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The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 116, Issue 9, September 2019

J. T. M. Miller
Pages 494-508

Natural Name Theory and Linguistic Kinds

The natural name theory, recently discussed by Johnson (2018), is proposed as an explanation of pure quotation where the quoted term(s) refers to a linguistic object such as in the sentence ‘In the above, ‘bank’ is ambiguous’. After outlining the theory, I raise a problem for the natural name theory. I argue that positing a resemblance relation between the name and the linguistic object it names does not allow us to rule out cases where the natural name fails to resemble the linguistic object it names. I argue that to avoid this problem, we can combine the natural name theory with a type-realist metaphysics of language, and hold that the name is natural because the name is an instance of the kind that it names. I conclude by reflecting on the importance of the metaphysics of language for questions in the philosophy of language.

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