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On Naming and Necessity (1980).
What's the relationship between language and the world? Specifically, what makes a name or a class term (like "tiger") pick out the person or things that it does? Saul Kripke wanted to correct the dominant view of his time (which involved speakers having some description in mind, and it's that description that hooks the word to the thing), and used modal language to do it: He talked about other possible worlds (other ways our world could have turned out, not literal other dimensions or something).
His account had implications for metaphysics and science, in that he claimed that if we find a scientific truth like "heat is the motion of molecules," then this would be true in all possible worlds. We might think that we could have discovered that heat was something else, but really, if we imagine a world in which that happened, what those scientists would have been looking at was actually not heat at all.
Confused yet? Mark, Wes, Dylan, and returning guest Matt Teichman get deep into the thickets on this one, our first foray in a while into analytic philosophy. Read more about it and get the book.
Oh, and here's that essay about Kripke by Richard Rorty that we discuss briefly near the end.
End song: "Reason Enough" by Mark Lint, a brand-new recording of a song written in 2003. Read about it.
Respect to Wes for knowing about Rick & Morty.
Marc Burock says
I think that Mark, following Rorty (thank you for posting that his essay—I encourage everyone to read the hyperlinked essay before listening to this podcast), is right on that our intuitions about counterfactual situations are not nearly as intuitive as Kripke would have us believe. In listening to this podcast, the players go back and forth about what’s going on in counterfactual worlds, losing track at times of what they are referring to, which is perhaps appropriate given that Kripke’s work is all about reference.
Rorty lays out Kripke’s thesis simply: “The basic idea which Kripke develops is that we pick out the bearers for proper names like ‘Aristotle’ and ‘Brezhnev’, or common names like ‘gold’ or ‘positron’, by saying ‘We’ll call that “X”,’ rather than by saying: ‘We’ll call something “X” if it meets the following criteria … ’.” Apparently this was a big deal, a mind blowing theory, to philosophers of language who never had babies in the 80’s? Seriously, this naming by baptism is a central feature of Kripke’s new theory. Rorty, in fairness, says that this crude view could nonetheless do all the work of a more complex theory, but to show this required significant intellectual work.
If you read at least parts of Naming and Necessity, I think you will find that the text itself is much more interesting than the major talking points that come out of this text. There are many philosophical diamonds in the mud—such as pointing at that we typically assume that everything a priori must be necessary, and assume that everything a posterior must be contingent—that are more useful than this stuff about reference. Not understanding reference is hardly a problem that faces the average person on a typical day. That said, there is always a place for intellectual pursuits apart from usefulness.
Allow me quickly to beat a dead horse—and I hope Dylan at least will agree with me here. If by water we mean the liquid stuff in oceans that we drink and splash around in, and by H2O we mean a molecule made of 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen atom, then “Water is H2O” is clearly not an identity (because this is a patently false statement). This is like saying that “Cougars are cells” and calling this an identity. While water is composed of molecules of H2O, the empirical splashy water arises from an aggregate of H2O molecules undergoing interactions, where the interactions are essential to making the water what it is. “Water is composed of molecules of H2O” is a fact, but this is no longer an identity statement, unless you take ‘is’ to be identical to ‘is composed of’, which seems like a stretch to me.
Let’s clarify what Kripke is claiming, he is saying that “Water is H20“ is more than a true statement, he is saying that it is an a scientific identity, which for him means that ‘Water’ and ‘H20′ refer to the same thing in the world. Exactly the same thing, and nothing differnt. In a picture, where the squiggles represent that spashy wet stuff, and o-O-o is a molecule of dihydrogen monoxide, and the arrows represent reference, then according to Kripke :
‘Water’ —> ~~~~~~ o-O-o <— ‘H2O’
Now, if ‘Water is H2O’ is a scientific identity, then it follows that o-O-o and ~~~~~~ are the same thing, which seems obviously false because they have different properties. And you bring up emergent properties, but I don’t think we have to go into any mystery of emergence to see that these two things are different.
Consider your car (if you have one). Now, image taking apart your car, and laying out every single bolt, and pipe, and piece of sheet metal,the fluids, and fabric; and lay the pieces all over the road. Are these pieces of the car the same thing as the car that is assembled together? You drive in your car at 65 MPH. The disassembled pieces of the car can’t do this.. I wouldn’t say the properties of the car emerge out of the pieces–you simply get different things when you put pieces together, because the interactions between parts are essential to making a thing what it is. Water is similarly an aggregate of interacting pieces of o-O-o at particular temperature and pressure, it just so happens all of the pieces are identical, whereas in the car, the pieces are different.
And I still think your insight about phases of matter is important. Again, is “Ice is H2O” a scientific identity, like Kripke says ‘Water is H2O” is an idenity? If you say yes, then you are committed to the statement that “Water is Ice” is also an identity (by the transitivity of identity relations, if A=B and B=C, then A=C), an identity in the sense that ‘water’ and ‘ice’ refer to exactly the same thing in the world. But again, Water and Ice have different properties, so this seems to be incorrect.
Again, I think the confusion arises because we named o-O-o ‘water’, and because we confuse the relation ‘is’ with the relation ‘is composed of’, when saying ‘Water is H2O’, among other things that I have ranted about.
Sorry, the formating didn’t come out right in the blog editor. Hey, why can’t I ever edit or delete posts in this Blog? Anyone else every have that problem. I edit the post in the editor, but it always stays like the original entry.
Anyway, the arrow thing should look like this
‘Water’ -> ~~~~~~ o-O-o <- ‘H2O
Arrrghhhh! I feel like charlie brown trying to kick the football. I screwed it up again. Forget it.
Christopher Frederick says
I really like your car analogy… And I was using the word “emergence” in the loose, everyday sense (which I’m sure would make some analytic philosophers cringe!). Like all good analogies, however, it raises further questions as well. By this I mean the following:
Our “experience” of a car is not “natural” in that we have the knowledge (or that the knowledge is attainable) that cars are made by people. Therefore a “functional” car is not part of the “furniture of the world” without the intervening of humanity. Whatever “water” is, as experienced, is part of our “furniture of the world,” in that already exists in the world without human intervention.* If we agree that this is the case, the deconstructed car, a pile of nuts, bolts, sheet metal, fabric, plastic, etc., presented to someone who never experienced “a car traveling at 60 mph” (that is, a functional car) probably couldn’t predict that assembling those parts in a specific way would lead to a machine that can transport them at great speed. That’s where I appeal to phenomenon of emergence…
What I’m getting at is that we experience “water” first and then “reduce” it to the scientific object H2O by human intervention, whereas the car was “produced” from the “natural furniture of the world,” i.e. the raw materials, then arranged in a particular way (by humans) to be a machine that can travel at 60 mph. This then brings in the element of Time and the issue of “Directionality” into the discussion…
So, how about this:
“Water” refers to the Phenomenal and H2O is an attempt to refer to the Noumenal!
Deeper goes the rabbit hole!
*Note that observation itself is “interventionist.”
Christopher Frederick says
To further the bashing of heads against walls, I too would like to take on water/H2O…
I see it this way: Water is necessarily H2O, but H2O is NOT necessarily water. This is the case because, for water to be water, it is also necessarily liquid while H2O defines a chemical class of things, of not only water, but of ice (a solid) and steam (a gas) as well. So, in that sense, H2O is a more generic term that refers to water, ice, and steam whereas “water” is necessarily H2O between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius.
Marc Burock says
Way to add another wrinkle to the whole thing…yes I will bash my head more.
Actually, you are in agreement with me that “Water is H20” is NOT an identity, because an identity relation would have to go both ways-> “A is B’ and ‘B is A’ would both be true of an identity relation.
But, regarding your insight about phases, H20 can exist in liquid form above 100C at high enough pressure; and above the critical point, there is no difference between the liquid and gas phase–a supercritical fluid.
This complexity arises because a single molecule of H20, and collections of H20 molecules, can have completely different properties than that splishy splashy cool refreshing water. Think about some properties of that life giving liquid. Water is cool and refreshing to drink, and shimmers in the sunlight. A single molecule of H20 does not have these properties–so how could water be identical to H20
When I say “Water is an aggregate of H20 molecules”, even this statement is not entirely true. More precisely, “Water is an aggregate of interacting H20 molecules at a particular temperature and pressure”.
Then why do we think that “Water is H20” is an identity relation? Well, when scientists discovered the molecular constituents of water, they found that that molecule was given by 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen atoms bound together, an H20 molecule, and they subsequently baptized the name of that new found molecule ‘water’, just like the liquid. This is why Kripke, and many others, say that ‘Water is H20’–because the molecular constiuent of water, H20, was given the same name as water itself! This is not a scientific identity, but merely an accident in naming. H20 happens to be named ‘water’, which creates all of the confusion.
But scientists could have named that new molecule ‘bob’ or ‘lustral’, and we could be saying that Water and Ice are composed of Bob’s.
But back to Christopher’s point which is helpful. Should we says that “Ice is H20” is an identity?
Christopher Frederick says
As soon as I hit “post” I realized I forgot about the pressure part of water being liquid… Then there is the phenomenon of supercooled water.
So are we referring to the “thingness” of water, i.e. H2O, or are we referring to the emergent properties of a “Scientific Object” (the H2O) by using the word “water?”
We could end all this confusion if we say H2O is not “water” it’s Dihydrogen Monoxide!!!
trace crutchfield says
well, this was mind bending 🙂
Marc Burock says
[img src=”https://encrypted.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAcQjRxqFQoTCObe2sq1_MgCFUY5PgodSPUETQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fscienceline.ucsb.edu%2Fgetkey.php%3Fkey%3D4525&psig=AFQjCNGqp1SIKLqg1z46GroJ73xXICfwNQ&ust=1446920623785300 “]
Wayne Schroeder says
Dihydrogen monoxide is just another name for water. Di- meaning two, and mono- meaning one, translate “dihydrogen monoxide” to the chemical representation, H2O. Other names for water include hydrogen hydroxide, hydrogen oxide, hydroxic acid, hydroxylic acid, and oxidane. Hoax in process.