Critical Notice of Scott Soames, Beyond Rigidity

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):149-168 (2005)
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In this admirable book, Scott Soames provides well defended answers to some of the most difficult and important questions in the philosophy of language, and he does so with characteristic thoroughness, clarity, and rigor. The book's title is appropriate, since it does indeed go ‘beyond rigidity’ in many ways. Among other things, Soames does the following in the course of the book. He persuasively argues that the main thesis of Kripke's Naming and Necessity—that ordinary names are rigid designators—can be extended to the more general thesis that simple proper names are synonymous with neither nonrigid nor rigidified descriptions, and so have no descriptive content whatever. He thoroughly defends and places in the context of a larger semantic theory the Millian thesis that the sole semantic contents of most proper names are the names' referents, so that sentences containing such names semantically express singular Russellian propositions. He provides and defends at length an innovative pragmatic account of why substitution of co-referring proper names in cognitive contexts intuitively fails to be truth preserving, even though it seems to follow from the Millian thesis that such substitution must be semantically valid. And he thoroughly and persuasively defends a semantic theory of natural kind terms that explains how, following Kripke and Putnam, theoretical identities involving such terms can express a posteriori necessities, even though on Soames's theory, and contrary to the Kripke-Putnam view, such terms are neither names of natural kinds nor rigid designators in any interesting sense.
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