Can we take a closer look, then, at the Ockhamist theory of proper names? One implication appears to be that, for understanding and deciding the truth of a set of sentences, eg, the Dido and Aeneas story, we can do without the notion of reference altogether. The story can be thought of as a pattern or template or specification with blank spaces or empty slots. The pattern is to be offered up to the world and if we can find objects that fit the slots then the story is true. Names serve merely to label the slots and convey what relations between the slot occupiers are to hold. There is a strong whiff of circularity here which will need to be addressed. Basically, the pattern matching has to be done non-linguistically. But the upshot appears to be that the finding of the objects that satisfy the story is what makes them the referents of the names, under the usual understanding of 'reference'. So we had things backwards all along. This makes some sense to me but it doesn't seem to gel with your 'proper names are descriptive, signifying 'haecceity''. Could you expand on that?First point: we aren’t doing without the notion of reference. As I pointed out here, we sometimes need to ask which fictional character is being referred to. A GCSE paper may ask which character is being referred to, and the answer might be
(*) Shakespeare is referring to Gertrude.
This means that ‘refers to’ is logically instransitive. We can refer to a dragon by name, and we can grasp which dragon is being referred to, even though nothing is a dragon.
It follows that the truth-conditions of sentences like ‘Shakespeare is referring to Gertrude’ involve nothing in the world, at least as far as ‘Gertrude’ is concerned. The ‘reference’ in question is not some mysterious semantic relation between Shakespeare and some mysterious, non-existing fictional object. There is no such object and no such relation. “Shakespeare is referring to Gertrude” clearly has truth-conditions, but these can only involve word-word relations, and possibly authorial intentions. More about that later.
David’s second point is more problematic. What determines the truth of a set of sentences, such as in the Dido and Aeneas story? According to classical logic, the sentence ‘Fa’ is true when the logically proper name ‘a’ individuates or identifies or locates or ‘refers’ to a really existing object, and when the predicate ‘F-' is satisfied by that object. It is this account that David is probably alluding to when he says “The pattern is to be offered up to the world and if we can find objects that fit the slots then the story is true”. It means we must countenance semantic relations between proper names and the world, and between predicates and the world. I have denied the existence of any such relations. Understanding the meaning of a sentence cannot be dependent on the existence of any objects except language and the mind. Meaning is object independent. But then how do we explain truth? More later.