Sunday, May 06, 2007

You Read This

That is clearly true. If you are Bob, what is true is that Bob read that title (and if you are Bill, that Bill read that title, and similarly if you are Ben, etc.), because that initial ‘You’ clearly refers to one when one reads it. So now imagine Bob reading ‘You, Bob, are mistaken.’ Bob would presumably take that ‘You’ to be referring to some particular person called ‘Bob’ and so he might wonder if that person was he.
......But why should I not have called (rightly or wrongly) each of the people called ‘Bob’ who reads it mistaken, for wondering which of them was meant? That was certainly my intention and so, pretty much as the initial ‘You’ did, that ‘You’ also refers individually to each element of a set of people (in this case not all those who read it, just those called ‘Bob’). So, that ‘Bob’ (in that sentence) also refers individually to each element of that set. In short, one proper name, on one occasion of its use, may refer to many different things. Note that ‘Bob’ was not being used as a common name, but rather that, for each Bob, that instance of ‘Bob’ would refer to Bob alone upon Bob’s reading of it.
......Now, I’m not entirely sure that that is a problem for a direct reference theory of proper names, but it does strike me as odd. Still, I've not got much beyond Searle's refutation of Kripke's objections to description theories (see
here) before getting confused. So, because of the importance of the philosophy of language for my other philosophical interests, I wonder what others make of such oddities...

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