A Unified Theory of Names Essay

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A Unified Theory of Names

ABSTRACT: Theoreticians of names are currently split into two camps: Fregean and Millian. Fregean theorists hold that names have referent-determining senses that account for such facts as the change of content with the substitution of co-referential names and the meaningfulness of names without bearers. Their enduring problem has been to state these senses. Millian theorists deny that names have senses and take courage from Kripke's arguments that names are rigid designators. If names had senses, it seems that their referents should vary among possible worlds. However, the Millians have the enduring problem of explaining the apparent cognitive content of names. I argue that Mill's original theory, when purged
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That Frege's theory is incompatible with Mill's classification of names as nonconnotative may appear to be undeniable. The central tenet of Frege's view is that, in addition to the reference of a name, there is its sense, "wherein the mode of presentation [of the referent] is contained." (3) Mill, in seeming contrast, asserts that proper names lack connotation. If sense had to be understood as connotation, then the views would be contradictory. If, on the other hand, senses could be divided into the connotative and the nonconnotative, then the fact that names have senses would not entail that they have connotations; and acceptance of Mill's classification need not entail rejection of Frege's theory.

I will argue that Mill and Frege are both right — that names have nonconnotative senses. The views of these two theorists can be reconciled — without violence to either. All that is wanted for a unified Millian and Fregean theory of names is clarification where confusion was introduced by Mill, and completion where a crucial fact was overlooked by Frege.


Mill's distinction between connotative and nonconnotative terms needs clarification. Mill presents his division as one between terms that do two things and terms that do one thing only:

A non-connotative term is one which signifies a subject only, or an

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