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Singular thought and the nonexistent

Walters, L.; (2012) Singular thought and the nonexistent. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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I argue that a straightforward account of empty names can be given which allows them to contribute to the expression of thoughts, as seems to be the case. But that we can offer such an account does not mean that we should, as it should be conceded on all sides that what is happening in the case of empty names is radically different from what is happening in the case of non-empty names. Moreover, in the case of non-conniving uses of empty names, the subject is under a misapprehension, and so could be under the misapprehension that they are expressing a thought. Nevertheless, if we want to hold on to the truth of some singular negative existential claims, which is recognized as a desiderata even by those hostile to the intelligibility of empty names, we are forced to recognize that empty names can contribute to the expression of thoughts. But once we make this admission we then open the door to empty names being used to express other thoughts too. But that we can give a coherent account of empty names and singular negative existentials does not mean that we should be irrealists wherever we think we see empty names and true singular negative existentials. And I argue that this is the case with fictional names. There are good reasons to be realists about fictional characters, even though there are good reasons to accept that fictional names sometimes fail to refer and that as a result claims such as Sherlock Holmes does not exist are true. The solution is to accept that fictional names are ambiguous having a non-referring use and referring use. Such a position is well-motivated and plausible, and allows the realist to capture the truth of singular negative existentials in a straightforward manner. Moreover, since there are no metaphysical problems with this realism, we should embrace it.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Singular thought and the nonexistent
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1352732
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