Fictional singular imaginings

In Robin Jeshion (ed.), New Essays on Singular Thought. Oxford University Press. pp. 273--299 (2010)
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Abstract

In a series of papers, Robin Jeshion has forcefully criticized both Donnellan's and Evans’ claims on the contingent a priori, and she has developed an “acquaintanceless” account of singular thoughts as an alternative view. Jeshion claims that one can fully grasp a singular thought expressed by a sentence including a proper name, even if its reference has been descriptively fixed and one’s access to the referent is “mediated” by that description. But she still wants to reject “semantic instrumentalism”, the view that “there are no substantive conditions of any sort on having singular thought. We can freely generate singular thoughts at will by manipulating the apparatus of direct reference.” Her account of singular thoughts is a psychological one, rejecting any epistemic requirement. Having singular thoughts is for her a matter of deploying “mental files” or “dossiers” that play a significant role in the cognitive life of the individual. This paper elaborates on an alternative descriptivist-friendly view, which has important points of contact with Jeshion’s. It differs, particularly in that it is an epistemic view; it is only a broadly understood acquaintance view, as it will transpire, but this does not make it a mere terminological variation on Jeshion’s acquaintanceless one. To argue for it, the paper discusses some relevant aspects of the semantics of fictional discourse.

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Manuel García-Carpintero
Universitat de Barcelona

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