Friday, October 31, 2008


Two wonders.

A. If we rerun "The Objection from Cognitive Significance" with (i) reading:

(i) 'It rains' is a •it rains•

and (ii) reading:

(ii) 'Es regnet' is a •it rains•

is it really enough for the Russellian to just say: "But I don't speak German!" I get that using:

(i) Ice-T is Ice-T.
(ii) Ice-T is Tracy Lauren Marrow.

avoids the problem of objecting that I don't understand the words being used. But I don't see how anything else is different about the cases. I suppose one might argue that since Ice-T and TLM are both understood to be self-identical, but not understood to be identical to each other.

But I don't see how this is really so different from the German - English case. I suppose the only real difference is that one might think that 'Es regnet' is just a silly made-up word. But why cannot one think that 'Tracy Lauren Marrow' is a silly made-up word as well?

B. If on the second objection, "Pegasus is make-believe" is supposed to turn out to be meaningless since 'Pegasus' has no referent and hence no semantic content, what about a case where I utter "He is Saul Kripke" pointing at no one? I suppose that the semantic content of 'he' is supposed to be the referent, and since there is no referent there is no semantic content.

What happens if I am confused, being messed with by Descartes demon? I see Saul Kripke standing next to me. I ask you if you see him, and you ask who I am talking about, I might say: "Him. Saul Kripke." Do we want to say that I am saying something false, or something meaningless? I suppose the objector wants to push that the Russellian has to say that it is meaningless.

I wonder if the distinction between speaker and attributive reference helps at all. When I talk about Pegasus or Kripke, I am trying to refer to something. But it turns out that I am referring to nothing at all. Hearing me speak, you may take me that I am trying to refer to something, even though you might recognize that I am in fact talking about nothing at all. Perhaps, no thing, not nothing.

This would seem to suggest to me that something gappy and not something meaningless is being asserted. Or maybe something false, for the same reason that "The present king of France is bald" is false.

But all this seems to give some reason to think that "Pegasus is make-believe" or "Here is Kripke (said pointing to a spot which is lacking a Kripke)" is not a meaningless assertion under a Russellian view.


Dan said...

Perhaps saying such assertions are meaningless is too strong. Consider your example 'He is kripke'. The 'is kripke' part has meaning, so perhaps a plausible way to put the objection would be to say that you express something, just not a propositions. It's still an objection though, 'He is kripke' is still different in meaning from 'swizzle-bop-shoo-bop is kripke'.

Wes McPherson said...

I was trying to say something like that. I only suppose that the objector to Russellianism will object that it has to be meaningless, thus Russellianism is false.

Do you think that "swizzle-bop-shoo-bop is Kripke" is meaningless as opposed to false?