Rigidity and Modal Asymmetry: The intuitive Kripkean argument revisited

In Ansgar Beckermann & Christian Nimtz (eds.), Argument & Analyse. mentis. pp. 306-320 (2002)
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Much of what has been discussed in the theory of reference in the last twenty-five years is strongly influenced by considerations centring on the business of devising a semantics for quantified modal logic. In this context, discussion of the property of rigidity plays an important role. This property is conceived of as a semantic modal property that distinguishes proper names from descriptions. It is argued that there is a semantic modal asym- metry between expressions of these types. In this talk I shall challenge this assumption. By examining the intuitive Kripkean argument or test employed I arrive at two rather nonconformist results: Firstly, it seems that the test does not establish a genuine semantic asymmetry: Rigidity appears to be a pragmatic property. Secondly, the test does not seem to demonstrate an asymmetry at all: When applied correctly it suggests that both proper names and descriptions (even discounting notorious cases like “the even prime”) can be used rigidly—or so I shall argue.
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