[hist-analytic] Fwd: Re Steve on Kripke and the Meter Stick

Bruce Aune aune1 at verizon.net
Thu Oct 15 07:04:56 EDT 2009

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Bruce Aune <aune at philos.umass.edu>
> Date: October 14, 2009 3:08:33 PM EDT
> To: Baynesr at comcast.net
> Subject: Re Steve on Kripke and the Meter Stick
> Mea culpa, mea culpa!  I took too quick a look at Witt's section 50  
> of PI.  Steve is right: Witt didn't say that the standard meter is  
> not 1 meter long; he said that it neither is nor is not a standard  
> meter.  But Witt was dogmatic in making this claim; he offered no  
> argument to support this bizarre assertion: he simply affirmed that  
> the language-game we play with "meter" does not allow either  
> affirmation (that it is or that it is not). I would never say that  
> Witt was a fool (that would be a silly thing to say) but he was a  
> very confident, sometimes dogmatic man.  Like me, Kripke thought  
> Witt was clearly wrong about "meter," but Kripke  didn't actually  
> argue against him on this point. (He said, "let's suppose he is  
> wrong and that the stick is one meter long" [p.54].)  Kripke  
> proceeds to argue that the statement, "Stick S is one meter long at  
> t-sub-o," is known a priori by someone who has fixed the metric  
> system by reference to stick S, even though this statement is not a  
> necessary truth.  It is thus, he says, an example of a contingent a  
> priori statement.
> In my book I gave a streamlined version of Kripke's argument, one  
> that did not take account of various incidental matters that Kripke  
> took up in the passages where he gave his argument. (This morning I  
> had actually forgotten that he mentions Witt in this part of N&N.)  
> When I presented the argument, I said "some acute philosophers have  
> raised objections with Kripke's criticism of Kant's contention [that  
> anything known a priori is necessarily true], but if his argument is  
> reconstructed as follows, I think it is successful" (pp. 39-40).  So  
> if Steve is going to criticize the arguments I have given, he should  
> direct his attention to the two paragraphs I include on pages 40-41.
> Bruce

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