[C] [Wittrs] Proper Names --Wittgenstein, Russell, Kripke

  • From: Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 2 Feb 2010 14:22:51 -0800 (PST)

I'm having some trouble differentiating Wittgenstein from Kripke and Russell on 
proper names. (I include Russell for the theory of descriptions). Wittgenstein 
writes about names in paragraphs 39, 40, 44 and 79 of PI. There are also some 
remarks in Zettel, but I don't have them in front of me at the moment. As I 
understand it, Wittgenstein's basic point is that people confuse the meaning of 
a name with its bearer. They think the two are one in the same. (He uses Moses 
and Excalibur as examples). Because proper names (PNs) mean something apart 
from their bearer, they take on SENSE and are subject to the "law" (forgive me) 
of meaning is use. 

But what are the senses of PNs? I have listed four. "Moses" can mean: (a) a 
title or rule (the man who saved the Israelites); (b) a description (the old 
person with a grey beard who works down the road); (c) ostensibility (that 
person right there); or (d) a branding (Moses is DNA profile such-and-such, or 
Social Security Number 233-33-5953). Therefore, PN's accurately exist as 

One of the things that is strange about PN's is that only some of the 
senses seem to rule the bearer. That is, one could say that Moses did not exist 
if the story of Israelites is false, even though a man named "Moses" to whom 
the story was attributed did, in fact, exist. It would be the same as saying 
"George Washington was the man who could never tell a lie," and learning that 
this is false -- he told many. And upon hearing of this, in your delusion, you 
might say, "The George Washington I know doesn't exist." It would be the same 
as saying "The God I know is dead" or "Love is a lie." All of these things say 
that the idealization is false (that the rule is violated). (You don't have to 
say this, of course -- it's just a sense of expression). 

But note that for other things -- like descriptions and social-security numbers 
-- we wouldn't care if they were wrong. We'd just fix them on the fly. In fact, 
that is what Wittgenstein says. He says that the meaning of PN's is variable 
DURING THEIR DEPLOYMENT. The idea is that if you found out that your 
understanding of certain qualities of the bearer was in error, you would simply 
amend those qualities and let the PN stand amended. That you don't need to have 
much there or even right. And that this is the way PN's play in the language 

Now what does this do to Kripke and Russell? If I understand Kripke, he rejects 
(a), (b), and (c), and thinks that all PN's reduce to (d), only by science -- 
is that a correct read? I mean, I understand Kripke best when we are talking 
about certain kinds of scientific jargon. I guess I'm having trouble seeing how 
PN's are the same basic thing as those kinds of jargon. It seems to me the only 
way you can say that PN's are rigid designators is to say that: (a) the bearer 
and the name are always the same (which isn't true); and (b) that PN's can only 
exist in the form of a reduction (sense (d) above, only not for social-security 
numbers). Here's what I am saying. For Kripke, "Moses" can only be a DNA 
profile (in which it is never inseparable from its bearer), just as the vin 
number on my auto (or perhaps the ID number on the title) is its ultimate 
identifier. And as such, PN's work like some kinds of scientific jargon 

Do I have that right (Kripke v. Wittgenstein)?

Now, what does Wittgenstein's view of PN's do to Russell? Here, the idea of the 
theory of descriptions is in trouble, right? Because, after Wittgenstein, you 
cannot say of "Moses" that it refers to (a) an X; (b) its definition -- 
because, (1) meaning is use; (2) the bearer and PN are different; and (c) the 
definition is in flux by virtue of the way the PN language game exists.

Do I have that right?


Yours always appreciative

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
Personal Website: http://seanwilson.org
SSRN papers: http://ssrn.com/author=596860
Discussion Group: http://seanwilson.org/wittgenstein.discussion.html 

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