Saturday, July 23, 2011

Singulars as universals

In the context of the present discussion there is yet another argument against the scholastic treatment of singular terms as (implicitly) quantified universal terms.  Colwyn Williamson, in the article 'traditional logic', in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy writes:
In the traditional textbooks, singulars are treated as universals, on the feeble pretext that in 'Socrates is bald' the name 'Socrates' refers to everything it can. This notion was generally expressed in technical terminology: the name was said to be 'distributed' or to 'refer to its whole extension'. These obscurities presumably reflect a disinclination to say something that is obviously absurd (that one is talking about the whole of Socrates), something that is obviously false (that only one person can be called Socrates), or something that is obviously vacuous (that the name is here meant to name everyone it is here meant to name). 

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