The purpose of my thesis is to explore and assess recent efforts by Direct Reference Theorists to explain the phenomenon of empty names. Direct Reference theory is, roughly, the theory that the meaning of a singular term (proper name, demonstrative, etc.) is simply its referent. Certain sentences, such as negative existentials ("Santa does not exist"), and sentences in contexts of fiction ("Holmes lived on Baker Street"), present the following challenge to DR Theory: Given that the semantic value of a name is simply its referent, how are we to explain the significance and truth-evaluability of such sentences? There have been various approaches DR Theorists have taken to address this problem, including the Pragmatic Strategy, Pretense Theory, Abstract Object Theory, and the Metalinguistic Strategy. All of these views are analyzed and assessed according to their various strengths and weaknesses. It is concluded that, overall, a Metalinguistic Strategy, supplemented by the notion of pretense, best deals with negative existentials and normal-subject predicate occurrences of empty names, Abstract Object Theory best deals with empty names in meta-fictional contexts, and Pretense Theory best deals with empty names in object-fictional contexts.
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Jones, Donald E.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Cook, Benjamin, "Direct Reference and Empty Names" (2013). HIM 1990-2015. 1492.