In defense of obstinacy

Philosophical Perspectives 17 (1):1–23 (2003)
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The aim of this paper is to make the case for the obstinacy thesis. This is the thesis that proper names like ‘Hitler’, demonstratives like ‘this’, pure indexicals like ‘I’, and natural kind terms like ‘water’ and ‘gold’, are obstinately rigid terms. An obstinately rigid term is one that refers to the object that is its actual referent with respect to every possible world (hence, a fortiori, even with respect to worlds where that object does not exist). This form of rigidity is stronger than the usual Kripkean one and has been notoriously explored by David Kaplan (Kaplan 1989a: 492-3; Kaplan 1989b: 569-71). Yet, the obstinacy thesis seems implausible to many philosophers and is worth substantive argument. For convenience, we focus our attention on proper names; but most of our remarks could be easily generalized to other unstructured singular terms. We shall take for granted Saul Kripke’s semantical doctrine that proper names are rigid in the general sense of the term and argue that their rigidity should take the specific form of obstinacy rather than persistence.
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