Richard Rufus on Naming Substances

Richard Rufus on Naming Substances

Karger, Elizabeth (CNRS, Paris)

Medieval Philosophy and Theology 7 (1998)


Some names, specifically the proper names by which people are called, are considered “a mess” by at least one prominent contemporary philosopher. Looking at the matter from the perspective of medieval philosophy, we might say that the reason such names are semantically ill-behaved is that the act of naming from which they derive is not one of adequate naming. Moreover, supposing that all manner of beings, including people, are “things,” we might let adequate naming be governed by the following principle: an agent adequately names a thing if and only if, knowing its proper nature, she bestows a name on the thing by considering that nature. Obviously, on this principle, the acts of naming from which people in our societies derive their names are not acts of adequate naming.

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