Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Aardvarks and reference fixing

Kripke writes:
A rough statement of a theory [of reference] might be the following: An initial 'baptism' takes place. Here the object may be named by ostension, or the reference of the name may be fixed by a description. When then name is 'passed from link to link', the receiver of the name must, I think, intend when he learns it to use it with the same reference as the man from whom he heard it. If I hear the name 'Napoleon' and decide it would be a nice name for my pet aardvark, I do not satisfy this condition. (Perhaps it is some such failure to keep the reference fixed which accounts for the divergence of present uses of 'Santa Claus' from the alleged original use.
Is that right?  How do we intend to use a name with the same reference as the person from whom we heard the name from?

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9 Comments:

Blogger David Brightly said...

Is this problematic? We may not consciously intend to propagate a common reference---certainly not children, say---but we are under a normative pressure to use a name correctly. Others will correct us if they see us misuse a name. As if we 'know' collectively that language would become useless if a degree of commonality in name use were lost, though we can live with some falling short of 100% accuracy.

1:20 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>Is this problematic?

I think it is. How actually do we use a name 'with the same reference'. Is it that we attach the same description to it? But then Kripke's counter-examples suggest we can't. Or is it that we 'aim' at the referent in a certain way? But (for reasons we have discussed here and probably agree on) that makes little sense.

This it just an opening for discussion, anyway. More later.

2:56 pm  
Blogger David Brightly said...

Just a thought: we may not be able to say how a name comes to have a reference but we may be able to say when two names have a common referent. Compare with: we may not be able to say what a direction is but we can say when two arrows point in the same direction.

5:00 pm  
Blogger J said...

Wouldn't a descriptivist theory account for this: when you say Napoleon, you mean...Bonaparte, the french emperor, invader of Russia, and all the ...facts associated with the name-reference (ie, a cluster as Ock himself said a few posts below). Now, say your neighbor has a cat who he has named Napoleon (baptized as it were). Were you enjoying dinner with some guests and discussing French history, and you said, ah Napoleon's Russian campaign was a bloody reckless affair, it's unlikely any would mistake your reference to the French emperor for the cat Napoleon, even if your neighbors were with you! A bit obvious, but I think Kripke's point on causal reference is merely the empirical problem associated with the "associated content" of the name. OR something. Russell himself did not say the descriptions were necessary AFAICR (or say Searle--who IIRC claimed that the cluster itself changes, may be revisable, etc)

8:21 pm  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>Just a thought: we may not be able to say how a name comes to have a reference but we may be able to say when two names have a common referent.

yes you have preempted my next post.

9:02 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>I think Kripke's point on causal reference is merely the empirical problem

I think it's clear it's a logical, not an empirical problem.

9:03 am  
Blogger J said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:29 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

"Or is it that we 'aim' at the referent in a certain way? But (for reasons we have discussed here and probably agree on) that makes little sense."

What are those reasons again? Why can't the use of a proper name in a sentence just be a type of pointing?

2:16 am  
Blogger Edward Ockham said...

>>What are those reasons again? Why can't the use of a proper name in a sentence just be a type of pointing?
<<

Pointing only works when the object pointed to can be perceived by both parties (or at the very least, the audience - a blind man can point).

And as I've frequently mentioned, a writer of fiction can tell us which character is the subject of a proposition, even when the character is fictional. If aiming is a relation between existing things, then reference cannot be like aiming.

6:35 am  

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