Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Philosophy


Philosophy and Religion

First Advisor

Donovan Wishon

Second Advisor

Donovan Wishon

Third Advisor

Timothy Yenter

Relational Format



There is an ongoing debate in philosophy about whether simple sentences containing fictional names are sometimes true, always false, or neither true nor false. Ordinarily, a simple sentence containing names is true if and only if the things designated by those names are the way they are ascribed as being, and false otherwise. For example, the sentence “Faulkner lived in Mississippi” is true because the person designated by ‘Faulkner’ lived in Mississippi whereas the sentence “Faulkner lived in Costa Rica” is false because that person did not reside there. However, this analysis clearly does not work for sentences such as “Superman can fly” since there is no person designated by the name ‘Superman’ to whom the ability of flight can be truly or falsely ascribed. And yet we are still tempted to say “Superman can fly” is true whereas “Lois Lane can fly” is false. Preeminent philosophers such as Frege, Russell, and Kripke have come to very different conclusions about whether such statements are true, false, or neither. I will consider how recent work by de Ponte, Korta, and Perry suggests that the truth-value of a simple sentence containing fictional names can vary depending on whether it is used in making a fictional, parafictional, or metafictional statement.  I will also consider how this analysis might apply to concepts employed in law and ethics, such as “public interest”, “legal intent” or “spirit of the law”.



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