[hist-analytic] Steve's Latest

Bruce Aune aune1 at verizon.net
Tue Oct 27 08:30:01 EDT 2009


Steve may have a little too much on his plate right now. He may be  
trying to respond to too much input by me and others.  I hate to pile  
more on top of him, but I do want to address a personal matter that  
Steve raised when he said, in his last post: “Sometimes Bruce seems to  
suggest that I am in a state of complete ignorance and bewilderment  
over Kripke. For example he says ‘Steve wonders why a certain  
designator (i.e. a certain description) should designate the same  
thing in all possible worlds." Then he goes on to give an account that  
simply does not answer the question!”

I assure you all that I had no intention of suggesting that Steve is  
in such a state. I made the remark Steve cites in response to a  
question he asked in his comments on my chapter 2.  He asked, “What do  
I appeal to in order to justify the INFERENCE to the conclusion that  
the two designators designate the same thing in all worlds, and that  
that they do so is necessary a posteriori. It may be obvious, but do  
we rely on intuition, definition, or do we revert to some theorems in  
one of many of the modal systems where rigidity doesn’t ever really  
enter?” The answer I gave, which Steve says “simply does not [really]  
answer the question,” does give my reason for believing that a certain  
designator “should, in his words, “designate the same thing in all  
possible worlds.” It does so, I said, thinking of “the inventor of  
bifocals” in the sentence I used, because it is being used  
referentially to pick out a certain person rather than picking out  
whatever person is taken to have invented bifocals in an assumed  
possible world or context of discussion. If we are thinking of a  
situation in which we regard the term as applying to Thomas Jefferson,  
say, we are using the term non-rigidly; if we use it to refer to a  
certain person, Benjamin Franklin, whom we may think of as not, in  
some situation, being the inventor of bifocals, we re using it  
rigidly. Used this last way, we could coherently think, “The inventor  
of bifocals might not have invented bifocals.” Compare “The man over  
there drinking a Martini might possibly have been drinking a glass of  
water instead.”

His last post shows that Steve is now reading Kripke. (I am not  
suggesting that he has not done so numerous times.) But if he is  
evaluating the argument I gave in my second chapter (ascertaining  
whether its conclusion is true, which concerned me, not whether it is  
involves a good reading of the argument Kripke actually gave, which  
concerns me only secondarily), Kripke’s actual thinking about rigid  
designators is not centrally important. Suppose I stipulate that I am  
using the term “the inventor of bifocals” in the following sentence  
purely referentially to pick out the person who, as it happened (as we  
know in empirical grounds), did invent bifocals but may (might  
possibly have) failed to do so: “Benjamin Franklin = the inventor of  
bifocals.” I contend that the following sentence, with the define  
description so understood, is true:  Benjamin Franklin = the inventor  
of bifocals --> N(Benjamin Franklin = the inventor of bifocals).  (The  
sentence is a UI consequence of the theorem Steve attributes to Ruth  
Marcus.) If we know a posteriori that the antecedent is true and, on  
the basis of that knowledge, conclude that N(Benjamin Franklin = the  
inventor of bifocals), we shall know a posteriori (for the reason I  
gave in an earlier post) that N(Benjamin Franklin = the inventor of  
bifocals).  But since what we know here is necessary, we have an  
element of a posteriori knowledge that is necessary rather than  
contingent.

Best, Bruce
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