Names and Natural Kind Terms

David Braun

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199552238
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Names and Natural Kind Terms


Names and natural kind terms have long been a major focus of debates about meaning and reference. This article discusses some of the theories and arguments that have appeared in those debates. It is remarkably difficult to say what names are (more exactly, proper names) without making controversial theoretical assumptions. This article does not attempt to do so here. It instead relies on paradigm examples that nearly all theorists would agree are proper names, for instance, ‘Aristotle’, ‘Mark Twain’, ‘London’, ‘Venus’, and ‘Pegasus’. All of the proper names that are discussed in the article are singular nouns that have no syntactic structure. Most of them refer to objects (for instance, people, cities, and planets), but some, such as ‘Pegasus’, apparently do not. The article begins with proper names and the question ‘What is the meaning of a proper name?’ It turns to natural kind terms later.

Keywords: natural kind terms; names; proper names; singular nouns; syntactic structure; philosophy of language

Article.  12495 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language

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