Being called

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The dominant view maintains that names are directly referring, rigid terms, the primary function of which is to designate an individual. But, as has long been noted, proper names also allow for predicative uses and combine with quantifiers and definite, indefinite, and numerical determiners. Any adequate semantic account of proper names thus must make sense not just of their referential uses but also of their seemingly predicative ones. Predicativists maintain that such uses manifest a name’s semantically encoded, predicative meaning, while the directly referential theorists argue that they involve polysemic or pragmatic, metalinguistic re-interpretations. But while competing accounts differ radically in their analyses of such uses, they all, in the wake of Kripke’s attack on descriptivism, share a common feature: they interpret a predicative use of a name N as expressing (either semantically or pragmatically) the property of being called N. I argue that no such account of predicative uses currently on offer is successful. Indeed, adequately characterizing being called condition is more difficult than has been appreciated. The best attempt—on predicative and directly referential accounts alike—leaves a surprising consequence: names are ambiguous in a way unlike any other we witness with other kinds of lexical items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number70
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


  • Contextualism
  • Millianism
  • Names
  • Predicativism
  • Word-individuation


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