Marcus, Kripke, and the Origin of The New Theory of Reference
Smith (Quentin)
Source: Synthese, Vol. 104, No. 2 (Aug., 1995), pp. 179-189
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. this paper, presented at an APA colloquium in Boston on December 28, 1994, it is argued that "Marcus (Ruth Barcan) - Modalities and Intensional Languages" (1961) originated many of the key ideas of the New Theory of Reference that have often been attributed to Saul Kripke and others.
  2. For example, Marcus argued that names are directly referential and are not equivalent to contingent descriptions, that names are rigid designators, and that identity sentences with co-referring names are necessary if true.
  3. She also first presented the modal1 argument that names are directly referential, the epistemic argument that names are directly referential, and the argument that there are a posteriori necessities.

Author’s Introduction
  1. The New Theory of Reference in the philosophy of language became widespread in the 1970s and is still flourishing today. The New Theory implies that many locutions (e.g. proper names) refer directly to items, which contrasts with the traditional or old theory of reference, which implies that names and relevantly similar locutions express descriptive senses or are disguised descriptions. The New Theory encompasses such notions as direct reference, rigid designation, identity across possible worlds, the necessity of identity, a posteriori necessities, singular propositions, essentialism about natural kinds2, the argument from the failure of substitutivity in modal3 contexts that proper names are not equivalent to contingent definite descriptions, and related ideas and arguments. Some of the contributors to the development of this theory include Kripke, Kaplan, Donnellan, Putnam, Perry, Salmon, Soames, Almog, Wettstein and a number of other contemporary philosophers.
  2. The point of this paper is to correct a fundamental and widespread misunderstanding about the origins of the New Theory of Reference; the main misunderstanding is that it is widely believed that Kripke originated the major ideas of this theory, presented in his 1972 article on "Naming and Necessity" (Kripke, 19724) and his 1971 article "Kripke (Saul) - Identity and Necessity". The fact of the matter is that the key ideas in the New Theory were developed by Ruth Barcan Marcus, in her writings and especially in her 1961 article "Marcus (Ruth Barcan) - Modalities and Intensional Languages" (reprinted with small changes in (Marcus, 1993)). "Modalities5 and Intensional Languages" was presented in February, 1962 at the Boston Colloquium for the Philosophy of Science; Marcus's commentator was Quine and Kripke participated in the discussion which followed6.


See "Soames (Scott) - Revisionism about Reference: A Reply to Smith" for a reply.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 4: Footnote 6: See "Marcus (Ruth Barcan), Kripke (Saul), Quine (W.V.), Follesdal (Dagfinn) - On the Paper of Ruth B. Marcus".

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