Singular Thought and the Contingent A Priori

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De re or singular thoughts are, intuitively, those essentially or constitutively about a particular object or objects; any thought about different objects would be a different thought. How should a philosophical articulation or thematization of their nature look like? In spite of extended discussion of the issue since it was brought to the attention of the philosophical community in the late fifties by Quine (1956), we are far from having a plausible response. Discussing the matter in connection with the status of the Kripkean category of the contingent a priori, Donnellan (1979) argued that what can be properly classified as knowable a priori about utterances like those involving ‘one meter’ or ‘Neptune’ famously proposed by Kripke (1980) cannot be the very same singular content that is contingent he distinguished to that end between knowing a true proposition expressed by an utterance, and knowing that an utterance expresses a true proposition. Evans (1979) replied that, for a very specific sort of cases involving “descriptive names”, a related proto-two-dimensionalist account should be preferred, on which it is not the singular contingent content, but rather a general descriptive one which is knowable a priori. In a series of papers, Robin Jeshion (2000, 2001) has recently attacked Donnellan's proposal, arguing in favour of the most straightforward interpretation of Kripke's claim: in the relevant cases, the very same singular content can be both contingent and knowable a priori. This paper appeals to a generalized version of two-dimensional semantics to advance an account of the Kripkean cases along the lines of Evans's, and argues that Jeshion's compelling arguments against Donnellan's view do not apply to this version.
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Archival date: 2016-04-30
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