All the Superhero's Names


The Superman Puzzle
proper names
substitution failure
qualifying prepositional phrases
modified predicates
simple sentences



In this paper I concern myself with The Superman Puzzle (the phenomenon of the substitution failure of co-referential proper names in simple sentences). I argue that the descriptive content associated with proper names, besides determining the proper name's reference, function as truthconditionally relevant adjuncts which can be used to express a manner, reason, goal, time or purpose of action. In that way a sentence with a proper name NN is doing something could be understood as NN is doing something as NN (which means as-so-and-so). I argue that the substitution of names can fail on modified readings because the different descriptive content of proper names modifies the main predicate differently. Here I present a formal representation of modified predicates which allows one to model intuitively the different truth-conditions of sentences from The Puzzle.



Barber, A. (2000), A Pragmatic Treatment of Simple Sentences, Analysis, 60(4), pp. 300-308.

Carlson, G.N. (1980), Such, in: Gregory N. Carlson, Reference to Kinds in English, New York: Garland, pp. 219-236.

Clark, R. (1970), Concerning the Logic of Predicate Modifiers, Noûs 4(4), pp. 311-335.

Crimmins, M. (1993), So-Labeled Neo-Fregeanism, Philosophical Studies 69(2/3), pp. 265-279.

Crimmins, M. (1998), Hesperus and Phosphorus: Sense, Pretense, and Reference, The Philosophical Review, 107(1), pp. 147.

Davidson, D. (1967/2001), The Logical Form of Action Sentences, in: Essays on Actions and Events, Oxford: Claredon Press, pp. 105-121.

Fitting, M., Mendelsohn, R.L. (1998), First-Order Modal Logic, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Forbes, G. (1997), How Much Substitutivity? Analysis 57(2), pp. 109-113.

Forbes, G. (1999), Enlightened Semantics for Simple Sentences, Analysis 59(2), pp. 86-91.

Forbes, G. (2006), Attitude Problems. An Essay on Linguistic Intensionality, Oxford: Claredon Press.

Frege, G. (1892/1984), Sense and Meaning, in: B. McGuiness (ed.), Collected Papers on Mathematics, Logic, and Philosophy, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 157-177.

Geurts, B. (1997), Good News about the Description Theory of Names, Journal of Semantics 14, pp. 319-348.

Jespersen, B. (2006), The Phone Booth Puzzle, Organon F 13(4), pp. 411-438.

Katz, J.J. (2001), The End of Millianism: Multiple Bearers, Improper Names, and Compositional Meaning, The Journal of Philosophy 98(3), pp. 137-166.

Katz, G. (2008), Manner Modification of State Verbs, in: L. McNally, C. Kennedy (eds.), Adjectives and Adverbs, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 220-248.

Landman, F. (1989), Groups II, Linguistics and Philosophy 12(6), pp. 723-744.

Landman, M.L. (2006). Adjectival Anaphora, in: M.L. Landman, Variables in Natural Language, Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, pp. 44-110.

Landman, M.L., Morzycki, M. (2003). Event-Kinds and the Representation of Manner, in: N.M. Antrim, G. Goodal, M. Schulte-Nafeh, V. Samiian (eds.), Proceedings of the Western Conference in Linguistics (WECOL) 2002, vol. 14, Fresno: California State University, pp. 136-147.

Link, G. (1983), The Logical Analysis of Plurals and Mass Terms: A Latticetheoretical Approach, in: R. Bäuerle, C. Schwarze, A. von Stechow (eds.), Meaning, Use, and the Interpretation of Language, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 302-323.

Matushansky, O. (2008), On the Linguistic Complexity of Proper Names, Linguistics and Philosophy 31(5), pp. 573-627.

Moore, J.G. (1999), Saving Substitutivity in Simple Sentences, Analysis 59(2), pp. 91-105.21

Pitt, D. (2001), Alter Egos and Their Names, The Journal of Philosophy 98(10), pp. 531-552.

Poller, O. (2014), Formal Representations of Proper Names in Accordance with a Descriptive Theory of Reference, Polish Journal of Philosophy 8(1), pp. 37-52.

Poller, O. (2016), The Descriptive Content of Names as Predicate Modifiers, Philosophical Studies, DOI 10.1007/s11098-016-0801-5.

Predelli, S. (2004), Superheroes and Their Names, American Philosophical Quarterly 41(2), s. 107-123.

Recanati, F. (2012), Mental Files, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rini, A.A. and Cresswell, M.J. (2012). The World-Time Parallel: Tense and Modality in Logic and Metaphysics, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Room, A. (2010), Dictionary of Pseudonyms, 5th ed., Jefferson, North Carolina, London: McFarland & Company.

Saul, J.M. (1997), Substitution and Simple Sentences, Analysis 57(2), pp. 102-108.

Saul, J.M. (2000), Did Clinton Say Something False? Analysis 60(3), pp. 255-257.

Saul, J.M. (2007), Simple Sentences, Substitution and Intuitions, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Siegel, M.E.A. (1994), Such: Binding and the Pro-adjective, Linguistics and Philosophy 17, pp. 481-497.

Szabó, Z.G. (2003), On Qualification, Philosophical Perspectives 17, pp. 385-414.

Wood, J.L. (2002), Much about Such, Studia Linguistica 56(1), pp. 91-115.

Zimmermann, T.E. (2005), What’s Two Names? Journal of Semantics 22, pp. 53-96.