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The Southern Journal of Philosophy

Volume 47, Issue 3, Fall 2009

Neil Feit
Pages 239-262

Naming and Nonexistence

I defend a cluster of views about names from fiction and myth. The views are based on two claims: first, proper names refer directly to their bearers; and second, names from fiction and myth are genuinely empty, they simply do not refer. I argue that when such names are used in direct discourse, utterances containing them have truth values but do not express propositions. I also argue that it is a mistake to think that if an utterance of, for example, “Vulcan is a planet” fails to express a proposition, then an utterance of “Le Verrier believed that Vulcan is a planet” cannot express a proposition. The argument applies to claims about fiction, such as “Sherlock Holmes is strong,” and claims about the attitudes of authors and auditors. The upshot is a semantics for fictional statements that provides a satisfying way for direct reference theorists to avoid taking fictional entities to be abstract objects and to accept the commonsense view that what is true in a fiction is ultimately a matter of what is pretended to be the case.

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