Thursday, March 10, 2011

Story relative reference

Bosanquet says*:
In a chronicle of remote date, we might conceivably identify the unknown
possessor of some name as figuring in several scences or incidents without being
sure what he, she or it might be; whether man or a woman, or a favourite
horse. In this sense the judgment that deals with a proper name is merely
I'm not sure about the horse part, and I shall argue this is true only for the first occurrence of a proper name or singular term, but this is roughly right. By 'particular judgment' Bosanquet means the judgment opposed to the universal judgment - a general existential judgment 'Some A is B'. In respect of the first occurrence of a name in a fictional narrative, where we have no means of identifying or individuating the character except through the story, he is right. When you first encounter the name - say 'Aeneas groaned', which is the first time we meet him in the Aeneid, the sense of the proposition is no more than "someone called Aeneas groaned".

For subsequent occurrrences, as I argued here, the proper name has a stronger sense. Later on we learn that Aeneas was shipwrecked off Carthage. But the conjunction 'Someone groaned and someone was shipwrecked off Carthage' does not tell us that someone who groaned was subsequently shipwrecked, for it could be true of different people. Repeating the proper name (in the right context) tells us that the person who was shipwrecked was the same person as the one who groaned. And so for the following sequence of propositions:

Aeneas fled his home
Aeneas was shipwrecked
Aeneas came ashore at Carthage
Dido was the queen of Carthage
Aeneas met Dido
Dido died of grief
Aeneas sailed to Italy

These tell us that for some x and some y, x fled his home, was shipwrecked off Carthage, y was queen of Carthage, x met y, y died of grief, x sailed to Italy, and so on. Overall, the sense is perfectly general. We cannot locate x or y in history, i.e. in the narratives we call 'history'. But we can locate them in the story, and this is how the proper name individuates. The name 'Aeneas' signifies the subject of the proposition as being the same as x, without signifying it to be the same as y. The name 'Dido' signifies the subject to be the same as y, without signifying it to be the same as x.

Is this the entire sense of a fictional name? Is it the entire sense of any proper name?

* Logic, Bk I ch. 5, Oxford 1888 p. 208

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