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Einführung in die Theoretische Philosophie: Sprachphilosophie

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  1. Einführung in die Theoretische Philosophie: Sprachphilosophie Nathan Wildman nathan.wildman@uni-hamburg.de

  2. Kripke’sNaming & Necessity Or, an excursus into one of the most influential philosophical texts of the previous century, rejecting descriptivism, and a causal ‘story’ of names,

  3. Where are we? • The Naïve Theory, as we discussed it, was unable to solve any puzzles. • Frege has a nice system which easily accounts for the first three puzzles. However, he has trouble with (5). Plus, his view forces us into postulating senses. • Russell’s system looks grand and has no problem with the puzzles, but he seems to stumble when it comes to referential uses of definite descriptions.

  4. Where are we? There is a kind of unifying thesis, underlying both Frege & Russell’s views on singular terms: A singular term links up with its referent or has the semantic value it does in virtue ofdescribing it’s referent • Frege: the mode of presentation captured in the sense determines the referent • Russell: the ‘singular term’ just is a description, and the referent is the thing that fits the description

  5. Where are we? We might say that both ascribed to The Description Theory of Names (a.k.a. descriptivism), which says that each name N has the semantic value of some description (be it a logical one, as for Russell, or a mode of presentation, as for Frege). It really is a nice theory. The only defect I think it has is probably common to all philosophical theories. It’s wrong. You may suspect me of proposing another theory in its place; but I hope not, because I’m sure it’s wrong too, if it’s a theory. [KripkeN&N p. 64.]

  6. The Plan • 3 + 1 (Kripkean) Distinctions • Descriptivism Detailed • Descriptivism Destroyed • Modal objection • Semantic Objection • Knowledge Objection • Kripke’s Positive Account

  7. 3 + 1 Distinctions A priori versus A posteriori Epistemic, not metaphysicalorsemantic • a priori: a statement is a priori iff it can be known independently of any experience • A stronger notion Kripke rejects: a priori = can only be known independently of experience • a posteriori: a statement is a posteriori iff it is not a priori, i.e. if it must be known via experience

  8. 3 + 1 Distinctions Necessary versus Contingent Metaphysical, not epistemic or semantic • Necessary: a statement is necessary iff it couldn’t have been false • Often discussed as truth in all possible worlds • Contingent: a statement is contingent iff it could have been false

  9. 3 + 1 Distinctions Analytic versus Synthetic Semantic, not epistemicor metaphysical • Analytic: a statement is analyticiff it’s true in virtue of its meaning • Synthetic: a statement is syntheticiff it’s not analytic

  10. 3 + 1 Distinctions Kant distinguished analyticity from a priority and said that certain judgments were a priori but not analytic: • Every event has a cause • Nothing can be red all over and green all over • All triangles contain 180°

  11. 3 + 1 Distinctions Kripke distinguishes necessity from a priority and says that certain statements are a priori but contingent, others necessary but a posteriori:

  12. 3 + 1 Distinctions Meaning-givingvs. Reference-fixing Fixing the reference of a term is not always the same as giving its meaning! If ‘the D’ gives the meaning of ‘a’, then ‘the D’ (maybe together with context) also fixes the reference of ‘a’, but ‘the D’ can fix the reference of ‘a’ without giving its meaning E.g. reference of ‘one meter’ was originally fixed as the length of a certain stick (‘the length of Stick S at time t0’), but the meaning of ‘one meter’ is not the same as ‘the length of Stick S at time t0’

  13. 3 + 1 Distinctions • Stick S is one meter long at t0 • Stick S could have been slightly longer than one meter at t0 • If the meaning of ‘one meter’ is ‘the length of Stick S at t0’, then Iis analytic & necessary, and II is false • If the reference of ‘one meter’ is fixed as ‘the length of Stick S at t0’ but the latter does not give the meaning, then I is not analytic, and IIis true

  14. 3 + 1 Distinctions Three dimensions upon which statements can vary: • Semantic – Analytic vs. Synthetic • Epistemic– A priori vs. A posteriori • Metaphysical – Necessary vs. Contingent Two roles descriptions can play: • Fixing reference of singular terms • Giving meaning of singular terms

  15. The Plan • 3 + 1 (Kripkean) Distinctions • Descriptivism Detailed • Descriptivism Destroyed • Modal objection • Semantic Objection • Knowledge Objection • Kripke’s Positive Account

  16. Descriptivism Detailed Basic idea DES: the semantic content of a proper name n is the connotation provided by a description d associated with n • ‘Aristotle’ = ‘The teacher of Alexander the Great’ • ‘Bucephalus’ = ‘The favorite horse of Alexander’ • ‘Keanu’ = ‘The sad guy on the park bench’

  17. Descriptivism Detailed ‘Keanu’ means ‘The sad guy on the park bench’ Problem: Suppose that Keanu wasn’t sad & didn’t sit on the bench. Wouldn’t ‘Keanu’ still refer to Keanu? Related: Is it analytic that Keanu sat on the bench looking sad? Further: Is it a priori that Keanu sat on the bench looking sad?

  18. Descriptivism Detailed DES: the semantic content of a proper name n is the connotation provided by a description d that is associated with n DESSD: The semantic content of a proper name n is the connotation provided by a single description ‘the F’ that is associated with n (Frege, Russell) DESCD: The semantic content of a proper name n is the connotation provided by a cluster of descriptions ‘the F, the G, and the H’ that is associated with n (Searle)

  19. Descriptivism Detailed AgainstDESSD: If we associate a singular description ‘the F’ with a name n, then the statement ‘n is the F’ is a necessary truth that is a priori knowable. But ‘n is the F’ isn’t always a necessary truth that is a priori knowable! • Bucephalus & his being Alexander’s favorite horse! • Aristotle & his being Alexander’s teacher! Therefore, DESSDis false – there isn’t always a single description associated with a name

  20. Descriptivism Detailed Descriptivist theory of proper names : • Every name ‘n’is associated with a cluster of properties that x believes are true of n (DESCD) • Speaker x believes that these properties pick out a unique individual (otherwise, n wouldn’t be a proper name!) • If y has most of these properties, then y is the referent of ‘n’ (from DESCD) • If nothing has most of these properties, ‘n’ doesn’t refer (think of Russell on definite descriptions)

  21. Descriptivism Detailed • The sentence ‘n has most of these properties’ is known a priori by x • ‘n’ has the same semantic content as ‘The thing that has most of these properties’ • Therefore, ‘n has most of these properties’ means the same as ‘the thing that has most of these properties has most of these properties’ • The statement ‘the thing that has most of these properties has most of these properties’ is a priori! • Therefore, (5)!

  22. Descriptivism Detailed • The sentence ‘n has most of these properties’ as uttered by x expresses a necessary truth • ‘n’ has the same semantic content as ‘The thing that has most of these properties’ • Therefore, ‘n has most of these properties’ means the same as ‘the thing that has most of these properties has most of these properties’ • The statement ‘the thing that has most of these properties has most of these properties’ is necessary! • Therefore, (6)!

  23. Descriptivism Detailed (C) These properties must be chosen in such a way that there is no circularity (i.e. no use of the notion of reference) CIR: For any theory of proper names T, if T tells us that a name n is associated with a description d that expresses a cluster of properties φ, either: (i) φ must not include the property being called n, (ii) φ does include the property being called n but it is possible to eliminate being called n from φ, or (iii) T is circular

  24. Descriptivism Detailed If φ includes the property is called the name ‘n’, then that theory would amount to telling us that a person P has the property is called the name ‘n’ just in case S is the referent of n Aristotle is called ‘Aristotle’ iffhe’s called ‘Aristotle’ If one was determining the referent of a name like ‘Glunk’ to himself and made the following decision, ‘I shall use the term ‘Glunk’ to refer to the man that I call ‘Glunk’,’, this would get one nowhere. One had better have some independent determination of the referent of ‘Glunk’. [Kripke, N&N, p. 295]

  25. Descriptivism Detailed So, (1) – (6) are commitments of Descriptivism, (C) is a requirement any Descriptivist account must satisfy Note: we could re-write (1) – (6) using a non-cluster Descriptivism; i.e. in terms of DESSD Now that we’ve built up Descriptivism, Kripke is going to tear it down…

  26. The Plan • 3 + 1 (Kripkean) Distinctions • Descriptivism Detailed • Descriptivism Destroyed • Modal objection • Semantic Objection • Knowledge Objection • Kripke’s Positive Account

  27. Modal Objection to (6) Suppose Joe associates ‘Aristotle’ with the description ‘the teacher of Alexander the Great’. Joe says: A Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. Given (6), A expresses a necessary truth. But A isn’t a necessary truth – Aristotle could have never gone into pedagogy (note: this was the objection to DESSD!)

  28. Modal Objection to (6) More generally: ‘it is a contingent fact that Aristotle ever did any of the things commonly attributed to him today, any of these great achievements that we so much admire’ [KripkeN&N, p. 296] • Given (6), Aristotle necessarily satisfies our description • Possibly, Aristotle died in infancy • If so, it would follow that he didn’t do the things built into his description (e.g. being the founder of formal logic; the greatest student of Plato; the teacher of Alexander; …) • Therefore, Aristotle only contingently satisfies our description • Therefore, (6) is false!

  29. Modal Objection to (6) • If a description d gives the semantic content of a proper name n, then the proposition expressed by the sentence ‘if n exists, then n is d’ is necessary • There are counterfactual situations where n exists but fails to be d • Therefore, ‘if n exists, then n is d’ is contingent • Therefore, description d fails to give the semantic content of proper name n

  30. Against the Modal Objection? Serena Williams • Youngest sibling • Tennis player • Won 4 Olympic Gold Medals • Born in Michigan There’s a possible world were she’s not the youngest, doesn’t play tennis, won no medals, and wasn’t born in Michigan. For example:

  31. Against the Modal Objection? World W1: • Middle Child • Actress • No Olympic appearances • Born in Indiana But it’s still Serena!

  32. Against the Modal Objection? World W2: • Actor • No Olympic Appearances • Born in Canada • Male! But still Serena!

  33. Against the Modal Objection? World W3: • Not a child at all • Toaster! • No Olympic Medals • Not born, manufactured But still Serena!

  34. Against the Modal Objection? Potential Objection: How do we talk about ‘Serena’ in another possible world? Given descriptivism, wouldn’t I have to first provide a qualitative description of the world, then find out which (if any) of the things there is ‘Serena’? Kripke’s Reply: Step 1: Proper names (like ‘Serena’) are rigid designators; (most) descriptions are non-rigid An expression e is a rigid designator iffe refers to the same object in all possible worlds

  35. Against the Modal Objection? Aside on a potential confusion: To say that ‘Serena’ is a rigid designator is not to say that Serena couldn’t have had a different name. Serena could have been named ‘Monica’, and when used by the inhabitants of the possible world where that’s so, the name ‘Serena’ doesn’t refer to Serena. Kripke’s Idea: when we use the name ‘Serena’, werefer to the same individual in any possible world where that individual exists

  36. Against the Modal Objection? Aside on a potential confusion: Take world (w4) where the guy we call Nixon is named ‘Humphrey’ & the guy we call Humphrey is named ‘Nixon’, but where the winner & loser of the 1970 US Presidential election is the same. The following are true aboutw4: • Nixon won the 1970 election – Our idiolect • Humphrey lost the 1970 election – Our idiolect • The winner of the 1970 election was named ‘Humphrey’ – Their idiolect • The loser of the 1970 election was named ‘Nixon’ – Their idiolect

  37. Against the Modal Objection? Step 2: Possible Worlds aren’t discovered! ...it seems to me not to be the right way of thinking about the possible worlds. A possible world isn't a distant country that we are coming across, or viewing through a telescope. Generally speaking, another possible world is too far away. ...A possible world is given by the descriptive conditions we associate with it... ‘Possible worlds’ are stipulated, not discovered by powerful telescopes. There is no reason why we cannot stipulate that, in talking about what would have happened to Nixon in a certain counterfactual situation, we are talking about what would have happened to him(N&N p. 43-4)

  38. Against the Modal Objection? Second Potential Objection: Worlds like W3 above are too weird – it genuinely isn’t possible for Serena to have been a toaster! There are no worlds where Serena fails to be human. Kripke’s Reply: You must specify a description that uniquely picks out Serena; being human isn’t going to cut it. Specify the particular properties – I’ll bet they aren’t unique! • There might be necessary, but no sufficient qualitative limits on how things might have been

  39. The Plan • 3 + 1 (Kripkean) Distinctions • Descriptivism Detailed • Descriptivism Destroyed • Modal objection • Semantic Objection • Knowledge Objection • Kripke’s Positive Account

  40. Semantic Objection to (3) (3) If y has most of these properties, then y is the referent of ‘n’ (from DESCD) ‘Kurt Gödel’ ‘The man who proved the incompleteness of arithmetic’

  41. Semantic Objection to (3) Suppose, unbeknownst to us all, the incompleteness of arithmetic was actually proven by Schmidt, a friend of Gödel’s, who’s body was found in Vienna under mysterious circumstances…

  42. Semantic Objection to (3) Since the man who discovered the incompleteness of arithmetic is in fact Schmidt, when we talk about ‘Gödel’, we’re in fact always referring to Schmidt! ‘The man who proved the ‘Kurt Gödel’ incompleteness of arithmetic’

  43. Semantic Objection to (3) But it seems to me that we are not. [N&N, p. 298] Gödel Schmidt

  44. Semantic Objection to (3) • From (3), if a description d gives the semantic content of a proper name n, then the thing that satisfies most of the d must be the referent of n • There are situations where an object a satisfies most of d, but is not the referent of n; instead, object b is the referent of n • Therefore, what satisfies most of d might not be the referent of n • Therefore, (3) is false

  45. The Plan • 3 + 1 (Kripkean) Distinctions • Descriptivism Detailed • Descriptivism Destroyed • Modal objection • Semantic Objection • Knowledge Objection • Kripke’s Positive Account

  46. Knowledge Objection to (2), (4), & (5) (5) The sentence ‘n has most of these properties’ is known a priori by x • If anyone is Gödel, he (uniquely) discovered the incompleteness of arithmetic • If anyone (uniquely) discovered the incompleteness of arithmetic, Gödel did Both should be truths any competent user of ‘Gödel’ should be in a position to know a priori

  47. Knowledge Objection to (5), (4), & (2) But even if we are competent users of the name, we’re not in a position to know the following a priori: • If anyone is Gödel, he (uniquely) discovered the incompleteness of arithmetic • If anyone (uniquely) discovered the incompleteness of arithmetic, Gödel did Suppose (again) that the discovery of the arithmetical incompleteness is due to Schmidt, whom Gödel murdered and stole the proof from! This (plausible) situation flatly contradicts (5)

  48. Knowledge Objection to (2), (4), & (5) (4) If nothing has most of these properties, ‘n’ doesn’t refer It doesn’t seem to be the case – Gödel could still exist (and ‘Gödel’ still refer), even if nobody proved the incompleteness of arithmetic! It seems possible that the referent of ‘n’ exists despite the fact that there is nothing that has most of the properties built into the description

  49. Knowledge Objection to (2), (4), & (5) (2) Speakerx believes that these properties pick out a unique individual How much do we know about Richard Feynman? F ‘Feynman’ means ‘The famous physicist’ Fails to distinguish Feynman uniquely from Einstein, Gell-Mann, Hawking, etc. • The description ‘the physicist named ‘Feynman’’ would pick him out uniquely, but it violates (C)!

  50. Knowledge Objection to (2), (4), & (5) Carly Rae Jepsen The singer of ‘Call Me Maybe’