A name, one might think, simply stands in for the thing it names. But, if it’s really as simple as that, why is a statement like “Chris Wallace is Biggie Smalls” informative? Why isn’t it a tautology, of the form A is A? Starting from this simple problem, Saul Kripke’s 1980 book Naming and Necessity covers the history of theories of naming before proposing a radically new theory. The book revolutionized philosophy like few books have. Aside from challenging how we think about names and identity, it also clarified the notions of “a priori” and “necessary.” Famously, Kripke showed why “Water is H2O” is actually a necessary fact, though not a priori. In this episode, I summarize Kripke’s arguments and propose some criticisms to his theory.
Next week: Graham Priest: Unity and Regress
Special thanks for Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
0:20 – Intro to Saul Kripke
4:20 – J.S. Mill’s theory of naming
5:45 – Chris Wallace is Biggie Smalls and Biggie Smalls is Biggie Smalls
7:45 – Russell’s theory of descriptions
14:46 – Kripke’s theory – rigid designators
17:25 – Kripke’s theory – initial baptism and the causal chain
23:10 – a priori v. necessary (water is H2O)
28:10 – Meter stick in Paris
31:46 – Unicorns
33:04 – Mental states and brain states
35:04 – Associations (Gareth Evans’ objection)
37:56 – Presupposed identity and vagueness (my objection)
47:08 – Objection to mental states argument