of proper names. Though the theme goes across various disciplines – e.g. semantics, epistemology, psychology – the paper examines only selected semantic and cognitive aspects of the problem. The question runs: How should we comprehend the thesis of understanding a proper name as knowing what the name refers to? What kind of knowledge is involved here? The question is posed within the direct reference theory framework enriched by the notion of singular proposition and the compositionality principle. The distinction between an expression and an utterance of it is accepted and the original question is split up accordingly. As for expressions (as ideal signs), to understand a proper name is to grasp a meaning axiom along the lines of D. Davidson and J. McDowell. As for utterances of expressions, to understand an utterance of a proper name is to know a piece of information concerning the referent of the name; ideally, it is a fact that can be expressed by an identity statement claiming that the referent of the name under discussion is identical with the individual about which the speaker has a mental file at her disposal.

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