It is often thought that some general terms or kind terms, in particular natural kind terms, are rigid designators, and that a properly extended notion of singular-term rigidity can help explain the behaviour of such general terms. In this article, I argue that the only legitimate notion of general-term rigidity is a trivial one and identify some crucial asymmetries between a posteriori necessary truths involving names and a posteriori necessary truths involving general terms. If we pay attention to these asymmetries, (...) it becomes clear that attempts to draw a non-trivial rigid/non-rigid distinction for general terms are bound to fail to offer the explanations we expected. As opposed to singular terms, what is interesting about the behaviour of natural kind terms, even in modal contexts, cannot be accounted for by modal distinctions like rigidity/non-rigidity but must rather track non-modal features. (shrink)
I argue that common nouns should be analyzed as variables, rather than as predicates which take variables as arguments. This necessitates several unusual features to the analysis, such as allowing variables to be modally non-rigid, and assigning their values compositionally. However, treating common nouns as variables offers a variety of theoretical and empirical advantages over a more traditional analysis: It predicts the conservativity of nominal quantification, simplifies the analysis of articleless languages, derives the weak reading of sentences with donkey anaphora, (...) solves the proportion problem presented by quantifiers like ‘most’, improves the analysis of the temperature paradox, allows a more unified analysis of bare plurals, and regularizes the correspondence between syntactic categories and semantic types. (shrink)
How is it that words come to stand for the things they stand for? Is the thing that a word stands for - its reference - fully identified or described by conventions known to the users of the word? Or is there a more roundabout relation between the reference of a word and the conventions that determine or fix it? Do words like 'water', 'three', and 'red' refer to appropriate things, just as the word 'Aristotle' refers to Aristotle? If so, (...) which things are these, and how do they come to be referred to by those words? -/- In Roads to Reference, Mario Gómez-Torrente provides novel answers to these and other questions that have been of traditional interest in the theory of reference. The book introduces a number of cases of apparent indeterminacy of reference for proper names, demonstratives, and natural kind terms, which suggest that reference-fixing conventions for them adopt the form of lists of merely sufficient conditions for reference and reference failure. He then provides arguments for a new anti-descriptivist picture of those kinds of words, according to which the reference-fixing conventions for them do not describe their reference. This book also defends realist and objectivist accounts of the reference of ordinary natural kind nouns, numerals, and adjectives for sensible qualities. According to these accounts these words refer, respectively, to 'ordinary kinds', cardinality properties, and properties of membership in intervals of sensible dimensions, and these things are fixed in subtle ways by associated reference-fixing conventions. (shrink)
'The kind Lion' denotes a kind. Yet many generics are thought to denote kinds also, like the subject-terms in 'The lion has a mane', 'Dinosaurs are extinct', and 'The potato was cultivated in Ireland by the end of the 17th century.' This view may be adequate for the linguist's overall purposes--however, if we limit our attention to the theory of reference, it seems unworkable. The problem is that what is often predicated of kinds is not what is predicated of the (...) lion, dinosaurs, and the potato. Thus, kinds are sometimes said to be abstract objects, immanent universals, nominal essences, etc. But the lion is a predatory cat--it is not an abstract object, nor an immanent universal, nor a nominal essence. I consider several proposals about resolving the dilemma; however, the conclusion is that none of the proposals are adequate. We are thus hard pressed to make sense of allegedly kind-denoting generics, and the lesson is a "Socratic" one about the depths of our ignorance. (shrink)
Natural kind terms have exercised philosophical fancy ever since Kripke, in Naming and Necessity, claimed them to be rigid designators. He there drew attention to the peculiar, name-like behavior of a family of prima facie loosely related general terms of ordinary English: terms such as ‘water’, ‘tiger’, ‘heat’, and ‘red’. Just as for ordinary proper names, Kripke argued that such terms cannot be synonymous with any of the definite descriptions ordinary speakers associate with them. Rather, the name-like behavior of these (...) so-called natural kind terms is to be explained, just as in in the case of proper names, by the doctrine of rigid designation. And as a consequence of thus extending the notion of rigid designation to general terms, he famously endorsed the claim that so-called ‘theoretical identifications’, i.e. statements like (1) Water is H2O, are necessary, if true. (shrink)
The aim of this thesis is to discuss whether general terms are rigid and if they are, how their rigidity should be interpreted. To this end, I first present the problems related to the rigidity of general terms. The most important ones among them are the following: What do general terms refer to? Is there any difference between the terms called “natural kind terms” and other general terms? After that, I discuss the arguments of three competent interpretations which try to (...) overcome these problems. The first interpretation holds that general terms refer to (or apply to) each and every object in their extensions. According to this view, only general terms related to essential properties like “cat”, “gold” turn out to be rigid. After I try to expose the drawbacks of this view, I examine the arguments of the second interpretation which holds that general terms refer to abstract kinds. I also argue for this interpretation. According to this interpretation general terms which refer to the same kind in all possible worlds turn out to be rigid. The main objection to this view is that this interpretation makes so many general terms rigid and it trivializes the notion of rigidity. Arguing that this is an unfair objection, I also focus on the philosophical importance of the subject and show that the interpretation I argue for realizes this philosophical importance. The third interpretation, on the other hand, rejects the rigidity of general terms. I also discuss the drawbacks of this view. -/- Another subject I discuss in the thesis is the rigidity of artifactual kind terms. The kinds of human made objects for specific purposes are usually called “artifactual kinds”. I argue that artifactual kind terms could rigidly refer to artifactual kinds. I reply to the critiques of this view with regard to the semantics of artifactual kind terms and metaphysics of artifactual kinds. (shrink)
We defend the view that defines the rigidity of general terms as sameness of designated universal across possible worlds from the objection that such a characterization is incapable of distinguishing rigid from non-rigid readings of general terms and, thus, that it trivializes the notion of rigidity. We also argue that previous attempts to offer a solution to the trivialization problem do no succeed.
We argue that the view that kind terms designate universals does not fall prey to the trivialization problem. We also argue that the view can respond to other challenges, specifically, the claims that an adequate notion of rigidity for kind terms must: (a) classify natural kind terms as rigid and classify many other general terms as non-rigid and (b) account for the necessity of true theoretical identifications involving rigid terms.
The aim of this paper is to show what sorts of logics are required by externalist and internalist accounts of the meanings of natural kind nouns. These logics give us a new perspective from which to evaluate the respective positions in the externalist-internalist debate about the meanings of such nouns. The two main claims of the paper are the following: first, that adequate logics for internalism and externalism about natural kind nouns are second-order logics; second, that an internalist second-order logic (...) is a free logic—a second order logic free of existential commitments for natural kind nouns, while an externalist second-order logic is not free of existential commitments for natural kind nouns—it is existentially committed. (shrink)
What does it mean for a general term to be rigid? It is argued by some that if we take general terms to designate their extensions, then almost no empirical general term will turn out to be rigid; and if we take them to designate some abstract entity, such as a kind, then it turns out that almost all general terms will be rigid. Various authors who pursue this line of reasoning have attempted to capture Kripke’s intent by defining a (...) rigid general term as one that applies to the objects in its extension essentially. I argue that this account is significantly mistaken for various reasons: it conflates a metaphysical notion (essentialism) with a semantic one (rigidity); it fails to countenance the fact that any term can be introduced into a language by stipulating that it be a rigid designator; it limits the extension of rigid terms so much that terms such as ‘meter’, ‘rectangle’, ‘truth’, etc. do not turn out to be rigid, when they obviously are; and it wrongly concentrates on the predicative use of a general term in applying a certain test offered by Kripke to determine whether a term is rigid. (shrink)
The paper argues that the assumption that there are property designators, together with two theoretically innocent claims, leads to a puzzle, whose solution requires us to reject the position that all (canonical) property designators are rigid. But if we deny that all (canonical) property designators are rigid, then the natural next step is to reject an abundant conception of properties and with it the suggestion that properties are the semantic values of predicates.
The simple proposal for a characterization of general term rigidity is in terms of sameness of designation in very possible world. Critics like Schwartz (2002) and Soames (2002) have argued that such a proposal would trivialize rigidity for general terms. Martí (2004) claims that the objection rests on the failure to distinguish what is expressed by a general term and the property designated. I argue here against such a response by showing that the trivialization problem reappears even if one pays (...) attention to such a distinction. (shrink)
we explore the view that defines rigidity of general terms as sameness of designation across possible worlds. On this view, a general term is rigid just in case it designates the same universal (species, substance or property) in every possible world. This view has been proposed most notably by Bernard Linsky, Nathan Salmon and more recently by Joseph LaPorte, and it has been criticised by several philosophers, including Stephen Schwartz and Scott Soames.
In his recent paper ‘Analyticity: An Unfinished Business in Possible-World Semantics’ (Rabinowicz 2006), Wlodek Rabinowicz takes on the task of providing a satisfactory definition of analyticity in the framework of possible-worlds semantics. As usual, what Wlodek proposes is technically well-motivated and very elegant. Moreover, his proposal does deliver an interesting analytic/synthetic distinction when applied to sentences with natural kind terms. However, the longer we thought and talked about it, the more questions we had, questions of both philosophical and technical nature. (...) Hence the idea of this little paper – for how better to honor a philosopher than by trying very hard to criticize him? After quickly running over some background in possible worlds semantics and setting out Wlodek's proposal against that background, we shall bring up and discuss our questions in sections 3 – 5. In the final section, we shall also make a stab at a different solution to the problem, making use of our own earlier idea of relational modality. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In this paper I examine two ways of defining the rigidity of general terms. First I discuss the view that rigid general terms express essential properties. I argue that the view is ultimately unsatisfactory, although not on the basis of the standard objections raised against it. I then discuss the characterisation in terms of sameness of designation in every possible world. I defend that view from two objections but I argue that the approach, although basically right, should be interpreted cautiously.
On Kripke’s intended definition, a term designates an object x rigidly if the term designates x with respect to every possible world in which x exists and does not designate anything else with respect to worlds in which x does not exist. Kripke evidently holds in Naming and Necessity, hereafter N&N (pp. 117–144, passim, and especially at 134, 139–140), that certain general terms – including natural-kind terms like ‘‘water’’ and ‘‘tiger’’, phenomenon terms like ‘‘heat’’ and ‘‘hot’’, and color terms like (...) ‘‘blue’’ – are rigid designators solely as a matter of philosophical semantics (independently of empirical, extra-linguistic facts). As a consequence, Kripke argues, identity statements involving these general terms are like identity statements involving proper names (e.g., ‘‘Clark Kent=Superman’’) in that, solely as a matter of philosophical semantics, they express necessary truths if they are true at all. But whereas it is reasonably clear what it is for a (first-order) singular term to designate, Kripke does not explicitly say what it is for a general term to designate. General terms are standardly treated in modern logic as predicates, usually monadic predicates. There are very forceful reasons – due independently to Church and Godel, and ultimately to Frege – for taking predicates to designate their semantic extensions. But insofar as the extension of the general term ‘‘tiger’’ is the class of actual tigers (or its characteristic function), it is clear that the term does not rigidly designate its extension, since the class of tigers in one possible world may differ from the class of tigers in another. What, then, is it for ‘‘tiger’’ to be rigid? (shrink)
Joseph LaPorte in an article on `Kind and Rigidity'(Philosophical Studies, Volume 97) resurrects an oldsolution to the problem of how to understand the rigidityof kind terms and other general terms. Despite LaPorte'sarguments to the contrary, his solution trivializes thenotion of rigidity when applied to general terms. Hisarguments do lead to an important insight however. Thenotions of rigidity and non-rigidity do not usefullyapply at all to kind or other general terms. Extendingthe notion of rigidity from singular terms such as propernames to (...) general terms such as natural kind terms is amistake. (shrink)
Any successful account of general terms must explain our ability to apply terms correctly to new instances. Many philosophers have thought resemblance offers an ontologically sparse basis for such an account. However, Any natural and plausible account of general terms on the basis of resemblance requires quite a rich ontology, Including at least second order properties and relations. Given a sufficiently rich structure of resemblances, We can surely account for the application of many general terms. I argue, However, That our (...) ability to recognize shapes and to apply terms for shapes cannot be explained on the basis of resemblance. (shrink)
1. Nathan Salmon paper is entitled with a question: are general terms rigid? He asks this question in way of engaging the issue of the extension of the notion of rigidity beyond the domain of singular terms. While singular terms has been the province of most of the discussion of this rigidity since Naming and Necessity, it is well known that Kripke saw the notion extending to at least certain general terms such as terms for natural kinds. Scott Soames has (...) recently weighed in on this issue in the latter chapters of his book Beyond Rigidity. His conclusion is that although there are significant overlaps in the properties of singular and general terms, there is no direct extension of rigidity to the general terms, and that rigid designation is properly applied only to singular terms. Salmon disagrees. His view, based in part of views dating back to his book Reference and Essence, is that there is an extension to be had, one which allows the application of the standard Kripkean characterization of rigidity to be applied to both sorts of terms. Central to his thesis is a claim about the status of certain definite descriptions. In these remarks, I will try to outline the issues to which NS is reacting, and the proposal he posits in response. I will then consider in a more critical light his claim about definite descriptions, bringing to bear considerations of their grammar. (shrink)