Neil Feit is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia. His publications include one book, Belief about the Self: A Defense of the Property Theory of Content (Oxford University Press, 2008) and over a dozen articles in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology, metaphysics, and value theory.
Naming and Nonexistence
Article first published online: 2 MAR 2010
2009 The University of Memphis
The Southern Journal of Philosophy
Volume 47, Issue 3, pages 239–262, Fall 2009
How to Cite
Feit, N. (2009), Naming and Nonexistence. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 47: 239–262. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-6962.2009.tb00093.x
- Issue published online: 2 MAR 2010
- Article first published online: 2 MAR 2010
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.