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SPIKES ON KRIPKE Joseph Sartorelli As a criticism ofa line ofattack against poststructural theory given by Christopher Norris and E. D. Hirsch, Michael Spikes argues that Saul Kripke, in his seminal work Naming and Necessity, ought to be construed in a nonrealist radier than realist fashion, as both Norris and Hirsch interpret him.1 This result by itself, if it could be sustained, would be quite a striking accomplishment since, in philosophical circles, Kripke's view is widely held to be realist in nature. One would expect, then, quite a powerful and subtle argument to establish this quite unconventional interpretation. Spikes, however, gives a rather weak argument, which not only seems invalid, but appears to rest on a false premise and an inaccurate representation of Kripke's explicit views. The falsity of the premise results from a basic confusion of two kinds of points about names and the objects they stand for that Kripke himself takes great pains to keep separate—viz., epistemological and metaphysical points. Spikes draws his extraordinary conclusion from the following claims, which he attributes to Kripke. "(1) objects of rigid designation have properties, would not be objects without properties, and tiius can be known in terms of those properties; (2) we can know the objects which names pick out as objects, as its, apart from the properties they have; and (3) objects of rigid designation are notjust objects behind bundles ofproperties, notjustbare particulars or propertyless substrata" (Spikes 1987, p. 304). His argument seems to be that (1) ensures that the objects cannot be conceptually independent of us; (3) ensures that the Philosophy and Literature, © 1994, 18: 348-353 Joseph Sartorelli349 objects cannot be things without properties out there in the worldbeyond us; yet (2) ensures that, in some sense, the objects can be known as propertyless, or at least considered as such; so the objects as referred to in this way must be in us. This is die only way tiiey can both be known in terms of properties, and known as objects apart from their properties . The objects that we know are, in Spikes's term, "conceptual constructs"—things that can have properties when we mentally make them have properties, and yet are the things that we make have properties, and so can be propertyless its before we so make them. This is Spikes's solution to what he sees as the "problem" arising from Kripke's holding that an object can have properties but can as well be known or identified apart from its properties. I do not think this is a good argument. In fact, it is a non-starter. The problem that would get it off the ground is no problem at all, and only appears to be one ifone assumes that knowing (or referring to) something without knowing its properties requires knowing it, in some sense, to have no properties. Such a view can be attributed to Kripke only if one misunderstands what Kripke means by "identification" and entirely ignores or misconstrues his account of how names are introduced into the language and get passed on. The second claim above is the most significant one for Spikes's line of reasoning, and indeed the one that generates his idealist line of thought. Spikes takes Kripke in this way: "We can obviously refer to gold without knowing, or making use of, this, or any other, essential or nonessential property; hence, there must be some object gold, which is something other tiian the atomic number 79, for us to identify" (Spikes 1987, pp. 302—3). Now the conclusion signaled by "hence" seems to be arrived at via an invalid deduction. It does not follow from the fact that we can refer to gold without reference to or knowledge of any essential property that there must be some object gold which is somediing "other than the atomic number 79" which we are thereby identifying. When we refer to an object, we do so by picking it out in some way (perhaps via some descriptive content, although Kripke at least would say that this is not required) . But the way we pick it out does not have to reveal anything essential about it. This becomes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 348-353
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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