Too Many Dans or Just One?

Though it wasn’t quite the University of Woolloomooloo, in July 2010 at the Australian National University, I, Dan Singer, was honored to join the company of Dan Greco, Dan Korman, Dan Marshall, Dan(iel) Nolan, and Dan Stoljar.

Courtesy of Thomas Whitney

There sure were a lot of people with the same name … or so you might think …

  1. Dan Singer and Dan Nolan have the same name.
  2. Names are rigid resignators, a la Kripke (1970/80).
  3. So, Dan Singer’s name and Dan Nolan’s name pick out the same thing in all possible worlds.
  4. So, Dan Singer’s name actually picks out the same thing that Dan Nolan’s name picks out.
  5. So, Dan Singer is Dan Nolan.
Either 4 is wrong or I know a lot more about metaphysics than I thought I did.  It seems pretty obvious to me that there is an equivocation on “name” between 1 and the rest of the premises.  The issue is that I can’t figure out a sense of “name” that makes sense of 1.  Here’s why: The natural move is to say that the names of 1 are individuated by their syntactic properties (i.e. the letters and the sounds associated with them).  Then admit two senses of “name”.  But if this is right, we’d expect the analogous move to apply to words in general, i.e. that there’d be the two analogous senses of “word”.  But I’m inclined to deny that there is any sense of “word” such that financial institutions and sides of rivers can be picked out by the same word.  Am I just being stubborn on this point?  Are there other viable solutions here?

8 Responses to Too Many Dans or Just One?

  1. Carrie Jenkins says:

    Many, but almost one.

  2. J. Dmitri Gallow says:

    Remind me, why don’t you want to call a sequence of letters that appears in the dictionary ‘a word’?

  3. If a string of letters is a token word, then “bank”, the financial institution, and “bank”, the side of a river, would be the same word.

    If a string of letters is a type, then “the boy jumped on the ball.” would contain 6 TYPES of words, even though it only contains 5.

  4. J. Dmitri Gallow says:

    So there’s what we can call a “syntactic word” and a “semantic word”. “Bank” and “Bank” are the same syntactic word type but different syntactic word tokens, and different semantic word types and different semantic word tokens.

    Why don’t you want to say that?

  5. Because there is no sense of `word’, such that you know `abyssopelagic’ if you only know how to spell it.

  6. I haven’t looked up the meaning of that word yet, but this seems to be a fine thing for me to say: “I didn’t know that that was a word in English. Thanks for telling me. Now I know that ‘abyssopelagic’ is a word in English.” And what I’m saying there, presumably, is that I now know that ‘abyssopelagic’ is a syntactic word type in English. What’s the dealio?

  7. Humm … I see what you’re getting at. It seems more plausible to me though that what you’re saying there is that you learned that the letters “abyssopelagic” pick out an English word.

    If you’re right, then we’re forced to say that there are English words that have no meanings. In fact, “dog” (construed in the syntactic way) has no meaning.

  8. J. Dmitri Gallow says:

    Why can’t we say that the syntactic words have meaning in virtue of picking out semantic words? Then, the syntactic word “dog” has a meaning, and the syntactic word “bank” has two meanings.

%d bloggers like this: