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Singular Term, Subject and Predicate

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Several writers on the philosophy of language have put forward definitions of a class of English expressions which they call ‘singular terms’. Two kinds of definition have been particularly popular: one which derives from Dummett and one, inspired by Aristotle, which is based on the idea that you can negate a predicable but not a singular term. I argue that the Dummettian definition leads to unacceptable consequences. I suggest, however, that the ‘Aristotelian’ definition is of more use than has sometimes been thought. ‘Negation’ can be understood in two ways: one which is more‘grammatical’ and one which is more ‘logical’. A criterion derived from grammar should be used to recognize which linguistic expressions should count as singular terms, predicables, etc., while a more logic-based criterion should be used to check whether the classification suggested by grammar actually has any logical importance.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Edinburgh

Publication date: April 1, 2000


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