1. If Millianism is correct, then if ‘Fin Tutuola’ does not refer, then ‘Fin Tutuola’ is meaningless (has no semantic content).
2. If ‘Fin Tutuola’ is meaningless (has no semantic content), then ‘Fin Tutuola is a detective in SVU’ is meaningless.
3. ‘Fin Tutuola is a detective in SVU’ is not meaningless.
4. ‘Fin Tutuola’ does not refer.
5. So Millianism is incorrect.
Note that we also could have used negative existentials, like ‘Fin Tutuola does not exist’. So it seems that if Millianism is correct, no negative existential is true.
One option we discussed is to abandon Mill's theory and offer another in its place that avoids this sort of problem. Another option we discussed is that seemingly empty names in fact are not empty; they refer to ideas or collections of ideas. This is similar to Mill's own view, stated at the outset of 'Of Names': "All names are names of something, real or imaginary . . ."
One problem for the Millian proposal is that it seems to avoid the first problem only at the expense of a second; it gives us an account of how sentences that contain apparently non-referring names are meaningful, but at the expense of the consequence that there are no true negative existentials. Let's call Millianism plus (a) 'Modified Millianism':
(a) The referent of an apparently empty name is an imaginary object.
We can state the objection to Modified Millianism as follows:
6. If Modified Millianism is correct, then no negative existential sentence is ever true.
7. It's false that no negative existential sentence is ever true.
8. So Modified Millianism is incorrect.
- What's the best reply a proponent of Modified Millianism can offer to (6-8)?
- Are there any other replies available to the Millian other than Modified Millianism? (Hint: Think about whether any other premise in (1-5) can be plausibly denied by the Millian.)
- If (1-5) is sound, Millianism is false. If that's so, what theory should we offer in its place?