Few moths ago Chalmers on his blog raised an interesting question of what causal theory of reference would say about the case of J.T.Leroy. (please check the original post for details)
In my thinking this problem should be analyzed in connection to practices of referring to a things using a (proper) name. For sure practices can not explain the relation of meaning, which is made possible by the underlying intentionality (and in my thinking in perception grounded on being-in-the-world), and practices qua practices are only possible within such perception (I intend to write on this in some later post), but we can point that the usual sense/reference types of accounts or proper name fail to give clear picture of what is going in those cases.
On other side if we consider the issue from the point of practices and usage of the language, it is easily understood what is going on in the case of J.T.Leroy ; but what needs to be accepted in that case is that naming is as J.L.Austin or Wittgenstein point to, just one case in the general usage of the language, and has no privileged position. That surely is no easy thing to accept for people who want to be able to argue for more intimate relation between the language and the world, but it is easier when those practices are based on being-in-the-world, and transcendental ideas, which in the end leave the possibility for proper thought, and communication about the world. But I’m digressing here…
So, let see what practice we are talking about here…
Each person has one specific name, that is given to him. The people agree on the name of that person when baptizing him/her, and tell the other people how they named the child. After that, those people tell other people, etc.. The child with time also learns its name, and can tell it to strangers. (So here we are ignoring the whole issue of how can sign refer to signified, or how can name mean person, how can other people think of a person, how can they communicate and so on, as I think it is not important for this case). It is additional practice that people also sign the books and papers that they write, they put their name on it so it is known who wrote that book. The reasons could be fame or just because everybody else do it.
But not all people want to be credited for their work. For some what matters is the work itself. Even this can become a standard, or accepted practice, as in ortodox iconography…
Many symbols are specific to the subject, as you will see in the commentaries on individual icons below. However, one “symbol” you will NOT see in an icon is the painter’s signature. All icons are written anonymously, and to the Glory of God. The closest thing you may see to a signature is the statement “Written to the Glory of God by the hand of (first name only)”. Ancient icons have usually been identified with specific painters only by their clothing, style and location of the original, thus placing them in an historic and geographic context into which the painter can then be placed.
Now, in practice where a work should have signature, one doesn’t have much choice then to use pseudonym in the cases where he doesn’t want his name to be disclosed for this or that reason.
What is important here, is to see how the practice of pseudonyms is connected to practice of baptizing, and practice of signing the works by those people who create them. Using of pseudonym is grounded in those practices… if those practices were not present, neither would be practice of using pseudonym.
What the involved people in the case of J.T.Leroy did, is that they made mockery of the whole established practice, they deceived the people who (of course) didn’t have reason to suspect that the accepted practice is not used in this case. They did what they did. And as in the case of the pseudonyms, this was only possible because of the established practices of baptizing people, and people putting signatures on their works. But the practice is done, only when it is done properly. Or to use J.L.Austin’s term, if it not done properly, the whole act of referring (which I take here to be based on practice), is unhappy.
Note:On Computational Truth, they also brought up this issue, just in connection with Christ.