• Banno
    3.7k
    So a question about "Nixon" is not a question about Nixon.frank

    Yes. So if they ask "What is 'Nixon'", the answer is "a word".

    If they ask "What is Nixon", the answer is "A president".
  • frank
    1.8k
    They need to know something about Nixon in order to be talking about him.

    Once they know he was a president, though that may be all they know, they can speculate that he might not have been a president.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    They need to know something about Nixon in order to be talking about him.frank

    Well, I disagree. And perhaps the reasons will become clearer as we proceed through the book. But for now, will you agree that one can use a name despite not having an associated definite description? Perhaps there must be something that links a name to its referent; but it need not be a definite description.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    and somewhere prior to imagining Nixon as a golf ball, we say that couldn't be Nixon?frank

    If Nixon was a golf-ball, he still wouldn't go straight.

    It is the nature of counterfactuals that they posit a possible world that is not the case - a coulda woulda shoulda world that is fantasy. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride, but they ain't and they don't. Whatever Banno had for breakfast, he had that and not something else, and it is impossible that he had something other than what he had. Such is a counterfactual world. There may or may not be a boundary of plausibility, or some limit to the amount of change you wish to countenance, but counterfactuals are all untrue.

    That a man be a golf ball is not on the face of it more unreasonable than that cornflakes be eggs, or that brown eyes be blue.

    But there are other sorts of possible world, such as Banno's breakfast tomorrow, that are not certainly one thing or the other; eggs or cornflakes are both real possibilities. Every time one makes a plan, one creates a possible world, and if everything goes according to plan, the possible world is realised, or if one has to adapt, another possible world is realised.

    And there are epstemologically possible worlds, such that if you don't know what I had for breakfast then as far as you know, I might have had eggs or cornflakes, even though you know that whatever I had, I had that and 'could not' have had something else.

    Perhaps there must be something that links a name to its referent; but it need not be a definite description.Banno

    As in 'Nixon' - the man, snake, or golf ball you were just talking about.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    If Nixon was a golf-ball, he still wouldn't go straight.unenlightened

    Nice.
  • frank
    1.8k
    But for now, will you agree that one can use a name despite not having an associated definite description?Banno

    Yes.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    How do you assess our ability to think of a Nixon with an alternate story, when we know him by his story?frank

    It's basically just a matter of what an individual takes to be essential and accidental, or necessary and contingent properties re their concept of Nixon (or whatever we might be talking about).

    In other words, you'll have personal requirements for calling some x "Nixon," and you'll only call an x "Nixon" if it meets those requirements.

    If every property of something is necessary with respect to your concept of it, then you can't do counterfactual scenarios with respect to it, because it just wouldn't be that thing in your view if there were anything different about it.

    But for most people, not all properties of anything are necessary with respect to their concepts of that thing. Most folks have concepts where there are some contingent properties. So most people don't think, for example, that if Nixon didn't wear a blue suit on March 3, 1969, then they're not going to call that x "Nixon" any longer.
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    Perhaps there must be something that links a name to its referent; but it need not be a definite description.Banno

    And, here is where we get into metaphysics. How does the counterfactual obtain (or is instantiated) when saying Banno had eggs with bacon and cornflakes this morning because he was especially hungry?
  • Banno
    3.7k
    I asked before what it means for a counterfactual to obtain - to be true?

    Not "Banno had bacon"

    But "Banno might have had bacon".

    The "had bacon" bit is within the scope of the "might have" bit.

    SO it's like "Wallows believes that Banno had bacon"; it might be true even if I had only cornflakes and milk.
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    I asked before what it means for a counterfactual to obtain - to be true?Banno

    Somewhat circular; by, stipulating them. Metaphysics implies that there might be a possible world where they actually obtain. Hence, I think we should stick with possible world semantics instead of "possible discussions".
  • Janus
    6.1k


    All these examples only work if you posit some essence or soul- Nixon- such that it could have been incarnated as a woman or even a golf ball. But then the only way to identify who or what is being referred to as 'Nixon' is the entity that is a woman, or a golf ball, that is the incarnation of the essence that is called (has been baptized, if you like) 'Nixon'.

    But these are all definite descriptions and without them I could have no idea who or what you are referring to when you say "Nixon" (unless, as I have already said, I was right there with you and you were pointing at the entity in question).

    Even to say that someone or some thing was "baptized" and given some name is itself a definite description. That's why I thought, and still think (in the absence of any cogent argument from anyone to convince me otherwise) Kripke's supposed distinction is "much ado about nothing", or if you prefer " A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". But it's no surprise it has been taken so seriously; America is, after all, the land of hype.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    Metaphysics implies that there might be a possible world where they actually obtain.Wallows

    Well, I don't agree. Take a look at 's post.

    While there are those who say that existence in possible worlds must be treated in the same way as existence in the actual world, I am not one, nor, to my reading, is Kripke.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    All these examples only work if you posit some essence or soul- Nixon- such that it could have been incarnated as a woman or even a golf ballJanus

    Why?
  • Janus
    6.1k


    What else could mean that a woman or a golf ball in some alternate reality is the same entity as President Nixon in this one?
  • Banno
    3.7k
    ...without them I could have no idea who or what you are referring to when you say "Nixon"Janus

    And yet the folk in my question example, who do not have access to a suitable definite description, ask about Nixon.

    Seems to me a falsification of the theory of definite descriptions. And as you probably know, and as we will find as we move forward, this is not the only type of counterexample.
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    While there are those who say that existence in possible worlds must be treated in the same way as existence in the actual world, I am not one, nor, to my reading, is Kripke.Banno

    Then what are counterfactuals if not definite descriptions for events that could have happened otherwise?
  • Janus
    6.1k
    And yet the folk in my question example, who do not have access to a suitable definite description, ask about Nixon.Banno

    The clue is here:

    They have to have some idea who Nixon is to ask a question about him. — frank


    Perhaps; but they refer to Nixon without the benefit of a definite description, in order to ask who Nixon is.
    Banno

    You seem to be acknowledging that they must have some idea who Nixon is to ask a question about him, and yet you claim they refer to him without the benefit of a definite description. Now I have acknowledged that is possible if they have seen Nixon (that is know who he is by ostention) but absent that, what other way would they have of knowing who Nixon is than a definite description? You are yet to answer that one.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    Then what are counterfactuals if not definite descriptions of events that could have happened otherwise?Wallows

    "could".
  • Wallows
    6.2k


    Yes, and what more can you say? I'm lost again...
  • Banno
    3.7k
    I find that a bit perplexing.

    To be clear,

    • this thread is about Kripke, and I do not agree with Kripke's theory of reference. My own view is that referring needs no grand philosophical explanation, but is just one of the many things we can do with words
    • A definite description is not just any description. It serves to pick out the individual to the exclusion of all other individuals
    • I gave a clear example of a question about Nixon in which the questioner did not have access to a definite description of Nixon, but in which they nevertheless referred to Nixon
    • The meaning of modal sentences is found in the stipulation that sets them up.
    • The question "What else could (it?) mean that a woman or a golf ball in some alternate reality is the same entity as President Nixon in this one?" cannot be readily presented in the Grammar proposed by Kripke. Insofar as that is our topic here, you are off topic.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    Perhaps it will help to say that part of Kripke's purpose is to oppose the reification (making real) of modal proposals.

    They are suppositions, not alternate realities.
  • Janus
    6.1k
    My own view is that referring needs no grand philosophical explanation, but is just one of the many things we can do with wordsBanno

    I agree. I think that it doesn't not only not need any such explanation, but that any such explanation is impossible.

    A definite description is not just any description. It serves to pick out the individual to the exclusion of all other individualsBanno

    I undertsnd that a descrition that was not definite enough to enable us to pick out an indivdiual would be useless; it woukd not enable us to know who we are referring to.

    I gave a clear example of a question about Nixon in which the questioner did not have access to a definite description of Nixon, but in which they nevertheless referred to NixonBanno

    Yes, but you haven't explained how they knew they we referring to Nixon. It is possible to be misteken about who we think we are referring to, isn't it?

    The meaning of modal sentences is found in the stipulation that sets them up.Banno

    Yes, as stipulation which must amount to a definite description...or?

    The question "What else could (it?) mean that a woman or a golf ball in some alternate reality is the same entity as President Nixon in this one?" cannot be readily presented in the Grammar proposed by Kripke. Insofar as that is our topic here, you are off topic.Banno

    I'm not off-topic because all I am asking is how it is established within Kripke's paradigm that we are referring to some entity and no other.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    More perplexity,

    You agree with me that "referring needs no grand philosophical explanation", going further in saying such is impossible.

    Yet you insist "...you haven't explained how they knew they we referring to Nixon."

    How is this consistent?
  • Banno
    3.7k
    I'm not off-topic because all I am asking is how it is established within Kripke's paradigm that we are referring to some entity and no other.Janus

    Well, perhaps it is that you wish to discuss the end of the book without working through the detail.

    IS there any reason we should not move on?
  • Banno
    3.7k
    So on to Lecture II, and the formulation of the theory of reference being investigated.

    The bullet points, one by one:

    1. To every name or designating expression 'X', there
    corresponds a cluster of properties, namely the family
    of those properties q such that A believes 'qX'.

    Roughly, for everything we can name there is a bunch of properties we believe belong to that thing.

    Cool?
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    Cool?Banno

    Very. :)

    So, again essentialism rears its head.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    Only for Kripke to take shots at.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    2. One of the properties, or some conjointly, are believed
    by A to pick out some individual uniquely.

    A definite description.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    3. If most, or a weighted most, of the q's are satisfied by
    one unique object y, then y is the referent of 'x'.

    And if not, it ain't?

    the "weighted" but is to keep the sort of argument offered by Searle in the scope of this exercise.
  • Banno
    3.7k
    4. If the vote yields no unique object, 'x' does not refer.

    And if not, it ain't.
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