Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

A puzzle about learning proper names

Date: 05 February 2020

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


Are proper names in any sense part of natural languages? However we answer this question, I will suggest in the first part of my talk that, (i) speakers must learn to use proper names; (ii) one cannot count as a competent user of a name ‘N’ if one simply utters a cluster of sentences containing ‘N’ without being able to provide if requested any (specific) information about the referent of ‘N’, even though all those sentences are (by happenstance) true.

I will then in the second part of the talk present a puzzle about learning names in relation to the main existing theories of names (with focus on some varieties of direct-reference theories). To begin with, I will situate different theories with respect to the degree of minimality (as to the information about the referent that a competent speaker must learn) involved in competent uses of a name. Now here is the puzzle: none of the theories seem to be able to adequately account for the way in which speakers learn names.