- Hardcover: 392 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 3, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195145283
- ISBN-13: 978-0195145281
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.4 x 5.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,837,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beyond Rigidity: The Unfinished Semantic Agenda of Naming and Necessity 1st Edition
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"In this admirable book, Scott Soames provides well defended answers to some of the most difficult and important qurstions in the philosophy of language, and he does so with characteristic thoroughness, clarity, and rigor."--Michael McKinsey, Canadian Journal of Philosophy
About the Author
Scott Soames is at Princeton University.
Top customer reviews
Prior to reading this text, I recommend another whirl in Kripke's NN (and yet another...) as well as the first half of Salmon's Reference and Essence (Frege's Puzzle/[Ridgeview] would also be beneficial).
Soames' subtitle to Beyond Rigidity (a clever title) is: 'The Unfinished Semantic Agenda of NN' so one would expect some beaucoup direct reference theory and a clear analysis of just what kind of 'agenda' kripke left 'unfinished.' Soames is meticulous in satisfying that expectation.
Ch 1 discusses two main points of the unfinished semantic agenda: a positive theory of meaning (semantic content, names), and the significance of natural kind terms. Ch 2 is a discussion of proper names as RD's (as not R. descriptions). Ch 3 discusses the meaning of names as their referents. Ch 4 analyzes ambiguity and proper names (esp. indexicals). Ch 5 evaluates 'partially descriptive names.' Ch 6-8 deals with pro attitudes ascriptions (defending a Millian/neo-Russellian view of names and indexicals in light of Fregean informational content). The last chapters deal with natural kind terms.
At bottom, it seems that Soames is still committed to an anti-descriptivist account of proper names (which is probably the mainline view nowdays--Searle may be one of the few hold outs).
Soames makes K's project more explicit (and maybe more clear), and an interesting thesis he develops is that natural kind terms are not RD's (nor are they incredibly crucial for an understanding of proper names)
This text will be worthy of reading and re-reading again.
The first couple of chapters do explicitly talk about rigid designation, as do the last three chapters, which take on the task of exploring what it would mean for a general term to be a rigid designator. The middle chapters go through pages and pages of (to me, mind-numbingly tedious) "speaker A asserts proposition p by uttering sentence s in context C with name n with semantic content x iff A believes that p..."-type schemata, with hardly a mention of rigid designation anywhere. It was while ploughing through this sort of material that it became clearly apparent that what Soames is on about here is simply Millianism: the thesis that the semantic content of a proper name is just its referent. The purpose of all this thick and dry exposition is to explore ways in which some common puzzles about direct reference could be solved (in such roundabout and technical ways that they are, to me, of very little interest--and I'm not overly intimidated by technical formalisms if they arrive at an important point; I just don't know that a conclusion that can't be summarized in a few plain sentences is worthwhile) while maintaining that the semantic content of a name is just its referent. Soames does this by appeal to background beliefs, etc., which does not seem so earth-shattering. All this is well and good, of course, for a thorough theoretical treatment of the direct-reference program. Soames is obviously a very careful philosopher, and insofar as the framework in which he investigates the questions goes, his conclusions are plausible enough. However, someone interested in a further development and generalization of the rigid designation thesis, as such, could well do entirely without this book. Except, maybe, as an object lesson for "How Not to Think About Rigid Designation."
Unfortunately, even when explicitly treating of rigid designation (and this goes for the early and later chapters too), Soames seems to have no feel for the notion of metaphysical necessity and identity that underlies the notion of rigidity; he is simply a direct-reference theorist through and through (for this reason, after three chapters on the possibility of rigid designation of general terms, he comes to find no real use for or promise in the idea, which is no surprise as one of his starting points is that it should be a "natural extension of rigid designation for what has been given for singular terms"--it's not hard to see why this would not work, but again, Soames misses the point, which is metaphysical necessity of identity, not mere reference). The title _Beyond Rigidity_ is actually the inverse of what it should be, not only does it not go "beyond rigidity"--in fact, it doesn't even get as far as rigidity.
So, beware, as the title turns out to be awfully misleading. And, as others have pointed out, Soames' dry-as-dust logic-chopping is a stark contrast from Kripke's lively, engaging prose. It's pretty funny that it was Kripke, in three lectures and hardly any recourse to formal symbolism, who made the far deeper and more enduring point.