• Wallows
    9.6k
    Kripke's theory of reference envisages a causal chain of reference practices which vouchsafes any particular reference through its connection to the initial naming event, Wittgenstein however stresses that the sense of a word, even a name, is highly contextual and depends on the embedding of the name use within a social and historical setting - it seems to me that causal connections are not necessarily practices of language use and thus perhaps the existence of a causal chain does not embed the naming practice within the norms of use; much seems missing from causal chains simpliciter. Does Kripke's account provide any insight on how the sense of a name is vouchsafed through the causal chain?
  • Nagase
    87
    It's been a while since I read Naming and Necessity (I need to go back to that book!), but, if I recall correctly, he never uses the expression "causal chain". Rather, he talks about a historical chain of reference transmission, and he is pretty clear about the mechanism by which the reference is historically transmitted: after the initial dubbing by an individual, other people intend to use the name to refer to whatever was dubbed by that individual. It is this intention to refer to the same thing that ensures that reference is transmitted, in spite of the way it was initially fixed or of errors in the descriptive conditions passed along the chain. Since what is primary is the intention to refer, and not the intention to describe, it is the reference that passes along the chain, and not the descriptions (if any!) associated with the name.
  • Richard B
    34
    Though not know as “Common Sense” philosophers I believe these two quotes show a particular compatibility between two lines of their thought:

    1. “Don’t ask: how can I identify this table in another possible world, except by its properties? I have the table in my hands, I can point to it, and when I ask whether it might have been in another room, I am talking, by definition, about it.” N&N SK

    2 “Does it matter which we say so long as we avoid misunderstanding in any particular case” PI LW

    A language user may intend to use a name in a particular way but with conversation they may learn if there is a common understanding of that name.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    One thing that I think is lacking in Kripke's account is acknowledgement of the dependence of reference on description. It is a long time since I read the work, yet if memory serves Kripke speaks as though reference is completely independent of description. But, if the referrers along that historical chain of reference do not personally know the person they are referring to, then the only way they could have known who it is they intended to refer to is via description, or so it seems to me.
  • Banno
    6.6k
    Kripke speaks as though reference is completely independent of description.Janus

    Well, not quite. Rather he shows that reference is independent of description. That's what the book is about.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    Sure, that the book is about that is uncontroversial, but due to the point I made above, that the referrers who didn't know the referent personally would have to rely on descriptions to know just who they are referring to, I don't believe Kripke has shown that reference is independent of description. It can be in some instances, but only when the referrer is visually acquainted with the referent.
  • Banno
    6.6k


    • Naming and Necessity is an extended argument against the theory that a name refers in virtue of an associated description.
    • I think the argument is successful
    • He is explicit that although he presents a causal chain as an alternative, this theory is of secondary import to the rejection fo the description theory.
    • I don't see a problem ins simply accepting that names refer, without further explanation. It's just what we do with names. Their use.
  • fdrake
    2.9k


    There's still the question of the content of names. Clark Kent and Superman despite being co-referring can suggest different courses of action. Even if this content is non-descriptive, it can still carry information.

    There are shades of this in Kripke, the a-posteriori necessity of water = H2O isn't given a complete account by co-reference (though it is still sufficient for the a-posteriori necessity for Kripke IIRC), what the equation also does is allow, say, people studying the thermal properties of water molecules to apply that to climate change.

    I'm not saying that the semantic content of a name is necessarily descriptive, mind, I'm saying that there's more to a theory of reference than the fact of reference. Reference brings a chunk of sense along with it too. Invoking quietism here does little to answer any of the problems that Kripke thought were important in writing the book. It's as if you back-project the theory into the behaviour of linguistic communities and render such a projection moot in the same breath; with the same rhetorical device.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    Naming and Necessity is an extended argument against the theory that a name refers in virtue of an associated description.
    I think the argument is successful
    He is explicit that although he presents a causal chain as an alternative, this theory is of secondary import to the rejection fo the description theory.
    I don't see a problem ins simply accepting that names refer, without further explanation. It's just what we do with names. Their use.
    Banno

    Your first point is obviously correct; the question is not whether his argument is "extended" but whether it is sound and adequate. I don't agree the argument is successful for the reasons i already gave. If the 'causal chain" is secondary to the rejection of the description theory, then what is the primary argument against the latter?

    You may not "see a problem" or require further explanation, but surely you don't expect that fact about you to be a substitute for an adequate argument to convince those who are skeptical, or who might think that Kripke is glossing over significant aspects of the phenomenology of reference.

    You haven't attempted to address the problem I highlighted: that anyone who is not visually acquainted, either in person or via image or film, with the referent, will necessarily rely on description to ascertain who is being referred to.

    So, to give you an example you may wish to respond to: you say to me Nixon did such and such, and if I am familiar with Richard Nixon's career, and what you said Nixon did is a part of that official history, then I will of course know just who you are referring to. That history is a description I obviously rely on. If I am not familiar with that history I will probably ask "Who is this Nixon you are referring to"? How will you inform me without resorting to description?

    Now, I agree that definite description alone is not sufficient to determine reference in all situations, but neither is rigid designation; both are needed to different degrees in different referential situations. I think there is a kind of continuum with description at one end and rigid designation at the other, and any situation will fall somewhere along that continuum in regards to its degree of dependence on description or rigid designation.
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    Well, Kripke sidesteps the issue of imaginary names such a Santa Claus. This is a glaring point in his philosophy.
  • Nagase
    87
    A couple of points: one important distinction that some direct reference theorists make is between the semantic value of a word (its contributions to a sentence's truth conditions) and its psychological or cognitive value (its contributions to an agent's course of action or epistemic states). So it may very well be that I have some bizarre associations with the name "Doria"---it calls to my mind an instinctive disgust and hate and may even drive me towards some irrational action, as (say) punching a wall. But these associations are not surely part of the meaning of the name, "Doria". The point generalizes: the fact that a name carries extra-information to a (specific) speaker than just its reference does not mean that this extra-information is part of the semantic content of the name. Indeed, I'd say this extra-information may belong to the worthwhile endeavor of cognitive psychology, but not to the more impoverished domain of semantics!

    This is similar to the case of demonstratives. To use an example of Howard Wettstein ("Has Semantics Rested on a Mistake?"), suppose a friend of mine takes me to a rock concert. Unfortunately, being poor, we don't go in, but merely watch the show from outside, through some windows. Since the vocalist is using some intense makeup, I get confused when looking at his distinct profiles through two different windows, and I say to my friend that the band's two vocalists are amazing. Angry at my ignorance, he slaps his face, points to the vocalist and says "He... [then my friend drags me around to the other window] is he!". The two different pronouns obviously carry different information for me, for otherwise he would just be telling me the triviality that x=x, not the astounding (to me!) revelation that the two people I thought were amazing are actually the same amazing person! However, this is not a semantic difference in the functioning of the associated pronoun. It may not even be a difference in the character of the pronoun, i.e. the way the demonstrative determines reference in a given context. It may be just a difference in the context of use, and hence even extra-linguistic (Kaplan often makes the point, at least at the time of "Demonstratives", that the mechanism by which we determine a reference generally operates "offline", so to speak, and hence is not part either of the character or the content of what is said).

    This, I think, goes some way towards assailing 's worries about the Clark-Superman example. Indeed, to some people the different names may carry different information and thus suggest different courses of action (though not to everyone, obviously: if Lois already knows that Clark is Superman, in most contexts it would be indifferent for Batman to tell her that Clark is looking for her or that Superman is looking for her). But this is not a semantic property of the name, so it doesn't tell against Kripke's points. Note that this is also not a "quietist" stance: there may well be a valuable theory to be developed about how semantics interact with cognitive psychology, or even a more general science of information. It just won't be a theory about semantics.

    Similarly, this also answers the problem raised by , that a speaker may use descriptive information in tracking down the reference of a name. Indeed, that may very well be the case (and Kripke does address this in his book), but it is totally irrelevant to the semantics of the name. Notice also that in many cases the speaker may not have any descriptive information that allows this tracking: for instance, consider myself. I am shamefully ignorant of Gell Mann. The only thing I know about him is that he is an excellent physicist. But this is not enough for me to distinguish him from, say, Einstein. Yet I still may have true beliefs about Gell Mann (e.g. that he is an excellent physicist), and may refer to him in conversations, for instance by requesting more information about him. But this reference cannot be done via descriptive means, since the only descriptive information I have of Gell Mann is that he is an excellent physicist, and if this was the information used by me to refer to him, I could be referring to Einstein, and not Gell Mann, when I say that "Gell Mann is an excelent physicist". In fact, notice that I may not even have any descriptive information about a person, only non-descriptive information (say, of the perceptual kind) and still be able to refer to a person. So reference cannot be tied to descriptive information (and this even in cases in which the reference was first established by description).

    On a completely different note, says that Kripke "sidesteps the issue of imaginary names". This is factually incorrect: he has an entire book, Reference and Existence, dedicated to this issue! Note that the issue with imaginary names is a bit difficult, so I'll just give a sketch here of Kripke's ideas (I recommend that you read the book, if you want the details). Kripke resorts to (at least) two moves: the first is to note that such names are generally not involved in assertions. It is generally agreed that an assertion, in order to be an assertion, must aim at truth. If I don't think I'm telling the truth when I say something, I'm not asserting anything, but rather doing something else, such as lying or telling a narrative. So he argues that such names are not introduced in the typical way, that is, they are not introduced to name anyone (since there isn't someone to be named to begin with, and the author of the fiction or imaginary tale knows that), and hence are not really names. So sentences such as "Sherlock Holmes is a detective" are not really assertions, so are not really talking about anything, and hence there is name or reference involved.

    Of course, there is the problem that "Sherlock Holmes is a famous fictional character" is talking about a real state of affairs, and hence is an assertion (in fact, a true assertion). So here is Kripke's second move: he introduces fictional characters as abstract objects that are ontologically dependent (or grounded) on the existence of the fictional work as referents of such names. Note that these names refer to abstract objects, works of fiction: so, when considered from this point of view, "Sherlock Holmes is a detective" is false, because Sherlock Holmes is an abstract object, and abstract objects are not detectives! Hence, there are two levels of discourse involved here. First, there are the pretende-assertions, which are not assertions at all, involving the pretend-world of Sherlock Holmes. Second, there are the real assertions involving the real world fictional character (or abstract object) Sherlock Holmes. Obviously, all sorts of complications arise from this picture (though it is a very attractive picture: Amie Thomasson has a similar theory in her Fiction and Metaphysics), but that is the gist of it...
  • fdrake
    2.9k
    This, I think, goes some way towards assailing ↪fdrake's worries about the Clark-Superman example. Indeed, to some people the different names may carry different information and thus suggest different courses of action (though not to everyone, obviously: if Lois already knows that Clark is Superman, in most contexts it would be indifferent for Batman to tell her that Clark is looking for her or that Superman is looking for her). But this is not a semantic property of the name, so it doesn't tell against Kripke's points. Note that this is also not a "quietist" stance: there may well be a valuable theory to be developed about how semantics interact with cognitive psychology, or even a more general science of information. It just won't be a theory about semantics.Nagase

    I'm not certain that the distinction between referring using Clark Kent and referring using Superman is just a difference in psychological or behavioural disposition towards their referent. If that were the case, I would expect such psychological or behavioural dispositions to be contingently associated with the referent, whereas in this case we need to associate the referent with at least one of two behavioural regimes in order to refer in that way.

    Clark Kent is a reporter who is a citizen of Metropolis, Superman is an alien superhero from Krypton. Superman secretly is Clark Kent, and Clark Kent secretly is Superman. These aren't behavioural dispositions of a referrer towards Clark Kent and Superman, they are behavioural regimes of the referent.

    The surprise from learning Clark Kent is Superman comes from learning that two isolated patterns of reference actually have the same referent - forcing us to reconcile one's behaviour with the other. While this will change the referer's disposition towards Clark Kent/Superman, it will also connect two series of facts that are still isolated in the linguistic community.

    Maybe this illustrates the point better: 'Who is Clarke Kent?' and 'Who is Superman?' can have different answers despite the two expressions co-referring, and the use of 'Clark Kent' to refer does not mirror the use of 'Superman' to refer. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Clark Kent, obviously.

    Whether these patterns of behaviour should be read into the sense of a name, I'm not sure, because I'm not really sure what counts as the semantic content of a name.
  • Nagase
    87


    I'm not entirely sure what you are calling "behavioral regimes", but I think it's entirely clear that they are contingently associated to the referent. Clark Kent needed not be a journalist. Consider: DC had a nice line of comics that mimicked Marvel's "What if..." series. In one of those, the rocket containing baby Kal-El did not land in Kansas, but rather near Gotham. So Kal-El was adopted by Thomas and Martha Wayne, instead of Jonathan and Martha Kent. There, he was called "Bruce Wayne" (though, obviously, he wasn't Bruce Wayne, since Bruce Wayne didn't exist in that world, as Thomas and Martha Wayne didn't have a biological child there) and never became a journalist. Still, he was Clark Kent, which is why we can truthfully say (or rather, would truthfully say if those were real people and not fictional characters) "Clark Kent might have been a millionaire in Gotham and never have become a journalist".

    Here's another example. Suppose there is a user here who is also a colleague of mine (I don't know if there is one, but let's pretend there is). Then that person may not be aware that the Nagase who is her colleague is also the Nagase who posts here, and hence may have different behavioral dispositions towards my name. All that this shows is that this person has come into contact with my name by way of two different routes, not that my name may mean different things on different occasions. Indeed, this is clear, since my spouse, who knows that user and also knows that we both post here, does know that the two Nagases are in fact the same person. So she has the same behavioral dispositions towards the two instances of the name. So the behavioral dispositions cannot be part of the name (unless we want to posit massive ambiguity).

    You also asked about semantic content. As I said, the semantic content of an expression is its contributions to the truth conditions of the sentences in which it appears. My contention is that the semantic content of a name just is the referent of the name, since that is what contributes to the truth conditions of the sentences in which it appears.
  • fdrake
    2.9k
    You also asked about semantic content. As I said, the semantic content of an expression is its contributions to the truth conditions of the sentences in which it appears. My contention is that the semantic content of a name just is the referent of the name, since that is what contributes to the truth conditions of the sentences in which it appears.Nagase

    I'd like to begin with saying I'm not trying to advance a descriptivist theory of reference, or any particular theory of reference. Specifically, what I'm interested in is the sense of names and whether this is just the referent of the name.

    'Jake is under 2 meters tall.'
    'Can you please get me some water Jake?

    The first is truth apt, the second isn't, Jake in the second does not contribute to the truth condition of the sentence because the sentence does not have truth conditions to begin with; but "Jake" is still meaningful and it refers. I would be surprised, considering that "Jake" refers in both of them, if "Jake" referred in a different way in each of them. The first instance of reference has Jake partaking in the truth condition, the second doesn't, nevertheless Jake still picks out Jake.

    I raise this issue because a theory of meaning which associates any term with its effect on a truth condition could not account for the meaning of that term in a non-truth apt expression. At least not without a theory which applied in the case of non-truth apt expressions - at which point I'd wonder why reference changes behaviour between proposition and request without any prompts from our folk understanding of reference.

    Though, I imagine we'll have a better discussion if we restrict ourselves to sentences with truth conditions; propositions.

    I'm not entirely sure what you are calling "behavioral regimes", but I think it's entirely clear that they are contingently associated to the referent. Clark Kent needed not be a journalist. Consider: DC had a nice line of comics that mimicked Marvel's "What if..." series. In one of those, the rocket containing baby Kal-El did not land in Kansas, but rather near Gotham. So Kal-El was adopted by Thomas and Martha Wayne, instead of Jonathan and Martha Kent. There, he was called "Bruce Wayne" (though, obviously, he wasn't Bruce Wayne, since Bruce Wayne didn't exist in that world, as Thomas and Martha Wayne didn't have a biological child there) and never became a journalist. Still, he was Clark Kent, which is why we can truthfully say (or rather, would truthfully say if those were real people and not fictional characters) "Clark Kent might have been a millionaire in Gotham and never have become a journalist".

    Yeah, I agree with that. This is essentially saying, along with Kripke, that reference is stable over counterfactual stipulation (and because of this descriptive accounts of reference fail). What I'd like to make is a distinction between properties of cognitive significance which inform (normatively) the usual functioning of a name in a linguistic community and dispositions held by specific agents towards the referent of a name. The former is a facet of language use in a community, the latter is a mere dispositional relation to the referent by a member of that community. 'Superman' still means Superman even if I think he's a bellend, but 'Superman? Yeah I saw him barking at the moon and riding on Green Goblin's disc last night while punching an old man to death' transgresses the usual function of the word 'Superman' by placing it in a sentence which is unlikely to be produced if we both understand the pattern of reference and Superman's behaviour.

    You may say that yes, Superman would still be Superman if indeed he did that (to be honest he probably did in some point in the Crisis on Infinite Earths), but postulating a world in which he did so would be postulating a world with much different linguistic communities insofar as they relate to Superman.

    So, the modality associated with 'must' and 'contingent' in my post was closer to a normative 'must' that comes along with the usual function of a word within (the history of) a linguistic community, rather than the counterfactual stipulation associated with Kripke's analysis. We could use 'Jake' to refer to Jim if we wished, but that would go against the usual norms of use. Jim is called "Jim", not Jake. In that sense we must not call Jim 'Jake' or apples "oranges". What is contingent with respect to these uses are, for instance, the age of Jake, how long Jake's hair is, his occupation and so on; counterfactual stipulation allows us to filter out incidental features of reference after a referring relation between Jim and the word "Jim" has been set up. But such filtering only applies to a referring relation when it is already present, and leaves unanswered any questions about the (history of) behaviours of a linguistic community which vouchsafe the reference; the cognitive significance of Superman's part in their form of life.

    I suppose this leads to a meta-discussion on what a good theory of reference needs.
  • Michael
    8.2k
    after the initial dubbing by an individual, other people intend to use the name to refer to whatever was dubbed by that individual. It is this intention to refer to the same thing that ensures that reference is transmittedNagase

    I think the case of Superman and Clark Kent presents some issue here. If I believe that Superman and Clark Kent are different people then I intend for “Superman” and “Clark Kent” to refer to the different people, even though they don’t.

    At the very least I have (unbeknownst to me) contradictory intentions. How do we resolve this contradiction to maintain intention as the transmitter of reference?
  • Nagase
    87


    First, note that the fact that semantics is primarily concerned with truth conditions does not mean that it cannot account for speech acts other than assertions. For it may account for them in a derivative way. Here's an example of such a treatment: we may take questions to be a partition of propositions, that is, a collection of equivalence classes of propositions, namely its (conflicting) answers, such that each (conflicting) answer lies in exactly one equivalence class. (I think David Lewis adhered to something like this) So the semantics of questions is derivative to the semantics of its possible answers, which in turn are (generally) assertions. So one may take a term's contribution to the semantics of questions to be its contribution to the truth conditions of its answers.

    Leaving this to the side, and using your linguistic community vocabulary, I'd say that the normativity associated with a name is very thin: the only constraint is that linguistic users of a given community all share the intent to refer to the same person by that name. This includes referring to the person in counterfactual conditions, so that we may wonder whether Clark would be called "Clark" if he had been raised by Thomas and Martha Wayne, or if Clark would still be a journalist under those circumstances. But if counterfactuals appear to bring in foreign standards, consider the following case. I am on the bus and, since I am without my headphones, I can't help but overhear the people behind me talking. Since I'm reading Naming and Necessity, I'm not focusing on them, but I still hear the name "Clark". I don't distinctly hear anything else about its referent, but I start to daydream about it, and begin to imagine that Clark is a philosophy professor who challenged Kripke's theory, and I may even mutter to myself "Clark has raised an interesting challenge to Kripke!". But, unbeknownst to me, Clark is a journalist, not a philosophy professor, and has never even heard of Kripke. So my assertion is false. Indeed, the people behind me hear me muttering and immediately correct me on that. Hence, I must have referred to Clark, the journalist, with my assertion, even if I have no knowledge about him and even if my behavioral dispositions towards the name are very thin and don't include reacting-as-if-he-was-a-journalist among them. How can this be?

    This can happen because the only thing that establishes a chain of reference is the intentions of the relevant language users to use the name to refer to the same person. I picked the name from the people behind me, and intended to use it to refer to the same person as they did. That's it. That's also why the way that the reference was first established, say by description ("I hereby declare that the first Kryptonian journalist in this planet will be called 'Clark'!"), is irrelevant to the semantics of the name; it's an offline mechanism, that may start the chain of reference, but is not part of it. That's also why, contrary to what seems to assume, there is no problem if I intend to refer to different people by different names, or even by the same name. To use another of Kripke's example, suppose I pick up the name "Paderewski" from a musician and the name "Paderewski" from a friend involved in Polish politics. Since I believe no musicians are politicians, I believe this name refers to two different people; unbeknownst to me, there is just one Paderewski, namely Ignacy Jan Paderewski. But that only means that, unbeknownst to me, I actually referred to the same person using that name in different contexts. What matters is that I intended to use the name to refer to the person referred by whoever it was I picked the name from.
  • Michael
    8.2k
    What matters is that I intended to use the name to refer to the person referred by whoever it was I picked the name from.Nagase

    Is that what we intend though? Imagine some historian were to (falsely) believe that his friend Artabanus assassinated Xerxes and wrote the sentence "Xerxes was assassinated by Artabanus" in some historical record (without any further description of Artabanus). I would say that when I repeat this sentence to someone who asked me about Xerxes my intention is to refer to whoever assassinated Xerxes, not to this historian's friend.

    Or let's say that someone found the only written account of the first Emperor of Rome and changed his name to his own (Augustus) as a joke to imply that he was the first Emperor of Rome. Does that mean that we've been referring to this trickster and not the first Emperor of Rome when we talk of Augustus? I don't think so.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    Similarly, this also answers the problem raised by ↪Janus
    , that a speaker may use descriptive information in tracking down the reference of a name. Indeed, that may very well be the case (and Kripke does address this in his book), but it is totally irrelevant to the semantics of the name. Notice also that in many cases the speaker may not have any descriptive information that allows this tracking: for instance, consider myself. I am shamefully ignorant of Gell Mann. The only thing I know about him is that he is an excellent physicist. But this is not enough for me to distinguish him from, say, Einstein. Yet I still may have true beliefs about Gell Mann (e.g. that he is an excellent physicist), and may refer to him in conversations, for instance by requesting more information about him. But this reference cannot be done via descriptive means, since the only descriptive information I have of Gell Mann is that he is an excellent physicist, and if this was the information used by me to refer to him, I could be referring to Einstein, and not Gell Mann, when I say that "Gell Mann is an excelent physicist". In fact, notice that I may not even have any descriptive information about a person, only non-descriptive information (say, of the perceptual kind) and still be able to refer to a person. So reference cannot be tied to descriptive information (and this even in cases in which the reference was first established by description).
    Nagase

    Thanks for you thoughtful reply, but I remain unconvinced that "it is totally irrelevant to the semantics of a name". I would say you do have descriptive information that allows you to have a more or less vague idea of who you are referring to by the appellation 'Gell Mann'. You know that Gell Mann is a man, and that he is considered an "excellent physicist" and you know that he is not called 'Einstein'. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to think of names, not merely in the usual descriptivist sense, as standing in for descriptions, but as themselves being abbreviated descriptions.

    'Gell Mann', in this particular case where we refer to a man (there may be other Gell Manns who are women or children), is an abbreviation of 'the man commonly known as Gell Mann'. Now there may be other men called Gell Mann, so we also need to add 'who is also a renowned physicist'. What if there were two men called 'Murray Gell Mann' who were both renowned physicists working in the same field? We would then need to add further descriptions to distinguish between the two.

    In the absence of visual acquaintance, I cannot see how reference to a particular individual could be determined in the absence of any description. I am also yet to hear a convincing argument as to why names themselves should not be considered to be abbreviated descriptions in the sense I indicated above.
  • Nagase
    87
    Yes, of course there are tricky cases (yours reminded me of Gettier cases), which may defeat the simple scheme I sketched. In the case of Artabanus, the friend of the historian, the confusion is compounded by the fact that Artabanus, the chief official of Xerxes, did kill Xerxes, or at least there are many who believe so. So here we have two people named "Artabanus" involved, and the ambiguity is what is causing the problem. We may even make matters more confusing, by requiring that the historian be a poor historian and not actually know that there was another Artabanus, chief official of Xerxes, who in fact murdered him---that is, the only Artabanus he knows is his friend, who did not murder anyone. I'm not entirely sure what the appropriate response would be in this case, though my first reaction would be to bite the bullet and say that, if this is your only source, you are not, in fact, referring to Artabanus-the-chief-official, but to Artabanus-the-friend-of-the-historian, and that you have a false belief about him, which may eventually be corrected by coming into contact with more reliable sources, even if you never become aware that there was a problem to begin with. But clearly this deserves more thought.

    The second case, of the joker Augustus, is easier, I think. If the first emperor was also called Augustus, then we're back to the Artabanus case. So suppose that the first emperor was not called Augustus, but, instead, Johannus (say). This would be similar to the Gödel/Schmidt case treated by Kripke, in which we discover that, in fact, the true discoverer of the incompleteness theorems (and much more) was Schmidt, whom Gödel plagiarized. Still, in that case we would not be referring to Schmidt all along when we talked about Gödel; rather, we had erroneous beliefs about Gödel. Similarly, in this case, I would say that we were referring to Augustus, wrongly believing that he was the first emperor, when in fact Johannus was the first emperor. Evidence for this comes from the fact that, if we were to eventually discover our mistake, we would say "Damn that Augustus, he tricked us into believing that he was the first emperor, when in fact he wasn't", a sentence that wouldn't make sense if "Augustus" referred to the first emperor (clearly the trickster didn't trick us into believing that the first emperor was the first emperor, even though the first emperor wasn't the first emperor!).

    This, in turn, allows me to reply to . A name is not an abbreviated description because its modal profile is different from the modal profile of any definite description. Consider Gell Mann. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that "Gell Mann" is identical with the description "The man called 'Gell Mann' who is a renowned physicist and etc.". In that case, the sentence "Gell Mann is the man called Gell Mann who is a renowned physicist and etc." is a necessary truth. But that can't be, because Gell Mann could have been called (say) Feynman and could have been a lawyer instead of a physicist, etc. So "Gell Mann" is not identical with any description.

    Alternatively, I may be wrong in all my beliefs about Gell Mann and still successfully refer to him. Suppose I actually believe that Gell Mann is a woman lawyer from Austria. Those are erroneous beliefs I have about Gell Mann, not correct beliefs I have about someone else. So I must be able to refer to Gell Mann somehow, independently of the descriptions I associate with him, since those are all, ex hypothesi, incorrect. Indeed, it is the ability to keep track of the reference here that allows me to correct my beliefs: if "Gell Mann" was an abbreviated description, then any change in the description would be a change of meaning, so that, instead of having corrected my beliefs about Gell Mann, I'd instead have replaced my beliefs about a woman lawyer (who? Gell Mann?) with my beliefs about the American physicist. But this can't be right.

    I think the source of your confusion (if it is a confusion) is that you think (1) reference is achieved either by acquaintance or by description, (2) reference by way of names is not acquaintance, (3) so it must be a description. Hidden here is the premise (4) reference by acquaintance is reference by perceptual means. But even if we accept (1), I think we should reject (4): names allow us to acquaint ourselves with things with which we don't entertain perceptual relations. Here I can do no best than quote Kaplan:

    Contrary to Russell, I think we succeed in thinking about things in the world not only through the mental residue of that which we ourselves experience, but also vicariously, through the symbolic resources that come to us through our language. (...) I may apprehend you by (more or less) direct perception. I may apprehend you by memory of (more or less) direct perception. And finally, I may apprehend you through a sign that has been created to signify you. — David Kaplan, Afterthoughts, p. 604

    How can this be? This happens because, in a sense, it's not really that I apprehend, or reach out to you through a name; rather, it's more like that you impress yourself on me through that name. Again, as Kaplan puts it:

    The notion that a referent can be carried by a name from early past to present suggests that the language itself carries meanings, and thus that we can acquire meanings through the instrument of language. This frees us from the constraints of subjectivist semantics and provides the opportunity for an instrumental use of language to broaden the horizons of thought itself. — David Kaplan, ibid., p. 603
  • Banno
    6.6k
    I don't agree the argument is successful for the reasons i already gave.Janus
    This?
    if memory serves Kripke speaks as though reference is completely independent of description. But, if the referrers along that historical chain of reference do not personally know the person they are referring to, then the only way they could have known who it is they intended to refer to is via description, or so it seems to me.Janus

    Kripke clearly shows that reference can occur in the absence of definite descriptions.

    You haven't attempted to address the problem I highlighted: that anyone who is not visually acquainted, either in person or via image or film, with the referent, will necessarily rely on description to ascertain who is being referred to.Janus

    That's just wrong, as is set out in N&N.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    And finally, I may apprehend you through a sign that has been created to signify you. — David Kaplan, Afterthoughts, p. 604

    I think you've offered an excellent response here, with much to think about, and when I have the time to think about it some more, I will perhaps become convinced that you are right. For the moment, though, the sticking point for me here is that I cannot see how I could "apprehend" the particular Gell Mann we are discussing here, if the only resource I have is the name and no personal familiarity with, or descriptive context relative to, the referent.

    I also don't see how it matters that it is logically possible (if not actually possible) that there could have been an entirely different descriptive context relative to Gell Mann; what seems to matter in terms of reference is the actual descriptive context. Bear in mind though, that I am all but totally unversed in modal logic, so there could be requirements in that discipline which my view cannot provide. Am I wrong to think that even in modal logic all counterfactual considerations in their very counterfactuality, are inextricably tied to what is actually the case in this world?
  • Banno
    6.6k
    Like houses turning into flowers. There is a way of understanding a rule that is found in the doing, not in setting out the rule explicitly. Any rule for referring will be post hoc, since we already engage in reference. And we will be able to find an exception to any explicit rule.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    Kripke clearly shows that reference can occur in the absence of definite descriptions.Banno

    An example or two would help.

    Continuing to make bare assertions is not going to help. Perhaps if you could address my objections in your own language according to your own understanding, or even quote relevant passages from Kripke if you like, perhpas I might become convinced that I have misunderstood.
  • Banno
    6.6k
    Read the book.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    I read it years ago; it was one of the texts in a course at Sydney University called 'Language, Truth and Meaning'; (I even wrote an essay about it) and nothing anyone has said in this and other threads has given me any good reason to think I would change my mind about it if I read it again. To be honest, I don't think it is at all important, and the only reason I keep responding is out of a sense of frustration that no one seems to be able to provide a convincing explanation for why they believe reference is totally independent of description.

    I would agree that description is necessary but not sufficient (except in cases of more or less direct acquaintance) for determining reference. The fact that you are convinced that Kripke is right is as nothing to me.
  • Banno
    6.6k
    SO you read it years ago, you misunderstood it, and now you are frustrated that other folk disagree with you as to that interpretation, but you will not read the book.

    For those who are not aware of it, there was a thread on Naming and Necessity in which Janus maintained this odd position despite repeated references to the book that showed his error.

    So, have fun, Janus.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    You sound like sometime who wants to defend something, but cannot find the words to defend it. If you understood the work, then you should be able to present the relevant arguments to address my concerns instead of continually wasting your time and mine resorting to telling me to read a work I have already read. This seems disingenuous to me.

    @Nagasse has been the opposite of disingenous in presenting detailed arguments and examples for me to consider. You act as though there is no room for disagreement as to whether Kripke is right, that if someone reads the text and understands it (in just the way that you do, of course!) they could not possibly disagree with you, and that attitude alone undermines any confidence I might have had in your credibility in regard to this issue. there is always room for different interpretations and consequent disagreement when it comes to any text.

    Anyway I don't really have time for this! Sucked in again! Now I will go and have some fun (actually I have to work, but that can be fun if you let it).
  • Banno
    6.6k
    For Wittgenstein it is use rather than explicit meaning that counts, and more general it is what one does that counts in determining as rule, not what is explicitly set out int he rule.

    In so far as Kripke is setting out how a reference works - the rules for referring - his account, in Wittgenstein's terms, will be inadequate.

    That is, the causal chain might be part of an answer, indeed alongside definite descriptions and other stuff. But it will not be the whole story.
  • Banno
    6.6k
    You sound like sometime who wants to defend something, but cannot find the words to defend it.Janus

    But I did, in detail, in the N&N thread. You didn't accept it. That's not my problem.
  • Janus
    8.7k
    As I remember it that is simply not true, but in any case if you can't be bothered presenting it again, that's not my problem.
  • fdrake
    2.9k


    Stahp, please. This is obviously unpleasant for both of you. (this post is not written as a mod, it's written as someone who wants to keep a good discussion on topic)
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