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January 16, 2006

Comments

Gyan

Viewed through "self as bundle" theory, Leroy exists. By normal civilized convention of a name referring to a quasistable physical identity, Leroy doesn't exist. As a mathematical analogy, typically Name-A is assigned to a form f(A). In this case, the form is f(P) + f(Q) + ..etc, where Name-P, Name-Q.. are defined. But the catch is that even in the case of f(A), Buddhist philosophy decomposes that too as a summation f(i) [i is 1 to 'n']. So it comes down to whether one wishes to radically extend conventions. I'm conservative, so 3 is my answer.

Our minds present us with ready objects. Any clues from philosophy of haecceity?

Bryan Frances

Hi David,

Didn't Laura Albert just invent the name 'J.T. Leroy'? If so, then it's a name of a fictional character, no? Then it certainly wouldn't refer to Albert herself. Or do I have the facts wrong (I never heard of the case before)?

Tom

Manual Trackback. This post is cited in Blogmandu, Roundup for Dec 19 - Jan 14 [Part 3 of 4].

Rich

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,6000,1677659,00.html

the above is a link to the UK's 'guardian' newspaper and is a story about when one of their reporters "met" JT Leroy.

It muddies the water even further...

mitchell porter

I agree with Bryan; as described, J.T. Leroy is a fictitious person, played on various occasions by Albert and Knoop. And I'd say the philosophical issues are (i) ontological status of possible entities (ii) semantics of deception and delusion.

Kenny Easwaran

I think I agree with Bryan and Mitchell, but this is primarily because the story of Leroy stipulates that Albert is a distinct person, who took her in off the streets. If there wasn't such a stipulation, it seems that the Leroy/Albert relation might be more like Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens. Though I note that the story of P.D.Q. Bach states explicitly that Peter Schickele has discovered the music of P. D. Q. Bach, though most fans will probably agree that Schickele is P.D.Q. Bach.

David

To follow up on Brian's comment: I agree that Leroy is a fictional character and (3) is the right answer, but I don't think that's merely because Albert intended the name not to refer. Perhaps when spoken by Albert the name doesn't refer, but the trickier question is whether the symbol 'Leroy' refers when used by others, e.g., those who think they chatted with Leroy.

My dominant intuition is that the name doesn't refer even when used by them because they defer to whoever introduced the name to them to fix its reference: they intend 'Leroy' to refer to whoever those they consider to be authoritative refer to by it. Ultimately, all chains of deference lead back to Albert and Knoop, who intended to use the name in such a way that it doesn't pick out any existing individual.

Of course, this answer oversimplifies the situation a great deal. Not everyone has exactly the same intentions and commitments with respect to 'Leroy', so some people might decide that it in fact picks out someone, e.g, Albert, upon being appraised of all the relevant facts. I think someone who had seen the name 'Leroy' used exclusively on books and admired the author qua author --not qua ex-street person-- would probably say that Albert is Leroy. Such people would not want to defer to 'experts' concerning the use of 'Leroy' --you can imagine them protesting: 'say what you want, for me Albert is Leroy!'


Vadim Vasilyev

When any proper name does refer it may be interpreted as an expression of a real property of a referent which exists or existed in the actual world. That referent 'bears' a name-inscription on it. Such inscriptions are real and socially fixed things. Pseudonyms are quasi-proper names invented to refer to inventor. If, however, a name is invented by someone without intention to refer to herself - then this is a fictional name. Intention is crucial for discriminating between pseudonyms and fictional names - in contrast to genuine proper names. Me can still ask who invented a fictional name but it is wrong to say that it refers to that person. So in our case if the name 'J.T. Leroy' was invented by Laura Albert but was not intended to refer to herself, then it doesn't refer, and J.T. Leroy doesn't exist. When, however, she intended to refer to herself with 'J.T. Leroy' - then this name was a pseudonym and she had just a bit too much played with counterfactuals. So the final solution of your question, David, is simple - 'Ask Laura Albert!' Without asking her we are restricted to option (4) And it doesn't matter that for some people it seemed that 'J.T. Leroy' had or hadn't a referent.


Ludwig, #79

"But when I make a statement about Moses,--am I always ready to substitute some *one* of these descriptions for 'Moses'? I shall perhabs say: By 'Moses' I understand the man who did what the Bible relates of Moses, or at any rate a good deal of it. But how much? Have I decided how much must be proved false for me to give up my proposition as false? Has the name 'Moses' got a fixed and unequivocal use for me in all possible cases?--Is it not the case that I have, so to speak, a whole series of props in readiness, and am ready to lean on one if another should be taken from under me, and vice versa?--Consider another case. When I say 'N isd dead', then something like the following may hold for the meaning of the name 'N': I believe that a human being has lived, whom I (1) have seen in such-and-such places, who (2) looked like this (pictures), (3) has done such-and-such things, and (4) bore the name 'N' in social life.--ASked what I understand by 'N', I should enumerate all or some of these points, and different ones on different occasions. So my definition of 'N' would perhaps be 'the man of whom all of this is true'.--But if some point now proves false?--Shall I be prepared to declare the proposition 'N is dead' false--even if it is only something which strikes me as incidental that has turned out false? But where are the bounds of the incidental?--If I had given a definition of the name in such a case, I should now be ready to alter it.
And this may be expressed like this: I use the name 'N' without a *fixed* meaning. (But that detracts as little from its usefulness, as it detracts from that of a table that it stands on four legs instead of three and so sometimes wobbles.)
Should it be said that I am using a word whose meaning I don't know, and so am talking nonsense?--Say what you choose, so long as it does not prevent you from seeing the facts. (And when you see them there is a good deal that you will not say.)"

Kosta Calfas

All these definite descriptions of LeRoy are at least conceivable:
1)25 years old
2)transgendered
3)former child prostitute
4)the author of 3 novels
Even if one or all of these definite descriptions were falsified by subsequent information (e.g. the way Venus is no longer referred to as the morning star since it is now known to be a planet) it would not change the fact that there are still three books whose exitence is not in dispute. Even in the extreme case these three books have different authors, the "existence" of LeRoy does not hang on whether the definite descriptions about him are true, merely that it is the way of referring to "authorship of book X, book Y and book Z."

"LeRoy is actually Laura Albert" is not equivalent to saying "LeRoy does not exist" it's simply a statement of identity. In order to truly say "LeRoy does not exist" and therefore that LeRoy has "no causal relationship" to the referrents (three books), one would have to say that when "LeRoy" is uttered it does does not invoke or cause in the listener the thought of those three books, which you obviously couldn't say. There's nothing so inconceivable that would sever the causal relationship between LeRoy and those books, so I don't think 3 is an acceptable solution.

Kosta Calfas

All these definite descriptions of LeRoy are at least conceivable:
1)25 years old
2)transgendered
3)former child prostitute
4)the author of 3 novels
Even if one or all of these definite descriptions were falsified by subsequent information (e.g. the way Venus is no longer referred to as the morning star since it is now known to be a planet) it would not change the fact that there are still three books whose exitence is not in dispute. Even in the extreme case these three books have different authors, the "existence" of LeRoy does not hang on whether the definite descriptions about him are true, merely that it is the way of referring to "authorship of book X, book Y and book Z."

"LeRoy is actually Laura Albert" is not equivalent to saying "LeRoy does not exist" it's simply a statement of identity. In order to truly say "LeRoy does not exist" and therefore that LeRoy has "no causal relationship" to the referrents (three books), one would have to say that when "LeRoy" is uttered it does does not invoke or cause in the listener the thought of those three books, which you obviously couldn't say. There's nothing so inconceivable that would sever the causal relationship between LeRoy and those books, so I don't think 3 is an acceptable solution.

Fred McVittie

There seems to be some parallels to be drawn between 'LeRoy' and the early work of 1960's pop group The Monkees. Prior to their commercial acceptance as a real music group The Monkees were an artificially constructed fiction put together for the purposes of a TV show. The music they made in that context was just part of the fiction, so for that period of time The Monkees, as a real pop group, did not exist. Subsequent to their success as musicians outside of the frame of the TV show however they did become authentic to some extent, and the performers playing the parts of the musicians became more closely, and causaly, associated both with their onscreen characters and with the music they made.

Importing this narrative into the LeRoy case, presumably if Albert was to continue to produce writing in the style and under the pseudonym of LeRoy, then the causal gap would close.

Sam

The answer is 3. J. T. Leroy does not exist, at least not in the sense that we usually use "exist". It might occasionally be the case that either Laura Albert or Savannah Knoop have pretended to be J. T. Leroy (eg for a voice during a phone call or a person to meet), but this should not enter into our consideration of how the name J. T. Leroy can causally refer despite its lack of a real-world referent. It is often the case that people impersonate non-existing things (go to a theme park and count all the Goofys and Mickeys walking around). This problem can be countenanced if we revise Kripkean reference such that it can be applied to Meinongian/fictional objects. In this case, J. T. Leroy is some non-existing intentional object such that ['is named J. T. Leroy', 'was a child prostitute', 'was a drug addict'] all obtain. This requires us to reinterpret the existential quantifier such that it no longer retains the ontological force traditionally given and that we allow existence to be a predicate. This fictional intentional object must then have been baptised with the name "J. T. Leroy" and this practice of referring must somehow have been passed down to us along Kripkean lines.

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