Reference and Description

Reference and Description: The Case against Two-Dimensionalism

Scott Soames
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7skrz
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  • Book Info
    Reference and Description
    Book Description:

    In this book, Scott Soames defends the revolution in philosophy led by Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, and David Kaplan against attack from those wishing to revive descriptivism in the philosophy of language, internalism in the philosophy of mind, and conceptualism in the foundations of modality. Soames explains how, in the last twenty-five years, this attack on the anti-descriptivist revolution has coalesced around a technical development called two-dimensional modal logic that seeks to reinterpret the Kripkean categories of the necessary aposteriori and the contingent apriori in ways that drain them of their far-reaching philosophical significance.

    Arguing against this reinterpretation, Soames shows how the descriptivist revival has been aided by puzzles and problems ushered in by the anti-descriptivist revolution, as well as by certain errors and missteps in the anti-descriptivist classics themselves.Reference and Descriptionsorts through all this, assesses and consolidates the genuine legacy of Kripke and Kaplan, and launches a thorough and devastating critique of the two-dimensionalist revival of descriptivism. Through it all, Soames attempts to provide the outlines of a lasting, nondescriptivist perspective on meaning, and a nonconceptualist understanding of modality.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2645-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. A WORD ABOUT NOTATION
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-4)

    A little over 30 years ago, a group of philosophers led by Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, David Kaplan, and Keith Donnellan ushered in a new era in philosophy by attacking a set of preconceptions about meaning that occupied center stage—not only in philosophizing about language, but also in the common practice of the discipline, and in the self-conception of many of its practitioners. Among the central presuppositions of the then reigning conception of language, and its role in philosophy, were the following:

    The meaning of an expression is never identical with its referent. Rather, the meaning of a substantive,...

  6. PART ONE THE REVOLT AGAINST DESCRIPTIVISM
    • CHAPTER 1 THE TRADITIONAL DESCRIPTIVIST PICTURE
      (pp. 7-13)

      The modern discussion of reference begins with the reaction of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell to an initially attractive but overly simple conception of meaning and reference. The conception is based on the observation that the most important feature of language is our ability to use it to represent the world. Different sentences represent the world as being different ways, and to sincerely accept, or assertively utter, a sentence is to believe, or assert, that the world is the way the sentence represents it to be. The reason sentences are representational in this way is that they are made up...

    • CHAPTER 2 ATTACK ON THE TRADITIONAL PICTURE PROPER NAMES, NON-DESCRIPTIONALITY, AND RIGID DESIGNATION
      (pp. 14-32)

      In 1970, Saul Kripke gave a series of arguments challenging traditional descriptive analyses of ordinary proper names, and suggesting an alternative picture.¹ He attacked both the view that the meanings of names are given by descriptions associated with them by speakers, and the view that their referents are determined (as a matter of linguistic rule) to be the objects that satisfy such descriptions. Assuming that meaning determines reference, Kripke takes the latter view, about reference, to follow from the former view about meaning, but not vice versa. Thus, all of his arguments against descriptive theories of the reference of proper...

  7. PART TWO DESCRIPTIVIST RESISTANCE:: THE ORIGINS OF AMBITIOUS TWO-DIMENSIONALISM
    • CHAPTER 3 REASONS FOR RESISTANCE AND THE STRATEGY FOR DESCRIPTIVIST REVIVAL
      (pp. 35-42)

      Despite the attack on descriptivism, some believe that the anti-descriptivists’ conclusions are too extreme, and that properly modified descriptive analyses should be capable of withstanding their arguments. This view is fueled by three main factors. First is the conviction that anti-descriptivists have not adequately addressed Frege’s puzzle about substitution of coreferential terms in attitude ascriptions and Russell’s problem of negative existentials. There is still a widespread belief that these problems show that names cannot be directly referential. Although Kripke never asserted that they were, it is hard to see how, if his doctrines are correct, they could be anything else....

    • CHAPTER 4 ROOTS OF TWO-DIMENSIONALISM IN KAPLAN AND KRIPKE
      (pp. 43-83)

      In chapter 3, I indicated how certain forms of two-dimensionalism—those I calledstrongandweaktwo-dimensionalism—have become associated with an ambitious attempt to revive descriptivism in a way that renders it immune from Kripke’s attacks, and provides deflationary accounts of the contingent apriori and the necessary aposteriori. In this chapter, I will trace some of the sources of this ambitious use of two-dimensionalist ideas to certain parts of the classic anti-descriptivist texts of Kaplan and Kripke. There is, of course, an irony in this, since neither Kaplan nor Kripke would endorse any version of two-dimensionalism that led to...

    • CHAPTER 5 STALNAKER’S TWO-DIMENSIONALIST MODEL OF DISCOURSE
      (pp. 84-105)

      At the end of the last chapter, I emphasized Kripke’s essentialist route to the necessary aposteriori. According to him, we know apriori that certain properties—being made out of molecules, being a table not made out of ice, not being Saul Kripke, etc.—are essential properties of anything that has them, even though our knowledge of which objects have them can only be aposteriori. Given this, plus rigid designation, Kripke was able to construct many examples of the necessary aposteriori. However, although his examples were persuasive, and his explanation commonsensical, his conclusion collided with certain influential doctrines favored by a...

    • CHAPTER 6 THE EARLY TWO-DIMENSIONALIST SEMANTICS OF DAVIES AND HUMBERSTONE
      (pp. 106-130)

      The hallmark of ambitious two-dimensionalism, as it has come to be known in recent years, is the attempt to use the two dimensions of semantic assessment in modern, post-Kaplanean semantic theories—contexts of utterance (in which sentences express propositions) vs. circumstances of evaluation (in which the propositions are evaluated)—and the two dimensions of semantic value—character vs. content—to give analyses of names and natural kind terms as rigidified descriptions, with the aim of reproducing Kripke’s characterization of examples of the necessary aposteriori and the contingent apriori, while draining those categories of any content incompatible with certain philosophical commitments...

  8. PART THREE AMBITIOUS TWO-DIMENSIONALISM
    • CHAPTER 7 STRONG AND WEAK TWO-DIMENSIONALISM
      (pp. 133-148)

      Having explored the roots of ambitious two-dimensionalism, we now turn to the task of gathering together leading two-dimensionalist ideas, extending them, and blending them into a systematic program for reviving descriptivism, and explaining, or explaining away, the contingent apriori and the necessary aposteriori. As I indicated in chapter 3, there are two natural ways of doing this—one which I dubbedstrong two-dimensionalismand the other,weak two-dimensionalism. Since strong two-dimensionalism is, I believe, the purest form of the view, we will begin with it.

      The central tenet of strong two-dimensionalism introduces and defines the distinction between primary and secondary...

    • CHAPTER 8 JACKSON’S STRONG TWO-DIMENSIONALIST PROGRAM
      (pp. 149-193)

      In this chapter and the next, I will use the strong and weak two-dimensionalist frameworks formulated in chapter 7 to shed light on the work of two leading proponents of ambitious two-dimensionalism—Frank Jackson and David Chalmers. My discussion will focus on, though not be limited to, their most systematic, well-known, and widely influential works. In this chapter, I will concentrate primarily on Jackson’s 1995 John Locke lectures, published in 1998 (in revised and expanded form) asFrom Metaphysics to Ethics. In the next, I will discuss Chalmers’sThe Conscious Mind, published in 1996.¹ Although my discussion will be critical...

    • CHAPTER 9 CHALMERS’S TWO-DIMENSIONALIST DEFENSE OF ZOMBIES
      (pp. 194-266)

      The topic of this chapter is the two-dimensionalist system of David Chalmers. As in the case of Jackson, the discussion will focus on, though not be limited to, his most systematic, widely known, and influential work,The Conscious Mind, in which he is concerned with physicalism, understood as the doctrine that all truths are necessary consequences of the explicitly physical truths. Like Jackson, Chalmers argues that if physicalism is true, then all truths must be apriori consequences of the physical truths. Unlike Jackson, he thinks that it is clear that certain truths are not apriori consequences of the physical truths,...

    • CHAPTER 10 CRITIQUE OF AMBITIOUS TWO-DIMENSIONALISM
      (pp. 267-326)

      In chapter 7, I outlined two distinctive versions of ambitious two-dimensionalism—strong and weak. In chapters 8 and 9, I examined the views of two leading proponents of ambitious two-dimensionalism. Although Jackson and Chalmers lean heavily toward the strong version of the view, they are not fully explicit and unequivocal in their support of it, and Chalmers’s recent discussion of propositional attitude ascriptions can be seen as a step toward weak two-dimensionalism. Hence, it will be important to critique both versions of the view. After these critiques are in place, I will consider certain hybrid versions, including Chalmers’s own, which...

  9. PART FOUR THE WAY FORWARD
    • CHAPTER 11 POSITIVE NONDESCRIPTIVISM
      (pp. 329-354)

      The subject under investigation, ambitious two-dimensionalism, has, in my view, been one of the most important philosophical developments in the past twenty-five years. It is the most concerted and systematic attempt among many to reinstate descriptivism in the philosophy of language, internalism in the philosophy of mind, and some version of conceptualism in our understanding of modality in the face of the challenges that rocked these positions more than thirty years ago. Having argued that ambitious two-dimensionalism has failed, I see its failure as a testament to the power of the original challenges—of Kripke, Putnam, Kaplan, and others—and...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 355-359)