Scott Soames, Beyond Rigidity, The Unfinished Semantic Agenda of Naming and Necessity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, ix + 379 pp [Book Review]

Saul Kripke ’s book Naming and Necessity (which first appeared in 1972 as a paper within a volume on natural language semantics1) is felt, by many linguists and philosophers, as a milestone of the semantic analysis of natural language. Prior to it, many semanticists took for granted that the meaning of any expression must be a two-level matter, consisting of something of the kind of what Frege called Sinn and Bedeutung or what Carnap christened as intension and extension. The first of the components is what the speaker knows when she understands the expression (and the knowledge of which is independent of any knowledge of facts external to the language in question), while the second amounts to some kind of chunk of the real world which gets denoted or referred to by the expression. Thus, the intension of the king of France is what you get to know as soon as you come to understand the phrase, and the extension is what (if anything) happens to be picked out by the intension in the actual world in the actual moment. This is to say that an expression gets to into the contact with its extension only via the intension (which we can imagine also as a kind of a criterion for picking up the thing). Intension, then, is what amounts to the meaning of the expression in the intuitive sense of the word2. Now Kripke’s considerations challenged this very two-level structure of meaning: he argued that especially proper names get their semantics via a direct, inmediated contact with the world – that their meaning does not mediate their contact with a thing, but directly is the thing. This may be not so surprising in case of proper names (after all, it is even disputable whether they can be counted to the language – for you cannot find them in dictionaries), but Kripke went on to argue that the same holds also for some other expressions, especially natural kind terms such as “cow” or “water”. Kripke’s argumentation is concise and flattening; and it has been provoking a lot of discussions..
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