Reference in Fiction

Stacie Friend 1
  • 1 Department of Philosophy Birkbeck, WC1E 7HX, London


Most discussions of proper names in fiction concern the names of fictional characters, such as ‘Clarissa Dalloway’ or ‘Lilliput.’ Less attention has been paid to referring names in fiction, such as ‘Napoleon’ (in Tolstoy’s War and Peace) or ‘London’ (in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four). This is because many philosophers simply assume that such names are unproblematic; they refer in the usual way to their ordinary referents. The alternative position, dubbed Exceptionalism by Manuel García-Carpintero, maintains that referring names make a distinctive semantic contribution in fiction. In this paper I offer a positive argument for Non-Exceptionalism, relying on the claim that works of both fiction and non-fiction can express the same singular propositions. I go on to defend my account against García-Carpintero’s objections.

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