Meaning, Rigidity, and Modality

Sanford Shieh

in Future Pasts

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139167
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833214 | DOI:
 Meaning, Rigidity, and Modality

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Saul Kripke’s “modal argument” against the description theory of proper names turns on a distinction between reference-fixing and meaning-giving. In this essay Shieh argues first that without further explanation of meaning-giving, it is unclear how this argument shows that the meanings of names cannot be given by descriptions. Second, Shieh shows that an explanation of meaning-giving sufficient to sustain the modal argument requires a notion of modal properties of meaning. This notion, in turn, yields a notion of rigidity of names that can be explained in terms of Gareth Evans’s notion of deep necessity. Shieh concludes that Kripke’s modal argument is not based simply on untutored linguistic intuitions or facts of ordinary language use but presupposes substantial metaphysical commitments.

Keywords: Saul Kripke; Gareth Evans; meaning; proper names; definite descriptions; reference-fixing; meaning-giving; necessity; deep necessity; modal properties; rigidity

Chapter.  12537 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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