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Naming and Necessity Paperback – July 26, 1980

ISBN-13: 978-0674598461 ISBN-10: 0674598466 Edition: New edition

8 New from $44.64 37 Used from $2.74 1 Collectible from $113.83
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New edition edition (July 26, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674598466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674598461
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #901,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


When these lectures were first published eight years ago, they stood analytic philosophy on its ear. Everybody was either furious, or exhilarated, or thoroughly perplexed. No one was indifferent. This welcome republication in a separate volume (with a helpful new preface, but no substantive changes) provides a chance to look back at a modern classic, and to say something about why it was found so shocking and liberating. Naming and Necessity lays out a way of thinking about the relation between language and the world which permits just as formal and rigorous a treatment of notions like "meaning," "truth" and "reference" as had Russell's and Frege's. Nobody would have believed that the neatness--what Kripke calls "the marvellous internal coherence"--of Frege-Russell semantics could be duplicated after everything was turned upside down. But Kripke showed how to do it, and now philosophers are busily rewriting all of semantics (and a good deal of epistemology) in Kripkean terms. (London Review of Books)

Kripke's lectures constitute something of a landmark in the recent development of philosophy... Kripke's penetrating good sense... and his brilliance in the devising of suggestive examples to test a theory's plausibility, have ensured that the topics he deals with can never took quite the same again. (Times Literary Supplement)

An impressive and enduring work of philosophy, outstanding in its sweep, clarity, and penetration. (Times Higher Education Supplement)

From the Back Cover

Naming and Necessity has had a great and increasing influence. It redirected philosophical attention to neglected questions of natural and metaphysical necessity and to the connections between these and theories of naming, and of identity. This seminal work, to which today's thriving essentialist metaphysics largely owes its impetus, is here reissued in a newly corrected form with a new preface by the author. If there is such a thing as essential reading in metaphysics, or in philosophy of language, this is it. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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This book is analytic philosophy at its best, buy it.
Fausto Labruto
Nonetheless, Kripke's book is extremely provocative, interesting, important, and even fun.
Maxwell Goss
Naming and Necessity is one of the classics of 20th century philosophy.
Steve Jackson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Maxwell Goss on May 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
In 1970, Saul Kripke gave a series of three lectures at Princeton University. These lectures, subsequently published under the title _Naming and Necessity_, were quickly recognized as one of those rare events that turns the world of philosophy on its ear. Amazingly, Kripke was a mere 29 years old at the time and he delivered the lectures without any notes. This book reflects both the advantages and shortcomings of the spoken form: it is clear, engaging, and often witty, but it is also repetitive at times and frustratingly incomplete at others.
It is perhaps fitting that Kripke delivered these lectures the same year that Bertrand Russell passed away, since their main target is the descriptivist theory of names associated with Russell. According to Russell - and to the reigning philosophical orthodoxy until 1970 - names are best analyzed as abbreviated definite descriptions, i.e. as unique sets of properties possessed by their bearers. However, Kripke argues that on this analysis, all such properties belong to their possessors necessarily - which is obviously false. For instance, if the name "Billy Strayhorn" just means "The composer of 'Take the "A" Train,'" then there is no possible world in which Billy Strayhorn did not compose the song. But this is false: Even if Billy Strayhorn had never written any songs, he would obviously still be Billy Strayhorn. What a puzzle!
In place of descriptivism, Kripke proposes the theory of direct reference, according to which a name "rigidly designates" its referent in every possible world in which it exists. That is, a name is just a "tag" attached to its referent, with no descriptive content whatsoever. Kripke also proposes an alternative theory for how names are transmitted, the causal theory of names.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Micah Newman on August 10, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No, really. Kripke maintains a vigorously-argued and important thesis here: the surprising conclusion that statements involving identity (e.g., when calling something or someone out by name) involve a posteriori necessity. This is quite striking because many have assumed that necessity was somehow substantially correlative with the a priori: but that involves a confusion of metaphysical necessity with epistemological necessity. With that idea in place, Kripke goes on to apply (all too briefly, unfortunately) it in some extremely thought-provoking--nay, well-nigh mind-blowing--ideas about things like natural kinds and the mind-body problem. I just wish he had gone into way more detail on these fascinating issues than the three oral lectures transcribed on these 180 or so pages.

If you're reading this review, you've either a) already read this and I don't have to tell you how unique and important it is, or b) maybe have just taken an undergraduate philosophy course that had some lectures on Kripke, and are thinking about checking out the primary literature yourself. If the latter, do so. You'll be enriched, and you might just be taken on a journey from which you'll never return. Philosophers are still, and undoubtedly will continue for some time, discussing the thesis of _Naming and Necessity_ and its implications for at least philosophy of language and metaphysics, and probably philosophy of mind and philosophy of science as well.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Benj Hellie on April 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Millian semantics of proper names; the separation of semantics from the theory of how the semantics gets generated; the staunch insistence on the necessity of identity; the rehabilitation of "non-linguisitic" necessity"; the generation of the class of the necessary a posteriori from the semantics; the extension of the approach to proper names to the semantics of general terms; the consequences for metaphysics and the interpretation of science; the extension of _this_ to the mind-body problem; the tantalizing hints about fictional names; the skepticism about the possibility of conceptual analysis and the cosequent support for rationalist metaphysics; the huge quantity of material to be mined from footnotes -- all of these features and many more are radical and absolutely essential contributions of this book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Rubard on January 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
CUNY's Saul Kripke is the premier logical mind of our time, and this book (rightly acclaimed as a classic of analytic philosophy) is a friendly introduction to considering the topic he made *intellectually* tractable: the role of modalities in thought. In three 1970 lectures (originally published in the Synthese volume *Semantics of Natural Language*) Kripke ran through the contribution of "counterfactual" reasoning involving tacit use of modal logic to several philosophical debates. Although his conclusions are none too tentative, if you can stand to countenance the thought of Holy Roman United Nations after reading this book you could also come to appreciate the moral of its reception (aptly put by Oxford's Michael Dummett in an article entitled "Could There Be Unicorns?", but rumored of by Montagovians some time previously).
Kripkean semantics for modal logic created an extremely flexible, pluralistic framework for assessing the role of modalities in reasoning, but is often taken in the form in which it is presented (here) to constitute a return to Aristotelian scholasticism. And although much work inspired by "Naming and Necessity" does allow such a construal perhaps "metaphysical" reasoning fits other conformances as well, and thoughts had by greats going back as far as you like live a life in the present somewhat other than one might think -- and if the reader will go this far with Kripke, today there are ample tools available for going *much* further. A supremely important book, which has in my opinion not been "outlived" by its extremely warm initial reception.
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