The Metasyntactic Interpretation of Two-Dimensionalism

Philosophical Studies 163 (3):611-626 (2013)
Abstract
Robert Stalnaker contrasts two interpretations, semantic and metasemantic, of the two-dimensionalist framework. On the semantic interpretation, the primary intension or diagonal proposition associated with an utterance is a semantic value that the utterance has in virtue of the actual linguistic meaning of the corresponding sentence, and that primary intension is both what a competent speaker grasps and what determines different secondary intensions or horizontal propositions relative to different possible worlds considered as actual. The metasemantic interpretation reverses the order of explanation: an utterance has the primary intension it has because it yields the secondary intensions it yields relative to different possible worlds considered as actual. In these possible worlds, the semantic facts can be different: the metasemantic interpretation is metasemantic in the sense that the secondary intensions are determined relative to possible worlds considered as actual given the meanings the expressions have there. Stalnaker holds a causal picture of the reference of names, according to which names have no meaning over and above their unique referent, and therefore maintains that the semantic interpretation is not an option. He thus endorses the metasemantic interpretation, while insisting that this interpretation does not, contrary to what he originally thought, yield any account of a priori truth and knowledge. My double aim in this paper is to show (i) that the metasemantic interpretation, as sketched by Stalnaker, is not compatible with one natural understanding of the causal picture of reference, on which names are rigid because they have their original bearers essentially , and (ii) that a third kind of interpretation of the framework is available, the metasyntactic interpretation, which grants that names have their bearers essentially and yields some account of a priori knowledge.
Keywords Names  Direct reference  Two-dimensionalism  Necessary a posteriori  Contingent a priori  Diagonal proposition
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9834-y
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