Naming the Stages

Varzi, Achille C.

Standard lore has it that a proper name, or a definite description on its "de re" reading, is a temporally rigid designator. It picks out the same entity at every time at which it picks out an entity at all. If the entity in question is an enduring continuant (a 3D object that persists through time by being fully present at different times) then we know what this means, though we are also stuck with a host of metaphysical puzzles concerning endurance itself. If the entity in question is a perdurant (a 4D worm that persists through time by having different parts at different times) then the rigidity claim is trivial, though one is left wondering how it is that different speakers ever manage to pick out one and the same entity when a host of suitable, overlapping candidates are available. But what if the entity in question is neither a continuant nor a perdurant? What if the things we talk about in ordinary language are time-bound entities that cannot truly be said to persist through time, or stage sequences whose unity resides exclusively in our minds—like the “wave” at the stadium or the characters of a cartoon? In such cases the rigidity claim can’t be right and a counterpart-theoretic semantics seems required. Is that bad? I say it isn’t.



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December 2, 2014