General terms as rigid designators [Book Review]
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Philosophical Studies 128 (3):655 - 667 (2006)
According to Scott Soames’ Beyond Rigidity, there are two important pieces of unfinished business left over from Saul Kripke’s influential Naming and Necessity. Soames reads Kripke’s arguments about names as primarily negative, that is, as proving that names don’t have a meaning expressible by definite descriptions or clusters of them. The famous Kripkean doctrine that names are rigid designators is really only part of the negative case. The thesis that names refer to the same object with respect to every possible world is a byproduct of their meaning, not a positive account of what they mean. As well, the hints about causal chains and dubbings are no more than a picture, as Kripke says, and not a positive theory of meaning. Thus one piece of unfinished business, to which Soames devotes the most attention, is to give a positive account of the meanings of names. To do this Soames proposes that the meaning of a singular term is the contribution it makes to the semantic content of the sentences in which it occurs. The semantic content of a sentence is ordinarily a proposition, that proposition expressed by the most commonly intended assertion using the sentence. Soames’ proposal for a positive account is that the meaning of a proper name is its contribution to those propositions, simply the object to which it refers. Arguing for this positive account occupies the bulk of the book but I will not discuss it in my contribution to this symposium
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