Generality

Philosophical Studies 161 (3):471-481 (2012)
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Abstract

A distinction is drawn among predicates, open sentences (or open formulas), and general terms, including general-term phrases. Attaching a copula, perhaps together with an article, to a general term yields a predicate. Predicates can also be obtained through lambda-abstraction on an open sentence. The issue of designation and semantic content for each type of general expression is investigated. It is argued that the designatum of a general term is a universal, e.g., a kind, whereas the designatum of a predicate is a class (or its characteristic function) and the designatum of an open sentence is a truth-value. Predicates and open sentences are therefore typically non-rigid designators. It is argued further that certain general terms, including phrases, are invariably rigid designators, whereas certain others (general definite descriptions) are typically non-rigid. Suitable semantic contents for predicates, open sentences, and general terms are proposed. Consequences for the thesis of compositionality are drawn

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Nathan Salmón
University of California at Santa Barbara

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