Significant differences among sentences of natural language certainly occur. It is not a matter of theoretical philosophy or theoretical linguistics but simply common sense. The difference I would like to focus on is the one between sentences that are evaluated using linguistic significance alone and sentences that are evaluated using linguistic significance and (other) circumstances. In this chapter, I'll introduce the distinction and I'll test it investigating simple sentences involving proper names in subject position, such as Diego Maradona exists' and Diego Maradona runs'. Afterwards, I will add some remarks about the distinction introduced. As a preliminary to my point of view, let me start with some pre-theoretical remarks. I am, I exist' "is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind" (Descartes, 1641: ***). I am sitting in front of the fire', instead, is not necessarily true every time I utter it. Descartes in the second of the Meditations on First Philosophy brings our attention to the difference between these two cases. I do not want to do any Cartesian exegesis concerning this famous passage, but I'll articulate my way the remark.
[...] However, someone might hold that to all the truths depending on merely what the subject is are associated sentences evaluated by linguistic significance alone and vice versa. In other words, a sentence is evaluated by linguistic significance alone if and only if the sentence is made true by what the subject is. Therefore, the challenge is to maintain that ‘Diego Maradona exists' is evaluated by linguistic significance alone and that ‘Diego Maradona is human' is not. First of all, someone might not trust the current essentialist doctrine and dispute the distinction between what a certain item is and how a certain item is. [...]
[...] Now, let's deal with Russell, whose considerations on existential sentences appear to clash with my claim that sentences like ‘Diego Maradona exists' are evaluated by linguistic significance alone. Part of the issue with Russell is that he does not count as singular existential one a sentence like ‘Diego Maradona exists'. Let's see the arguments he submits. Russell holds that if a sentence is a singular existential sentence then its denial is a nonsense. Since ‘Diego Maradona does not exist' is perfectly significant, ‘Diego Maradona exists' does not count as an example of a singular existential sentence, therefore the conclusion that has been drawn is not correct. [...]
[...] By this I just mean that the expressions of the language have an history, they have been introduced at a certain point, and they are in general employed to talk of the world. Under this respect, a passage of Kripke's Naming and Necessity is revealing. Someone, let's say, a baby, is born; his parents call him by a certain name. They talk about him to their friends. Other people meet him. Through various sorts of talk the name is spread from link to link as if by a chain. [...]
[...] I do not want to deny the legitimacy of the distinction advanced but just to distinguish it from the distinction between sentences evaluated by linguistic significance alone and sentences evaluated by linguistic significance and (other) circumstances. Claiming that ‘exists' realizes a logical predication I take a point of view embraced by Almog himself: the philosophical logician, existence, used or mentioned, may be the ghost in the logic (“inference”) machine. Quite the contrary, says what is and what it takes for it to be are the very terrain de chasse of logic. [...]
[...] I said that the distinction between sentences that are evaluated by linguistic significance alone and sentences that are evaluated by linguistic significance and (other) circumstances is neither an epistemological distinction nor a metaphysical one. We have seen that ‘Diego Maradona exists' is evaluated by linguistic significance alone. Now, I think that sentences like that exhibit an interesting feature. Let me give an example of what I have in mind, shifting from Diego Maradona to another case. It is quite easy to figure out circumstances under which we were inclined to say that actually Saul Kripke is not the author of Naming and Necessity. [...]
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