You will make the natural and reasonable objection that such story-relative reference is a word-word relation. Story-reference is intra-linguistic: it is a semantic relation between different names of the same type within the same narrative. This may be acceptable as an account of fictional semantics, but as an account of history, where there is reference to real people, it is inadequate. Genuine reference is word-world: a relation between language and the world outside the mind.
I reply by asking: what difference does the truth of the narrative make to the semantics of the proper name? The semantics of the following brief history* are no different from a story.
Jesus Christ was born in Israel 2000 years ago. Jesus lived a traditionalThe story is considered to be more or less factual by most historians, yet some have questioned whether Jesus existed at all. If the semantics of non-fictional names were fundamentally different from the semantics of fictional ones, the ‘Jesus Myth’ problem would have been resolved. We could simply work out from the meaning of the name ‘Jesus’ whether there really was such a person. But we cannot, therefore the semantics of non-fictional names are not fundamentally different from the semantics of fictional ones.
Jewish life until his twenties. Then Jesus began his public teaching and display
of recorded miracles, although he never travelled more than 200 miles from his
birthplace. Over a three year period, Jesus' reputation spread nation
wide. Jesus' most controversial act was that he repeatedly claimed to be
God. Because of this, the religious leaders asked the Roman government to
execute Jesus. Jesus was crucified and died, although (according to many
witnesses) Jesus returned from the dead three days later.
Therefore the names of historical characters individuate in just the same way as fictional ones. The meaning of the proper name is simply to tell us which individual – whether in a story or in the historical narrative – is the subject of the proposition, and it can tell us this without there being any such indidividual. A story can tell us which F is G, without anything actually being an F.
* Adapted from here