Reference and Description: The Case against Two-Dimensionalism

Reference and Description: The Case against Two-Dimensionalism

Reference and Description: The Case against Two-Dimensionalism

Reference and Description: The Case against Two-Dimensionalism

Excerpt

Despite the attack on descriptivism, some believe that the anti-descriptivists' conclusions are too extreme, and that properly modified descriptive analyses should be capable of withstanding their arguments. This view is fueled by three main factors. First is the conviction that anti-descriptivists have not adequately addressed Frege's puzzle about substitution of coreferential terms in attitude ascriptions and Russell's problem of negative existentials. There is still a widespread belief that these problems show that names cannot be directly referential. Although Kripke never asserted that they were, it is hard to see how, if his doctrines are correct, they could be anything else. According to him, the meaning of a name is never the same as that of any description, and the vast majority of names do not even have their referents semantically fixed by descriptions. If these names are so thoroughly nondescriptional, it is not clear how their meanings could be other than their referents. Consequently, one who takes that view to have been refuted by Frege and Russell will suspect that the power of Kripke's arguments must have been exaggerated, and will be motivated to find a way of modifying descriptivism that can withstand them.

The second factor motivating descriptivists is their conviction that critics like Kripke have focused on the wrong descriptions. To be sure, it will be admitted, for many speakers's and proper names or natural kind terms n, the descriptions most likely to be volunteered by s in answer to the question To what, or to whom, do you refer when you use n? neither give the meaning of n, nor semantically fix its reference. Often s will respond by citing what's takes to be the most well-known and important characteristics of the putative referent, about which s may be mistaken. However, the referents of these terms must be determined in some way, and surely, whatever way it is can be described. Thus, for . . .

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