The humans have been on strike. This means that I have been spending even more time with them. The more I do this, the more I realise how odd they are.
One of the ways in which they are odd is that they don't understand that I'm a highly intelligent dog. So they try to talk about me without me noticing. They say things like "shall we give the dog another biscuit?" rather than "shall we give Lola another biscuit?" They even sometimes use different names for me. Sometimes they call me 'Patch'. You can see why if you look at this photo of me as a puppy.
So I have two names: 'Lola' and 'Patch'. Now here's a puzzle. Do these two names mean the same thing?
You might think that they do. They are both names for me. Their use in human language is simply to refer to me; it's as though each of these names points at me verbally. And that is all they do. They don't give you any information about me. They just refer to me. 'Lola' is a name for me, so is 'Patch', so they mean the same thing. This is how the human philosopher John Stuart Mill thought
You might think this is silly. After all, doesn't the name 'Patch' give you some information about me, that I have beautiful patches around my eyes? It's important not to get confused here. The patches around my eyes might explain why the humans called me 'Patch' in the first place. But it doesn't seem obvious that it is part of what the name means that I have patches around my eyes. After all, somebody could call a dog with no patches 'Patch', perhaps as a joke (think about 'Little John' from the Robin Hood stories). Or perhaps I will lose my patches as I grow older; I'd still be Patch, because Patch is who I am.
So maybe 'Lola' and 'Patch' do mean the same. Now, here's the puzzle: if two words mean the same thing, I ought to be able to swap them over in a sentence without changing what that sentence says. But look at this sentence:
If you accept this line of reasoning, it would be a good idea to come up with some account of how 'Lola' and 'Patch' mean different things. Frege tried to do this with his theory of Sense and Reference. Myself, I'm not so sure. I often find myself thinking that humans just aren't very good at knowing what their words mean. Some humans just don't realise that the words 'Lola' and 'Patch' mean the same thing, just like other humans don't realise that my feeding bowl is empty.
Mental walkies with Lola,