Kripke on presupposition and anaphora

The publication of Kripke (2009), originally delivered as a lecture at Princeton University in 1990, was long in coming. Widely circulated since then, some aspects of the original manuscript are now well known by many working on presupposition. The published paper differs from the manuscript in clarifying certain points, tying up loose ends, answering some previously open questions, and incorporating a modest revision or two. That would be reason enough to review it here. More important is an assessment of what is truly groundbreaking in the discussion, and what is not. It is not, I will argue, Kripke’s attempted demonstrations that propositions previously said to be presupposed by various utterance types really aren’t presupposed, though there is something correct about those critical remarks. Nor is it his identification of new propositions presupposed by the utterances in question. Although there are new presuppositions, in certain cases his characterization of them requires revision or supplementation. However, these are not the most important aspects of his paper. Rather, I will argue, his most significant insights concern the mechanisms that give rise to presuppositions, which involve the formulation of presuppositional requirements of a kind different from those of the theories on which he comments. These in turn have far-reaching consequences for the notion of conversational contexts incorporating shared background information that utterances are used to update, and against which they are evaluated. Ironically, it is these, most important, aspects of Kripke’s view that (to my knowledge) have been least understood, and most incompletely assimilated into ongoing work. For this reason, I will concentrate on them.
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