Nondescriptionality and natural kind terms

Linguistics and Philosophy 12 (3):269 - 291 (1989)
Abstract
The phrase "natural kind term" has come into the linguistic and philosophical literature in connection with well-known work of Kripke (1972) and Putnam (1970, 1975a). I use that phrase here in the sense it has acquired from those and subseqnent works on related topics. This is not the transparent sense of the phrase. That is, if I am right in what follows there are words for kinds of things existing in nature which are not natural kind terms in the current sense - e.g. planet, woman, and weed. I use the term "nondescriptional", following Salmon (1981), to mean "lacking a Fregean sense", where a Fregean sense is taken to be a property or group of properties semantically associated with an expression which determines its denotation. I hope that the term "nondescriptional" will be clarified in subsequent discussion, but perhaps a few words about it and its opposite, "descriptional", would be useful here. These terms (as Salmon notes (p.15, n. 11)) should be taken as technical terms. The idea is that descriptional words, of which bachelor is the overwhelmingly favorite example, express a semantic content, or sense, which is what mediates their denotation. Entities fall in their denotation in virtue of possessing the property or properties expressed as their sense. (It is not necessary, however, that this sense be as easily paraphrasable with descriptive synonyms as it is typically held to be in the case of bachelor, or even that it be paraphrasable at all.) In the case of nondescriptional words there is no Fregean sense to mediate the link between word and object. Hence such terms are described by what Salmon, following Kaplan, calls "the theory of direct reference". What it is that does associate such terms with their denotations is another question which will be touched on briefly at the end. I have several aims in this paper. The first is to defend a conservative position on nondescriptionality. I will argue that relatively few natural language words have this property. My other aims are primarily clarificatory. Among the issues I would like to clarify are those connected with the determination of this property and flae explanation of why it exists, its relationship with other properties such as rigid designation and essentiality, and its significance for lexical semantics. The organization of the paper is as follows. The first section identifies the position taken here on the question of which expressions are nondescriptional and provides a general defense of it. The second section is a critical examination of criteria associated with nondescriptionality. In the third section provide further defense for the conservative position, and in the fourth section we turn to related issues in lexical semantics.
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DOI 10.1007/BF00635637
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References found in this work BETA
Mind, Language, and Reality.Hilary Putnam - 1975 - Cambridge University Press.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 2010 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 431-433.
Reference and Essence.Nathan U. Salmon - 1981 - Prometheus Books.

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Citations of this work BETA
Testimony as a Natural Kind.Kourken Michaelian - 2008 - Episteme 5 (2):pp. 180-202.

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