Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)
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Talk: Stefan Rinner (MCMP/LMU)

27.06.2019 18:00  – 20:00 

Title:

Direct Reference, That-clauses and Number Names

Abstract:

In this talk, I will discuss the so-called direct reference theory regarding proper names. According to the direct reference theory, the semantic content of a sentence 'n is F' in a context c is the singular proposition <o, P>, where o is the referent of the name n in c and P is the property expressed by the predicate F in c. In addition, some direct reference theorists like Nathan Salmon and David Braun also hold that that-clauses are directly referential terms. However, in this talk, I will argue that such a view cannot explain that it is possible that a normal English speaker who knows that (1) is true knows more than a normal English speaker who knows that (2) is true.

(1) Ralph believes that every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes.

(2) Ralph believes Goldbach's conjecture.

We will see that the same problem arises with truth-ascriptions like (3) and (4).

(3) It is true that every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes.

(4) Goldbach's conjecture is true.

This will show that the solution to the problem cannot simply be that in (1) 'believe' expresses a three-place relation holding between agents, propositions and propositional modes of presentation.

Following this, a direct reference theorist could try to reject direct reference for that-clauses. However, I will argue that a similar problem also arises in connection with number names. For example, I will argue that it is possible that a normal English speaker who knows that (5) is true knows more than a normal English speaker who knows that (6) is true.

(5) Peter's favourite number is 3,14159.

(6) Peter's favourite number is pi.

Since number names are a prime example of directly referential terms, concluding, I will argue that the best solution to the problem is that both that-clauses and number names are directly referential terms, whereas ordinary names like 'Goldbach's conjecture' and 'Pi' are not. Instead, ordinary names are better understood as having something like a Fregean sense.