Individuals, Sorts, and Instantiation
Lowe (E.J.)
Source: Lowe (E.J.) - More Kinds of Being: Chapter 3
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Two kinds of 'is' which are commonly conflated by philosophers and logicians are the 'is' of attribution, figuring in a sentence like 'This pen is yellow', and what I call the 'is' of instantiation, figuring in sentences like 'Dobbin is a horse' and 'A horse is a mammal' - that is, sentences of the form 'Such-and-such is (a) φ', where 'φ' is a sortal1 term and where 'such-and-such' may either be a particular or individual term (like the proper name 'Dobbin') or else again a sortal2 term. Sentences of this form I shall call instantiation sentences. Before saying more about the 'is' of instantiation, however, I must say something further about the terms, sortal3 and individual, which may figure in sentences featuring it.
  2. As we saw in the previous chapter, an important characteristic of sortal4 terms from a semantic point of view is that they typically have associated with them criteria of identity - unless, perhaps, they designate what I called 'basic' sorts, if indeed such sorts exist. But I would urge, in agreement with Peter Geach, that individual terms - such as proper names - also typically have, as an essential semantic feature, criteria of identity associated with their application. This, it may be observed, runs somewhat counter to the currently popular view that proper names have no Fregean 'sense' and are purely denotative or referential - but not necessarily wholly counter to it5. I do not want to suggest that the sense of a proper name is the same as that of some identifying description: that, for example, 'Aristotle' might have the sense of 'the tutor of Alexander the Great' or 'the greatest pupil of Plato', say, nor even that the sense of a proper name involves the senses of a 'cluster' (of) such descriptions, as Searle suggests6. What I do hold is that, by whatever means a person may have been introduced to a certain proper name, he has not grasped its correct use unless he has grasped what criterion of identity is associated with it. Thus, for instance, if someone has picked up the name 'Aristotle' from overhearing a conversation amongst philosophers, but does not grasp that it has associated with it the criterion of identity for a man (because, say, he thinks that these philosophers are referring to a book), then I should say that he fails to refer to Aristotle in his subsequent attempts to use the name - indeed, that he fails to refer to anything.
  3. This thesis concerning the semantics of proper names is, of course, intimately connected with my contention that individuals must always be thought of as being individuals of some sort. The criterion of identity associated with a proper name will just be the one associated with those sortal7 terms that designate the sort(s) or kind(s) which any individual capable of being referred to by that name instantiates. Thus, 'Aristotle', conceived as a name for a man, must have associated with it the criterion of identity which is also associated with the sortal8 term 'man'. So I do not - and certainly need not - insist that the sense of a proper name determines which individual it refers to, but at most only what sort of individual its referent is; for it is this that determines which criterion of identity is associated with the name.


Replacement for "Lowe (E.J.) - Individuals, Sorts, and Instantiation".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 5: I am thinking, primarily, of the view made famous by "Kripke (Saul) - Naming and Necessity".

Footnote 6: In "Searle (John) - Proper Names", 1958.

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