On the supposed connection between proper names and singular thought

Synthese 195 (1):197-223 (2018)
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Abstract

A thesis I call the name-based singular thought thesis is part of orthodoxy in contemporary philosophy of mind and language: it holds that taking part in communication involving a proper name puts one in a position to entertain singular thoughts about the name’s referent. I argue, first, that proponents of the NBT thesis have failed to explain the phenomenon of name-based singular thoughts, leaving it mysterious how name-use enables singular thoughts. Second, by outlining the reasoning that makes the NBT thesis seem compelling and showing how it can be resisted, I argue that giving up the NBT thesis is not a cost, but rather a benefit. I do this by providing an expanded conception of understanding for communication involving names, which sheds light on the nature of communication involving names and the structure of name-using practices.

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Rachel Goodman
University of Illinois, Chicago

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