Scott Soames' two-dimensionalism


Scott Soames’ Reference and Description contains arguments against a number of different versions of two-dimensional semantics. After early chapters on descriptivism and on Kripke’s anti-descriptivist arguments, a chapter each is devoted to the roots of twodimensionalism in “slips, errors, or misleading suggestions” by Kripke and Kaplan, and to the two-dimensional approaches developed by Stalnaker (1978) and by Davies and Humberstone (1981). The bulk of the book (about 200 pages) is devoted to “ambitious twodimensionalism”, attributed to Frank Jackson, David Lewis, and me. After a quick overview of two-dimensional approaches, I will focus on Soames’ discussion of ambitious twodimensionalism. I will then turn to a system advocated by Soames that is itself strikingly reminiscent of a two-dimensional approach. Two-dimensional semantic theories are varieties of possible-worlds semantics on which linguistic items can be evaluated relative to possibilities in two different ways, yielding two sorts of intensional semantic values, which can be seen as two “dimensions” of meaning. The second dimension is the familiar sort of Kripkean evaluation in metaphysically possible worlds, so that necessarily coextensive terms (such as ‘Hesperus’ and ‘Phosphorus’ or ‘water’ and ‘H2O’) always have the same semantic value. The first dimension behaves differently, so that there are typically at least some cases where necessarily coextensive terms have different semantic values on the first dimension. For this reason, the two-dimensional framework is sometimes seen as a way of granting many of the insights of a Kripkean approach to meaning (on the second dimension), while retaining elements of a Fregean approach to meaning (on the first dimension)



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David Chalmers
New York University

Citations of this work

Soames’s Deflationism About Modality.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (6):1367-1379.
Propositions, Meaning, and Names.Tristan Grøtvedt Haze - 2018 - Philosophical Forum 49 (3):335-362.
Low‐grade two‐dimensionalism. [REVIEW]Josh Dever - 2007 - Philosophical Books 48 (1):1-16.

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