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The University of Southampton

'In philosophy, this is what is known as a headache'. Empty names, negative singular existence statements and a new metalinguistic account Seminar

16:00 - 18:00
9 October 2018
Room 2115, Building 65, Avenue Campus, University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Alexander Greenberg at .

Event details

Part of the Philosophy Seminar Series 2018/19


When it comes to empty names, we seem to have reached very little consensus. Still, one thing we all seem to agree on is that our semantics should assign truth to (at least one reading of) negative singular existence statements in which an empty name occurs. In order to stay neutral on what names are genuinely empty, let's add one now to English: 'Gnoniem'. There should be at least one reading of

(1) Gnoniem does not exist

that comes out true in our semantics. Moreover, it is usually also taken to be obvious that the name is used in (1).

The purpose of this talk is to show that ruling out that the name is mentioned in (the true reading of) (1) is harder than it has been thought. I will start from presenting some general phenomena in natural language, one about use and mention, the other about negation, and suggest how to account for (1) in terms of such phenomena. This will give us an account of (1) that is metalinguistic but different from the usual metalinguistic approach that has been discussed and heavily criticised in the literature. I will then consider the objections that have been moved to the usual metalinguistic account, and show that some do not apply to my account while others can receive a convincing reply. Moreover, I will discuss and reply to another objection that might arise concerning my view in particular.


This series of seminars are sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.


Speaker information

Dr Giulia Felappi, Lecturer in Philosophy

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