[hist-analytic] Davidson's Hume

Roger Bishop Jones rbj at rbjones.com
Sun Jun 21 11:17:33 EDT 2009

On this occasion I have an excuse for my slow response,
having been on holiday for a week.
(does that really count as an excuse if I might easily
have taken this long anyway?)

In responding to Steve I would like to take his point
on Carnap first, since what I have to say there
is useful background to the main issue.

On Friday 12 June 2009 12:30:11 steve bayne wrote:

>On Carnap, be a bit careful. At least in Meaning and Necessity he adhere to
> the "method of intention and extension," so meaning is not reference.

I'm not well acquainted with the details of Carnap's
Meaning and Necessity, since I have always regarded
Carnap's semantic methods as archaic, however, I would
expect that though the distinction is made between
intension and extension, there is no reason why the
intension should not uniquely fix the reference, and
every reason why it must in the case of a "rigid designator".
For a rigid designator of some object "obj" the
intension would have to be something like "being
equal to obj" (or simply "being obj", more
formally "lambda x. x =  obj").
(I think this would be necessary for Carnap because
he defines necessity in terms of analyticity,
with the effect that this becomes the only way
in which you can have a rigid designator).
In this case, though meaning is not reference
the effect is much the same.
This is what I had in mind when I spoke of the
possibility that "the meaning *is* the reference".
If "rigid designator" were defined as something
having the same referent in every possible
world but not "meaning it" in that sense, then
it would follow from Carnap's conception of
meaning that there could be no such thing.

Having said all that, I not longer remember how
it bears upon the rest, but maybe it will occur
to me again before I am through.

>The [referential] use of a definite description is one where a correct use is
> not dependent on the actual extension of the predicates contained in the
> description but, rather, pragmatic circumstances of application.
> Donnellan's example, as I recall, is that of situation where a man is
> standing across the room talking to someone at a cocktail party. I am
> talking to a friend who asks me who someone is, so I say "He' the man
> drinking the martini over there. Now, as it turns out, the man is NOT
> drinking a martini; he is drinking water, but there is a sense in which the
> description succeeds, even though he is not included in the, literal,
> extension of the predicate.

I am inclined to doubt that this is a correct description of
what is going in the example cited.

Firstly I observe that it is not clear from the example that
the usage in question is correct, but I propose to say nothing
more on that point.
What I accept is that the use in question was successful,
in that the hearer understood the point the speaker intended
to make.
However, this is in my opinion an example of a more widespread
phenomenon which tells us little about the semantics of
languages.  The phenomenon in question is the ability of
intelligent hearers to guess what a speaker intended to
say even when that is not what he actually said.

This incidentally, is not (I suspect) the same as
Grice's "speakers meaning" where the meaning of some
construct might be said to depend crucially on the
intentions or on the idiomatic habits of the speaker.
In the Donellan example it is not the case that 
the speaker was being eccentric in his use of language
and that what he meant by his words was not what
we normally suppose to be meant by them.
His use of language was completely correct, he just
happened to be mistaken about the facts which he
used to pick out the person he wished to refer to.

I do not accept myself that this tells us anything
so bizarre as that a definite description might
be held to mean (refer to) some object which does not
satisfy the description. (though this does happen in some
formal languages, including the HOL which I used
in my models of Aristotle's metaphysics, in the
case that the description is not satisfied).

Going back to "the cause of e caused e", I remain
of the opinion that this can be necessary only
if it is necessary that "e" has a unique cause.

Roger Jones

More information about the hist-analytic mailing list