• Banno
    5.3k
    Stoped. Or at least, moved to messages.
  • Nagase
    87
    As I said earlier, it seems to me that your problem is less with the direct theory of reference per se, and more with the picture that is looming in the background, . Here is how the situation seems to me: you seem to think that we reference is something we achieve by some kind of individual mental effort. If that is the case, then it is indeed mysterious how we manage to refer only by being acquainted with a name. The analogous situation would be me going alone inside a store room searching for an item called "Blorg" without any description of what Blorg is. The task then seems impossible, and hence in order to accomplish it I must have some kind of help, in this case a description that allows me to individuate Blorg and reach out to it.

    What Kripke and Kaplan are urging, though, is that reference functions in a completely different way from this scenario. We do not "achieve" reference and the referencing task is not an individual one. Rather, it is more like that reference is handed down to us through our participation in a communal practice. Again, I must quote Kaplan:

    Contrast the view of subjectivist semantics with the view that we are, for the most part, language consumers. Words come to us prepackaged with a semantic value. If we are to use those words, the words we have received, the words of our linguistic community, then we must defer to their meaning. Otherwise we play the role of language creators. In our culture, the role of language creators is largely reserved to parents, scientists and headline writers for Variety; it is by no means the typical use of language as subjectivist semanticists believe. To use language as language, to express something, requires an intentional act. But the intention that is required involve the typical consumer's attitude of compliance, not the producer's assertiveness. — David Kaplan, Afterthoughts, p. 602

    So, again, to refer to Gell Mann, it's not required that I have some discriminating knowledge that allows me to individually reach out for Gell Mann. His own name does that for me, without requiring me to actively reach out to him. Think about it: that's how I can learn a new name, and use it in conformity to the standards of my linguistic community. Suppose I have never heard the name "Gell Mann", and then someone explains to me who he was. What allows me to follow the explanation is that I know that it is an explanation about Gell Mann, not the other way around. That's why the explanation can be wrong and I still be able to refer to the physicist, Gell Mann, because the reference practice was not tied to any particular descriptive content, but to the man himself.

    And that's also why I'm able to formulate counterfactuals about Gell Mann. To understand this point does not require any exotic knowledge of modal logic. Rather, it just requires the platitude that, when I think truly that Gell Mann could have been a lawyer, I'm referring to Gell Mann himself, not some weird surrogate in some weird other dimension (unless you are a counterpart theorist à la Lewis). And what makes the counterfactual true is that Gell Mann could, in fact, have been a lawyer. But then it's not the case that "Gell Mann" is an abbreviated description. For suppose it was, and that the description was "the famous American physicist who blah blah". Clearly "The famous American physicist could not have been the famous American physicist" is false. But "Gell Mann could not have been the famous American physicist" is true (he could have been a lawyer). But if "Gell Mann" is an abbreviated description, the the two sentences are identical, and therefore cannot have different truth values!

    To be honest, though, I think this modal (and the variant epistemic) argument is useful for convincing yourself that there is something wrong with the descriptivist picture. But it's not very good in going to the root of the problem, which in my mind is the incorrect background semantical picture that I sketched above. Once you operate the gestalt shift from an individualist semantics to a communal semantics, I think the direct reference theory appears as the natural upshot of the shift, and it actually explains what is wrong with descriptivism and what is right with the direct reference theory. Or so it seems to me.
  • Janus
    7.5k
    Sound advice!
  • Michael
    7.8k
    Perhaps this example will better explain the issue I have:

    I'm your neighbour and I tell you that my friend John is coming to visit. John cancels but another friend comes to visit instead. I introduce you but only introduce him as "my friend" and not by name. Later, in his drunken stupor, my friend confesses to you that he slept with my wife. The following day you say to me "John confessed to me that he slept with your wife".

    The two questions to ask here are 1) who do you intend to refer to, and 2) who do you actually refer to?

    According to the original designator theory you (or rather Kripke) present, you intend to refer to whomever I intended to refer when I first used the name "John". But I think that's clearly false in this case. When you spoke to me about "John" you actually intended to refer to the man who confessed to you that he slept with my wife. So at least regarding the first question the answer isn't determined by the original designator's intention.

    As for who you actually referred to, perhaps the answer isn't so clear. Would the answer depend on whether or not my second friend is also named John?

    I don't know if this shows that the original designator's intention isn't the source of reference (or at least who you intend to refer to), and that the two simply happen to coincide in most cases, or if there isn't just one way that reference works, and that in the case that I describe it works a different way.
  • Nagase
    87


    I'd say that (following Kripke's "Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference"), in this case, we must separate the speaker's reference from the semantic reference. The semantic reference of a name is the reference that attaches to its historical chain of reference, or, if you prefer, the conventionally established meaning of the term. The speaker's reference is the item to which the speaker wished to refer in using the term. Of course, there is in this case a conflict: in agreement with the Kaplan quotation I supplied earlier, in using the name "John" I intend to comply with the historical chain of reference and refer to John; but, because of your bad manners in not properly introducing your friend, I also intend to refer to the drunkard. There is a huge debate here about what it is that I have actually asserted in uttering "John confessed to me that he slept with your wife": literally, I asserted the falsehood (let's stipulate that it is a falsehood) that John confessed to me that he slept with your wife, whereas it seems that what I implied, or meant to say, was that the drunkard confessed to me that he slept with your wife.

    Note that this phenomenon is not specific to names. Here's an example adapted from Donnellan ("Reference and Definite Descriptions"). I am at a party and want to show to my wife who the dean is. I see him holding a martini glass and say to my wife "The man drinking martini is the dean". Unbeknownst to me, he is not drinking martini, but water. We can even imagine that there is another man at the party, drinking martini, but who is not the dean. So what I literally said is strictly speaking false, even though what I meant to say or what I implied is true (that that man is the dean). Examples involving other more bizarre scenarios and other lexical items abound.

    Now, there are two ways of approaching this. One is to keep firmly to the divide between what is literally said and what is conveyed by a given utterance. The first is the realm of semantics, the latter of pragmatics (I lean towards this approach). The other way is to maintain that a sentence, in an of itself, does not say anything, but needs some sort of pragmatic enrichment in order to represent a proposition. In this approach, the difference between semantic and pragmatics is blurred, since pragmatic factors may affect what is literally said. To illustrate, consider your case. The first approach would say that you actually, literally, referred to John, and hence literally said a falsehood. The second approach would say that you actually referred to the drunkard, and hence said something true. Similarly in the case of the man drinking martini.

    In any case, notice that, either way, this does not affect the general picture of the direct reference theory, though it may affect the details. The first approach attaches more importance in determining what is said to conventional factors, whereas the second approach attaches more importance to whatever it is the speaker has in mind. But both are compatible with the speaker using the name to refer directly to whatever it is she refers to.
  • Janus
    7.5k
    Here is how the situation seems to me: you seem to think that we reference is something we achieve by some kind of individual mental effort.Nagase

    I wasn't thinking merely in terms of "individual mental effort" but in terms of the communal conditions or practical context in which reference occurs.

    To be honest, though, I think this modal (and the variant epistemic) argument is useful for convincing yourself that there is something wrong with the descriptivist picture. But it's not very good in going to the root of the problem, which in my mind is the incorrect background semantical picture that I sketched above. Once you operate the gestalt shift from an individualist semantics to a communal semantics, I think the direct reference theory appears as the natural upshot of the shift, and it actually explains what is wrong with descriptivism and what is right with the direct reference theory. Or so it seems to me.Nagase

    I agree that the classical descriptivist picture, per Russell, is inadequate, but I also think that Kripke's designationist picture is inadequate. I'm not too sure which is the more inadequate.I think Kripke does show that description alone, definite and/or otherwise, is not sufficient to give an adequate account of reference, but I do not think he has shown that it is not necessary.

    Granting that what is important to understand referential practices is the communal nexus of conventional practice, I want to ask whether you think that nexus consists exhaustively in designation, rigid or otherwise, and does not consist in a vast network of stories we tell each other, which themselves consist in both designation and description. I also want to ask whether you think rigid designation can somehow be sublimed out of that wholistic context and made to serve as an adequate concept for the generation of a comprehensive phenomenological, or even merely semantic, account of reference.
  • Luke
    485
    I am not very well versed in Naming and Necessity, rigid designators, or modal logic, so I welcome any corrections. As I understand it, just as the natural kind 'water' is identified with its constitutive properties 'H2O' in all possible worlds, so too a proper name (of a particular person) is identified with that particular person in all possible worlds. Since descriptions of that person are not necessary in all possible worlds, then proper names are not synonymous with descriptions of that person.

    But what exactly is meant by "that particular person"? Which attributes of a person are necessary and which are not? For example, can I be black, or a woman, or Jewish, or missing limbs, etc. in other possible worlds? Or do I need to be exactly the same person that I am (now?) in the actual world? What does "exactly the same" mean here? Does being male in this world count as a description or as a "constitutive property" of me (i.e. of "that particular person")? Where is the distinction drawn between a description and a constitutive property?

    I don't really see the point of the quasi-scientific finding that proper names are rigid designators or its associated language-game(s). Wittgenstein's view in the Philosophical Investigations seems very far removed from Kripke's:

    Naming is not yet a move in a language-game — any more than putting a piece in its place on the board is a move in chess. One may say: with the mere naming of a thing, nothing has yet been done. Nor has it a name except in a game. — PI 49
  • Banno
    5.3k
    But what exactly is meant by "that particular person"? Which attributes of a person are necessary and which are not? For example, can I be black, or a woman, or Jewish, or missing limbs, etc. in other possible worlds? Or do I need to be exactly the same person that I am (now?) in the actual world? What does "exactly the same" mean here? Does being male in this world count as a description or as a "constitutive property" of me (i.e. of "that particular person")? Where is the distinction drawn between a description and a constitutive property?Luke

    "That particular person" is Luke. No particular, and no set of, attributes determine that the person is Luke.

    The identification ins in the specification of the possible world. Consider a possible world in which Luke is female. Consider a possible world in which Luke is Jewish. What guarantees that we are talking about Luke? The very specification that swts up the possible world.
  • Luke
    485
    "That particular person" is Luke. No particular, and no set of, attributes determine that the person is Luke.Banno

    But surely there are a set of attributes (or descriptions?) that determine me as a person? Height, weight, hair colour, eye colour, age, etc. That is, there is a person that goes with the name, just as there is H2O that goes with the word "water". Are we supposed to ignore the (actual world) facts about a particular person for Kripke's purposes?

    The identification ins in the specification of the possible world. Consider a possible world in which Luke is female. Consider a possible world in which Luke is Jewish. What guarantees that we are talking about Luke? The very specification that swts up the possible world.Banno

    But there are a set of facts about Luke in the actual world, and then counterfactuals about Luke in (other) possible worlds, I thought?
  • Janus
    7.5k
    I would say you intend to refer to that man you incorrectly thought was named 'John', and you also actually refer to the same man.
  • Banno
    5.3k
    But surely there are a set of attributes (or descriptions?) that determine me as a person? Height, weight, hair colour, eye colour, age, etc.Luke

    Perhaps. Do these determine your name?

    But there are a set of facts about Luke in the actual world, and then counterfactuals about Luke in (other) possible worlds, I thought?Luke

    Kripke covers such cases, presenting examples of folk for whom we have a proper name and yet no other information; and yet in such cases, the name still refers.
  • sime
    340
    As i see it, the notions of linguistic reference, causation and rigid-designation are part of an irreducible triad, in that each of these concepts cannot be understood without understanding the other two concepts. Therefore, whilst the concepts of linguistic reference, causation and rigid designation have practical validity in real-world application, they cannot be meaningfully used by philosophers to explicate one another, nor can they be used to justify epistemological foundations, due to vicious circularity.
  • Banno
    5.3k
    As i see it, the notions of linguistic reference, causation and rigid-designation are part of an irreducible triad, in that each of these concepts cannot be understood without understanding the other two concepts.sime

    An interesting argument.

    It seems to me that this same argument might be used against learning any new terms.

    ANd yet we do learn to use language.
  • Nagase
    87
    I'm glad we have come to at least a partial agreement, . Since you have granted that descriptions are not sufficient for an account of the semantics of proper names, you have also granted that names are not abbreviated descriptions. So we made some progress! Now, I don't think descriptions are necessary, either. Suppose I am perceptually aware of a person, and I decide on a whim to call that person "Jay". Notice that there's no description involved in the act of fixing the reference for "Jay", only a perceptual acquaintance. Perhaps I daydream about Jay a lot (out loud), and, later, people may pick up the name from me, and also wonder many things about Jay. But there was never any description attached to the name, only a perceptual link (in my case). Of course, a description could at any time be attached to the name, but, in this scenario, it has not been so attached; Kripke's idea is not that the historical chain of reference precludes descriptions (it obviously does not), only that they are not necessary.

    So how does this feed into the idea of communal practices? You ask me if the communal practices do not consist in a network of stories we tell ourselves. I'd say no, it does not consist merely in this. Of course, these stories are part of the practice, but they do not exhaust it. One other practice is the practice of tracking down objects throughout time (and other possible worlds), and the linguistic counterpart to this is our use of names. In other words, describing, or narrating stories, is only part of our linguistic practice; referring is another.

    Now, this may sound like a triviality: we use names to (rigidly) refer to objects. So what? That is the gist of what I take to be 's remarks. I think this is a bit unfair, at least in historical terms: before Kripke (and Føllesdal, among others), the semantics of proper names was really muddied. This confusion was partially responsible for Quine's attacks on modal logic, and after we understood clearly how names worked, this allowed us to also get clear on the semantics of modal logic, which in turn allowed us to ask more precise metaphysical questions, etc. But this may all be part of the "quasi-scientific" endeavor which Luke is (apparently) disparaging. How does this connect to our linguistic practice? Wasn't all this already answered in the later Wittgenstein's work, anyway?

    Personally, I'm unimpressed with Wittgenstein, here. Sure, he has many interesting remarks on language, but we don't want merely remarks, we want a full-fledged theory. And, for obvious reasons, one will never get a full-fledged theory out of Wittgenstein. Kripke, on the other hand, opened the doors for the phenomenon of direct reference, thus allowing for full-fledged treatment of other directly referential expressions, such as demonstratives and indexicals (see Kaplan's work). He also managed to sharply, and correctly, separate semantic issues from pragmatic issues (granted, this was done more in "Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference"), as well as semantic issues from epistemic issues, giving a plausible account of how this separation worked. This relieved semantics from the burden of giving intellectualist accounts of meanings (in Frege's vein, for example, to which Frege's Puzzle is central), which in turn allowed it to concentrate on what is relevant, namely truth-conditions. Or so I would say.

    Note that has nothing to do with essential attributes or whatever. As is well-known, Kripke also defends in Naming and Necessity a (controversial) theory of essential properties. But this builds upon the semantic theory, so the semantic theory is independent of it. That is, it's not necessary (and not sufficient, either, for the matter) for the semantic theory to work that objects have essential attributes (well, aside from trivial ones such as "being self-identical" or "being such that either it is P or it is not P"). To see this, note that there are modal systems (Fine's S5H) which adopt Kripke's treatment of proper names as rigid designators, but in which there are no essential attributes aside from the trivial ones. This is important, since an early (Quinean) confusion about modal logic was that it was committed to some form of "invidious Aristotelian essentialism", which is definitely not the case.

    Finally, one last observation. Unlike what seems to be claimed by , the notion of reference developed by Kripke (and others, such as Føllesdal) does not involve causality, as I said in my first post on this thread. I'm pretty sure that Kripke would deny that causality must be involved, since he countenances reference to abstract objects, which by definition exert no causal powers (and in fact, I remember reading somewhere---perhaps in a footnote to Kaplan's "Demonstratives" or "Afterthoughts"---that, when asked, Kripke explicitly denied that his was a causal theory of reference). According to Føllesdal, the first to propose a causal theory of reference was Gareth Evans, in his "The Causal Theory of Names". Unfortunately, Evans (modestly) presented his theory as an extension of Kripke's, and so many people mistook his theory for Kripke's. But that is a mistake. There need be no causality involved in Kripke's account.
  • frank
    2.7k
    Do you think the idea of a rigid designator can be adapted for use with general terms?
  • Nagase
    87
    That depends on what you mean by "rigid designator", . If by "rigid designator" you mean a term whose extension is the same in all possible worlds, then I don't think there is any natural way of extending this idea to general terms (contra some remarks by Kripke). On the other hand, if you think that rigidity is a symptom of the directly referential character of such terms (the fact that they are non-descriptive, etc.), then I'd argue that many general terms (natural kind terms, mathematical terms) are directly referential, and so "rigid" in an extended sense.
  • Richard B
    32
    In each scenario, the same object walks into the room.

    1. An object walks in a room and I name this object “Gell Mann.” “Gell Mann” could not have been the famous American physicist. When I think truly that “Gell Mann” could have been a lawyer, I am referring to Gell Mann, the object I named “Gell Mann”.

    2. An object walks in a room. Tattooed on the object is the letters “Gell Mann”. The object with the tattooed letters “Gell Mann” could not have been the famous American physicist.” When I think truly that object with the tattooed letter “Gell Mann” could have been a lawyer, I am referring to the object with the tattooed letters “Gell Mann”.

    3. An object walks in a room. I observed this object and come up with a complete description of this object based on what I can observe. The object I completely described could not have been the famous American physicist.” When I think truly that this object I completely described could have been a lawyer, I am referring to that object I had completely described.

    Analysis:

    Does it matter whether we call this naming or describing, the function it serves is the same, to communicate to avoid misunderstanding. For example, in scenario #3, if someone ask me who could not have been the famous American physicist, I reply with the complete description of the object. This keeps re-occurring with different people, I decide I need to provide an abbreviated description, and call it “Gell Mann” Is this a description or a name, does it matter as long as I avoid misunderstanding?
  • Janus
    7.5k
    It does seem we have achieved some agreement. It seems we agree that description is not sufficient to determine reference (unless we count the proper name itself as a special kind of description) and I can see that, as I have already acknowledged, description is not always necessary to determine reference (in case of perceptual acquaintance). I am still not seeing how, for example, absent any description, I could know who I refer to when I speak about Plato. There might be many Platos, so which one would I be referring to if I didn't have any familiar story (description) in mind?

    According to my understanding of classical descriptivism, names are considered to stand in for descriptions. When I said above that names might be counted as a special kind of description I meant something different to that. I meant that a name, whether it be 'John' or 'tree' could be an abbreviation for a description which would go something like 'an entity called 'John'' or 'an entity called 'tree''.

    If I am naming something for the first time in the presence of the entity being named and other people, I could point to the entity and say merely "John" or "tree". Or I could be more definite and say "here is the entity we will call 'John'", or here is the kind of entity we will call 'tree'".

    Anyway to get to the main point, I am still not seeing how the historical evolution of the "chain of reference" could, once it goes beyond perceptual acquaintance, continue to function without the benefit of descriptions.
  • Luke
    485
    Perhaps. Do these determine your name?Banno

    Perhaps not, but the name refers to me as a person.

    Having just finished a rushed reading of the text, I'd like to note a couple of things. Again, I welcome any corrections, and apologies in advance for the naivety of my questions.

    Firstly, it seems that while my name refers to me as a person in all possible worlds, what counts as "me as a person" can really be anything at all. All known facts about me could be false, all descriptions of me could possibly be otherwise, yet my name would still refer...to me?

    Secondly, as I understand it, a proper name refers to the same person in all possible words. But what does its being necessary mean? Especially since true descriptions of 'me as a person' appear to be unnecessary to the reference.
  • Richard B
    32
    Would Kripke say a proper name refers to the same person in all possible worlds or a proper name is stipulated in all possible worlds? I think the latter.
  • Janus
    7.5k
    Secondly, as I understand it, a proper name refers to the same person in all possible words. But what does its being necessary mean?Luke

    Would Kripke say a proper name refers to the same person in all possible worlds or a proper name is stipulated in all possible worlds? I think the latterRichard B

    I'd agree that in possible world semantics names are merely stipulated to refer to the same person. The metaphysical question as to what is essential to identity does not seem to arise. This reminds me of Leibniz' "Identity of Indiscernibles'; if an entity who shares all my properties cannot but be me, can an entity who does not share all my properties meaningfully be thought to be identical to me?

    To answer the question @Luke asked about what it means for the reference of names in all possible worlds being necessary; it seems that it means it is necessarily stipulated in order to coherently and consistently do the kind of counterfactual thinking involved in possible world semantics. Whether that fact tells us anything significant about our actual practices I cannot say.
  • Richard B
    32
    Yep, a metaphysics need not have any relevancy to the world we experience, or it can make us see the world in only one way
  • Luke
    485
    Would Kripke say a proper name refers to the same person in all possible worlds or a proper name is stipulated in all possible worlds? I think the latter.Richard B

    I'd agree that in possible world semantics names are merely stipulated to refer to the same person.Janus

    So it just boils down to how the linguistic community uses the name? Pretty much just Wittgenstein's view then? Therefore, Kripke's criticism of Wittgenstein's so-called cluster theory, and Kripke's own causal theory, are mostly irrelevant when it comes to proper names?

    I'm not so concerned with the metaphysical question, but don't proper names differ from natural kinds given that proper names lack essential properties, whereas e.g. water = H2O? But perhaps natural kinds also just boil down to community usage ultimately?
  • frank
    2.7k
    "Water is H20" isn't about properties. It's an identity statement. And per Kripke, the things identified by proper names do have essential properties.
  • Luke
    485
    And per Kripke, the things identified by proper names do have essential properties.frank

    Thanks Frank. I seem to recall that being a person (or a human) is one (is that right?). Were there any others?
  • frank
    2.7k
    seem to recall that being a person (or a human) is one (is that right?). Were there any others?Luke

    If it's a proper name for a human, yes. Kripke wanted essential properties to be related to origin, so I guess he would say it doesn't make sense to wonder if Mt Everest could be a naturally occurring part of the moon, which sort of makes sense. There could be a mountain on the moon that's exactly like Mt Everest, but it wouldn't be Mt Everest. I think it's all debatable though.
  • Luke
    485
    If it's a proper name for a human, yes.frank

    Were there any other necessary true descriptions for humans, besides being human?
  • frank
    2.7k
    Were there any other necessary true descriptions for humans, besides being human?Luke

    You mean essential properties? I'm not sure. Maybe Nagase could explain it.
  • Wallows
    8.2k
    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.Nagase

    Yeah, you can see the issue of doing that if you apply the LEM hard enough? Either that or an ad infinitum kinda arises...

    Edit: To phrase this another way. Does the description become the referent for abstract "objects"?
  • Richard B
    32
    “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.”

    What is being transmitted historically? Not the thing referenced obviously. Not the name itself, that is obviously base on historical record? A concept? That sounds like how the name is associated with descriptive content. Some essence stipulated in every possible world? Sounds like a concept/idea.

    If I say this name in the initial dubbing while recording it. Then play the recording for infinity. Is the reference being historically transmitted every time the record sounds the name? Sounds are being preserved over time for sure.

    This is all very odd. Maybe nothing at all is being historically transmitted. Just another abuse of language by a philosopher.
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