The Road Between Pretense Theory and Abstract Object Theory


Edward N. Zalta


in Empty Names, Fiction, and the Puzzles of Non-Existence, A.~Everett and T.~Hofweber (eds.), Stanford: CSLI Publications, 2000, pp. 117-147


In its approach to fiction and fictional discourse, pretense theory focuses on the behaviors that we engage in once we pretend that something is true. These may include pretending to name, pretending to refer, pretending to admire, and various other kinds of make-believe. Ordinary discourse about fictions is analyzed as a kind of institutionalized manner of speaking. Pretense, make-believe, and manners of speaking are all accepted as complex patterns of behavior that prove to be systematic in various ways. In this paper, I attempt to show: (1) that this systematicity is captured in the basic distinctions and representations that are central to the formal theory of abstract objects, and (2) that this formal theory need not be interpreted platonistically, but may instead have an interpretation on which the `objects' of the theory are things that pretense theorists already accept, namely, complex patterns of linguistic behavior. The surprising conclusion, then, is that a certain Wittgensteinian approach to meaning (e.g., the meaning of a term like `Holmes' is constituted by its pattern of use) bears an interesting relationship to a formal metaphysical theory and the semantic analyses of discourse constructed in terms of that theory---the former offers a naturalized interpretation of the latter, yet the latter makes the former more precise.

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