Rigid general terms and essential predicates

Philosophical Studies 140 (2):213 - 228 (2008)
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What does it mean for a general term to be rigid? It is argued by some that if we take general terms to designate their extensions, then almost no empirical general term will turn out to be rigid; and if we take them to designate some abstract entity, such as a kind, then it turns out that almost all general terms will be rigid. Various authors who pursue this line of reasoning have attempted to capture Kripke’s intent by defining a rigid general term as one that applies to the objects in its extension essentially. I argue that this account is significantly mistaken for various reasons: it conflates a metaphysical notion (essentialism) with a semantic one (rigidity); it fails to countenance the fact that any term can be introduced into a language by stipulating that it be a rigid designator; it limits the extension of rigid terms so much that terms such as ‘meter’, ‘rectangle’, ‘truth’, etc. do not turn out to be rigid, when they obviously are; and it wrongly concentrates on the predicative use of a general term in applying a certain test offered by Kripke to determine whether a term is rigid.

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Ilhan Inan
Koc University


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