Template Theories of Reference

Template theories claim that names are shorthand for descriptions which uniquely pick out the thing to which the name refers.

Thus, 'Christopher Columbus' might be shorthand for 'person who sailed west and made landfall in the Americas in 1492; commander of the voyage'. The person who fulfills that description is the person to whom the name refers.



What if I think that Christopher Columbus discovered America? What if that is the only fact I know about him? Is Christopher Columbus then a name for the anonymous Asian who first crossed the Bering Straits landbridge 10,000 or more years ago?

Non-unique descriptions

Suppose that all I know about Christopher Columbus is that he was a sailor. This does not pick out a single person. But the name doesn't refer to everyone who has ever been a sailor. To whom, then, does it refer?


Presumably, it is possible that Christopher Columbus might have been a movie director instead. But if the reference of the name is fixed by the description, it seems that anyone who didn't sail west etc. couldn't be Columbus.


Russell 1919 contains a statement of this position.