A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Kripke Without Causal Links

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on May 8, 2007

I wrote in other posts that I buy into a kind of intentional-historical account of names.
The idea is that the meaning of names is reduced to history of intentional acts, that ends (or starts with, depends how you look at it), with a baptizing a content of intentional act.

By “intentionality” I mean the possibility for our acts to be directed to things of which we are aware of. We don’t just see, we see things; we don’t just think, we think of something; we don’t just love, we love something; and so on… We speak of the things to which those acts are directed as intentional content. For example when one is looking at an apple, the apple is an intentional content. One other characteristic feature of those acts is the type of intentional act, namely one can have different types of intention directed towards the same intentional content – one can look at an apple, think of an apple, wish to see the apple, and so on…

Kripke, in Naming and Necessity gives, as he says, a picture of how names refer to things. Here is one of the passages where he describes how that would work:

Someone, let’s say, a baby, is born; his parents call him by a certain name. They talk about him to their friends. Other people meet him. Through various sorts of talk the name is spread from link to link as if by a chain. A speaker who is on the far end of this chain, who has heard about, say Richard Feynman, in the market place or elsewhere, may be referring to Richard Feynman even though he can’t remember from whom he first heard of Feynman or from whom he ever heard of Feynman. He knows that Feynman was a famous physicist. A certain passage of communication reaching ultimately to the man himself does reach the speaker. He then is referring to Feynman even though he can’t identify him uniquely. He doesn’t know what a Feynman diagram is, he doesn’t know what the Feynman theory of pair production and annihilation is. Not only that: he’d have trouble distinguishing between Gell-Mann and Feynman. So he doesn’t have to know these things, but, instead, a chain of communication going back to Feynman himself has been established by virtue of his membership in a community which passed the name on from link to link, not by a ceremony that he makes in private in his study: ‘By “Feynman” I shall mean the man who did such and such and such and such’.

So, it is clear why Kripke’s picture is called historical. It is because what the name refers to, is not connected to some description (as in Frege/Russell theories), but with “certain passage of communication”.
Anyway, I buy this picture of Kripke but without the causality-talk, that is usually connected to it. The causality talk, as I understand, should play two roles in Kripkean picture. One is in the baptizing – the baptizer gives name to X, because X is in some kind of causal relation with the baptizer. And the other role is in the historical links – the transfer of the meaning of the names would be explained through some causal relation between the two persons in the communication.

Instead of causality-talk, I think a more general talk of intentionality is better suited. That is, the original baptizing and the “links”, I think, are better explained through intentionality-talk.
Some might think that intentionality can be reduced to causality, but I don’t. Even if intentionality can be reduced to causality the issue can be put aside and addressed separately.

Here is my reasons for changing causality-talk with intentionality-talk… First, about the original baptizing (or giving a name):

1.For it to happen, what is named must appear as intentional content of the baptizer. There is no sense in baptizing something when there is nothing to baptize- where something doesn’t appear as intentional content of any my intentional act – I (as a baptizer) have to name something which appears in my thoughts, so to say. It doesn’t matter how the baptizer is affected by X, if the baptizer doesn’t become aware of X (through some intentional act), there is no way he can baptize it.
I guess some people think of “see”, “hear” and other intentional acts, so that they are not directed to the real thing, but to something in our perception, which might or might not stand for a  real object. In such theory when I say that I see an apple, what I’m seeing is in fact a representation of an apple. I don’t use those words in such sense. Here, it should be taken that “I see apple” is taken to mean that there is an apple, and that I’m aware of it through sense of sight. If there is some representation going on, it is subsummed in the act of seeing as a part).

2.It is hard to see what kind of causal relation can there be between imaginary or assumed things and the person who does the baptizing. However in the intentional-talk, we can say that imagination and assuming (theorizing) are valid intentional acts, and whatever appears as intentional content in them, can be also baptized.

3.What kind of causal relation can there be between abstract things like numbers and people? Do numbers exist anywhere and affect the baptizer? We might say that one can figure out that there is distinction between four and five things, by looking at two examples. One where there is four things, and one where there is five things. But does the “fiveness” and the “fourthness” from the example somehow causally affect the baptizer? Is there such things as “five-ness” and “fourth-ness” that enter causal relations? In the intentional account one can become aware of there being quantity of things/number of things, and can give names to those.

Second, the links would work the way as Kripke put it in N&N (notice that he doesn’t at all mention causality here):

A rough statement of a theory might be the following: An initial ‘baptism’ takes place. Here the object may be named by ostension, or the reference of the name may be fixed by a description. When the name is ‘passed from link to link’, the receiver of the name must, I think, intend when he learns it to use it with the same reference as the man from whom he heard it. If I hear the name ‘Napoleon’ and decide it would be a nice name for my pet aardvark, I do not satisfy this condition.


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