[hist-analytic] Davidson's Hume

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Wed Jun 3 09:23:45 EDT 2009

Sorry to make this brief but lots of things are "conspiring" against my time budgeting. 

We have to distinguish at least three things.

1. Attributive uses of definite descriptions and referential uses. (Donnellan)

2. Rigid and non-rigid designation (Kripke)

3. Purely referential vs non purely referential designators.

Each has a history and some would argue, incorrectly in my opinion, that there was overlap.

In "Reference and Modality" Quine notes that while '9>7' is a necessary truth 'The number of planets > 7' is not a necessary truth because the number of planets is a contingent fact. The source of the problem is that 'The number of planets' is not purely referential. We find something similar in Russell's "logically proper names." Donnellan's distinction may show itself within a single world and says nothing about other possible worlds, while (as you know) rigidity is very much about "worlds." These distinctions do not require much of anything with respect to what we know. It is a semantical not an epistemological conception. 

In 'The cause of e caused e' IF we take ' the cause of e' attributively' then my claim is that the sentence 'The cause of e caused e' is contingent. On the other hand if we think of the sentence as completely devoid of pragmatic elements, and here I have in mind Jerry Katz's notion of 'linguistic meaning' then the sentence is trivial, like 'I married my wife'. So it's not so much which is the right reading but what you get on different readings. One reading may come with greater statistical regularity but that is besides the point. As for ridid designation, I'm still not a faithful believer; one reason is that for Kripke other worlds are stipulated counterfactually. I think this introduces a number of problems that have to do with questions like "Can one world have more individuals than another." Worlds by counterfactual stipulation and requirements of maximally consistent sets (blah blah), etc. don't go very far with me, although I'm not equipped to
 address thses issues, at present.

Suppose someone says: "No! That is NOT a rigid designator." Show me that he's wrong. How do I do this? What all goes into it? By the way, I happened to notice some interesting connections between Brentano on these issues and opacity. But since I'm doing philosophical psychology I can't mess up my brain any worse than it is by pursuing the matter. Anyway, the cause of e might have caused something else; and something else might have caused e, other than that which did cause e. That is, basically, my point.



--- On Wed, 6/3/09, Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com> wrote:

From: Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com>
Subject: Re: Davidson's Hume
To: "steve bayne" <baynesrb at yahoo.com>
Cc: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2009, 3:25 AM

On Friday 29 May 2009 16:02:06 steve bayne wrote:

[RBJ wrote]
>> "'but a lot depends on whether 'the number of planets' is, purely,
>> referential.'Indeed.  But why should we suppose that it is?"

> My point is, merely, that there is ambiguity.
> If we take the description one way, we get
> one view of its status and another view if read another way. As for the
> "right" reading that's much like the de dicto/de re situation. Some verbs I
> can read only one way, transparent; others I can read either way. Here is a
> description we can read either way and what follows depends on the
> reading.

Perhaps you can read a description "either way" but I don't
myself think that the two readings are equally plausible,
and I don't think there is substantive ambiguity in this case.

I will assume that you mean by calling a description
"purely referential" that it is in Kripke's terms
a "rigid designator" (correct me if I am wrong).

It seems to me plausible that names (real names, i.e. proper nouns)
are rigid designators, but not plausible that descriptions are
(generally!). Here's why:

The fact (if it is one) that a name is a rigid designator
means that to understand the name you have to discover what
it refers to, and you do not need to know anything specific
about that thing, any way of identifying it will do.
Kripke has these stories about christenings I believe.

If descriptions were rigid designators then we would have
to understand them in like manner.  We would have to know
when the definitive use of that description had occurred
and what in that context it had referred to.
I don't believe that is the way we understand descriptions
and if it were it would be disasterous for mathematics,
and we would have to invent a new kind of description
which was not rigid.

The language works nicely if descriptions are not
rigid and names are.  Then if you want a rigid
designator for something you give it a name.

Thus, if we say:

Let n be the number of planets.

Then, necessarily n>9.

Unless the number of planets <10, in which
case necessarily n is not >9.

But if the descriptions were themselves rigid then
we would be in trouble.

Nothwithstanding "the Colossus of Rhodes",
which probably is rigid.

Roger Jones

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