Organon F

Volume 28, February 2021, Issue 1, Pages 9–43

ISSN 2585-7150 (online) ISSN 1335-0668 (print)

Research Article | Special issue on Names and Fictions

The Meanings of Fictional Names

Fiora Salis


According to Millianism, the meaning of a name is exhausted by its referent. According to anti-realism about fictional entities, there are no such entities. If there are no fictional entities, how can we explain the apparent meaningfulness of fictional names? Our best theory of fiction, Walton’s theory of make-believe, makes the same assumptions but lacks the theoretical resources to answer the question. In this paper, I propose a pragmatic solution in terms of two main dimensions of meaning, a subjective, psychological dimension and an intersubjective, public dimension. The psychological dimension builds on the notion of mental files; the public dimension builds on Stalnaker’s notion of common ground. The account is coherent with two main theoretical principles, parsimony and uniformity. Furthermore, it satisfies three explanatory conditions posed by the intentionality of our thought and discourse about fiction, object-directedness, counterfictional imagining and intersubjective identification.


Fictional names, mental files, common ground, make-believe, Mill, Walton, Stalnaker.

Author(s) and affiliation(s)


Fiora Salis 


The University of York


Department of Philosophy University of York, Heslington, York UK YO10 5DD


About this article


19 May 2020


23 November 2020

Published online

28 February 2021


Institute of Philosophy of the Slovak Academy of Sciences

Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Cite as


Salis, F. (2021). The Meanings of Fictional Names. Organon F28(1), 9–43.


Salis, Fiora. 2021. "The Meanings of Fictional Names." Organon F 28 (1): 9–43.


Salis, F.  (2021). The Meanings of Fictional Names. Organon F, 28(1), pp. 9–43.

Copyright information

© Fiora Salis

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