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Swimming in the Verified Name Pool


During a swim meet, a swimmer is often identified merely by his lane number. The swimmer realizes that his number only relates to him during a specific event at a specific time. Nevertheless, the number is of absolute importance at the time of the race . A language philosopher, however, would probably spend so much time worrying about whether the number is a name and whether or not it reefers, that he would miss the event. Luckily, the early language philosophers, Frege and Russell, lived in an era be fore 50 meter chlorinated pools.

Frege based his belief on the fact that different past perceptions result in different imagery links to individual names. He differentiated between a 'sense' and a 'nominatum' of a proper name. The nominatum is the object itself which is designated by the name. The sense of the name, however, takes in to account the individual's past perceptions and thoughts relating to the object. It provides the meaning of the object in a more subjective format. Thus a non-existent object, such as Atlantis, can ha ve a sense, even though it lacks a nominatum.

According to Frege, any type of name (proper or common) serves the same function. It carries with it both the object and the individual's sense of the object. Thus, "Bono is Bono" remains insignificant because the individual word has exactly the same sense and nominatum. However, "Bono is Paul Hewson" is significant. Though both names are 'attached' to the same person (i.e. they have the same nominatum), the have different senses. Someone may have entirely different stores of feelings and perceptio ns connected with "Bono" and "Paul Hewson," making the equality significant. Thus, the names do not refer directly to the object, but instead bring about a conglomeration of thought associated with the object.

Russell attempts to alleviate problems with Frege's theory by placing denoting phrases in predicates. He presents a formal logic system by which such proof of the denoting phrase is carried out forward and backward. Thus, "Salinger is the author of Cat cher in the Rye" does more than imply that Salinger wrote the book. It also implies that "the author of Catcher in the Rye" is identical to Salinger. Therefore, it not only expresses identity, but also expresses a pair of corresponding thoughts that add to the individual's knowledge.

Logically proper names are specially significant in Russell's theory. The sentence "Anna won the 50 free" refers directly to Anna. Thus Anna is used as a logically proper name. It is merely used to identify the person who won the event. The sentence "Erin's sister won the 100 fly" refers to the same person. Even though the primary subject is 'sister,' the phrase is used to refer directly to the individual. Thus it seems "Erin's sister" could be substituted anywhere for 'Anna', and the sentence "Ann a is Erin's sister" would seem just as trivial as "Anna is Anna." However, Russell would point out that this is not the case. The underlying problem lies in the existence of two bodies as opposed to one. If Erin failed to exist, then the proposition "A nna is Erin's sister" would fail to be true, even if Anna did exist. However, "Anna is Anna" would remain true regardless of the existence of Anna. Therefore, even though both phrases directly refer to the same person, one is a pure name while the other is descriptive. Furthermore, the identity function holds true only if each individual object in the identity exists. Russell holds that the identity "'the first man to swim a 1500 in under ten minutes' is 'the first man to swim a 1500 in under ten minu tes'" is obviously false because no man has yet to swim that fast. Thus the identity function can only be used with two true items. (Thus he is able to eliminate most null sets.) Names, however, directly refer to the individual object; thus the identit y function remains true when using names. "Kieran Perkins is Kieran Perkins" is the same identity as "Kieran was Mr. Perkins." Both merely use the names to refer to the person.


While Frege and Russell were busy worrying about the nature of names and referring, other philosophers were out in the world trying to scientifically prove everything. During the Renaissance, the 'intellectual' community transformed its basic tenant fro m theology to scientism (not to be confused with the 'church' associated with L. Ron Hubbard.) With the new belief, everything needed to be 'proved' by the basic laws of science before it could be generally accepted. This resulted in many different atte mpts to provide empirical criteria to prove truthfulness and necessity.

Early on, idealists abounded. According to the idealists, everything was considered mental. At the time some philosophers, such as Hume and Locke, also prescribed to the dogma of radical reductionism. According to this philosophy, everything is reduci ble to experiences and events rising out of those experiences. Thus, metaphysics was considered on the same level as biology and other hard sciences. This caused an intellectual uproar, and a belief in positivism resulted. The logical positivists deman ded a strict methodology to dictate what counted as science and what did not. In order to do this, they created empirical criteria to separate meaningful statements from non-meaningful ones. Statements that failed to 'make a difference' were considered non-meaningful, and ignored. Unfortunately, this often led to the exclusion of linguistics, which they considered a science, and the inclusion of theology (which they did not consider a science).

As a result of the quest to separate the meaningful science from the non-meaningful arose verificationism. Followers of this movement attempted to conclusively verify the truthfulness of all statements. Unfortunately, it is impossible to conclusively v erify a general statement (such as "All Olympic swimmers have strong arms"), so they moved to flasificationism. This movement fell victim to the same problem as its predecessor. (It would be just as difficult to prove "No olympic swimmers do not have st rong arms.") Thus, they dropped the absolute, and subscribed to a belief in confirmationism. According to this dogma, a belief needs only to be positively confirmed (not absolutely verified) to be considered true. This appeared to be a solution to the problem, until philosophers began to whittle away at it.

Hempel pointed out that is impossible to formulate precise criteria to separate non-science from science. Some unconfirmed phrases that seem to be the furthest from true science are in fact the basis from which new scientific knowledge is arrived. Thus it is impossible to produce a concrete set of data to indicate the 'scientificness' of language.

Quine went one step further and divided language into a factual and linguistic component. Thus, some statements could be verified merely by knowing the structure of the language, while others required outside knowledge. He further noted that the empiri cists only hit the outer fringes of the 'web' of language. Individual sentences could not be examined on their own. Instead, entire paragraphs and texts must be analyzed as a whole to determine their overall truthfulness. Each man has been given the be nefit of history and sensory perception to guide his own formation of beliefs.


Frege's belief, though often refuted, contains an important point of the separation of 'sense' and 'nominatum' in a name. Names are often created merely as identifying characteristics. However, the mere euphony of sounds in the name itself conjures an internal feeling that differs from the individual object being named. If this were not the case, there would not be the amount of name-changing that we see today. Many of the language philosophers also make the mistake of not including their own work in their philosophy. If their text is not within the realm dictated by their philosophy, how can the philosophy be valid for all language? Thus, their philosophies often end up being self-refuting, and are the equivalent of a drag-suit: they consume a gre at deal of energy to progress slowly.

- Jeremy Hubble, 19 February 1993