Two-dimensional Semantics and Identity Statements

In Heimir Geirsson & Stephen Biggs (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Linguistic Reference. New York: Routledge. pp. 237-256 (2021)
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In contrast to standard possible worlds semantics, possible worlds in a two-dimensional semantic framework play two kinds of roles, rather than just one. This allows the framework to assign two kinds of intensions to expressions, rather than just one. Its fruitful use in explicating modal operators and the meanings of referential expressions like indexicals has led to two-dimensional accounts that seek to revive the Fregean conception of meaning, or more specifically the descriptivist view of reference, which has fallen into disrepute due to intense criticisms, most famously, by Saul Kripk’s seminal work Naming and Necessity (1972). This entry provides a critical overview of the two most prominent of such accounts, proposed by Frank Jackson and David Chalmers. Unfortunately, there is not space to describe either account in detail, so I rely largely on brief descriptions and plenty of references to primary and secondary sources. More importantly, I rely on focusing on how the accounts explain the phenomenon of necessary a posteriori identity that Kripke’s well-known examples (such as ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’) have brought to light. Focusing on and structuring our discussions around this phenomenon is by no means just an expository convenience. These cases are of central importance in themselves. They epitomize a large part of the contribution of Naming and Necessity to the theory of reference. This is why section 2 outlines Kripke’s critique of the Fregean theory of referential expressions and section 3 explains rigid designation and identity statements. Section 4 discusses rigidification and the notion of a world considered as actual, leading to the introduction of two-dimensional functions in Section 5. I discuss, finally, Frank Jackson’s and David Chalmers’ two-dimensionalism in Sections 6 and 7. Section 8 makes a few critical remarks on Jackson’s handling of the semantic argument. I conclude (Section 8) by discussing the important distinction between semantics and metasemantics



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Kai-Yee Wong
Chinese University of Hong Kong

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