Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 40, number 120, diciembre 2008
What to Say When There Is Nothing to Talk about
[Qué decir cuando no hay nada de que hablar]
Mircea Dumitru
Faculty of Philosophy
University of Bucharest
Frederick Kroon
Department of Philosophy
University of Auckland

Abstract: In Reference without Referents, Mark Sainsbury aims to provide an account of reference that honours the common-sense view that sentences containing empty names like “Vulcan” and “Santa Claus” are entirely intelligible, and that many such sentences —“Vulcan doesn’t exist”, “Many children believe that Santa Claus will give them presents at Christmas”, etc.— are literally true. Sainsbury’s account endorses the Davidsonian program in the theory of meaning, and combines this with a commitment to Negative Free Logic, which holds that all simple sentences containing empty names are false. In this critical review, we pose a number of problems for this account. In particular, we question the ability of Negative Free Logic to make appropriate sense of the truth of familiar sentences containing empty names, including negative existential claims like “Vulcan doesn’t exist”.
Keywords: Millianism, Davidson, empty names, free logic

Abstract in Spanish | PDF in English (82 Kb)