Reference and Essence - Prefaces & Introduction
Salmon (Nathan)
Source: Salmon - Reference and Essence, 2005, Prefaces & Introduction
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Preface to the First Edition (Full Text)

  1. On October 11, 1974, 1 attended a talk given by Keith Donnellan at a meeting of the UCLA Philosophy Colloquium (Donnellan, 1974b). The talk, entitled "Rigid Designators, Natural Kinds1, and Individuals," was an expansion of a commentary (Donnellan, 1973b) on Hilary Putnam's "Meaning and Reference" (Putnam, 1973b2), both originally delivered at the 1973 American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Symposium on Reference. I was already familiar with the basic tenets of what has come to be called the "new" or "causal" theory of reference, having attended numerous lectures by three of the theory's main exponents and proponents, Donnellan, David Kaplan, and Saul Kripke. Following Kaplan, I shall call this theory the theory of direct reference. I was aware at the time that Kripke and Putnam had argued in connection with this theory, as it applies to natural kind3 terms, that though it could only have been an empirical discovery that water is H2O, it is nevertheless a necessary truth that water is H2O. By the theory, it follows that the substance water is such that it has to have the chemical structure that it actually has. Similarly, I had also read an argument of Kripke's concerning concrete things like tables and lecterns which seemed to show that certain nontrivial forms of essentialism followed from his theory of proper names in conjunction with certain trivial assumptions. These were exciting claims in and of themselves. But there was something new and marvellous in Donnellan's talk concerning the relation between the theory of direct reference and these essentialist claims. It might have been more perspicuously entitled "How to Derive Essentialism from the New Theory of Reference." For the first time I was made to appreciate the subtleties of the enterprise. Donnellan was doing more than merely performing feats of magic. Kripke and Putnam, it seemed, had done that much already. Donnellan was explaining how to pull the rabbit out of the hat. He provided a general mechanism allegedly employed by Kripke and Putnam for this purpose, and broke the mechanism down into its component pieces in order to show precisely where the philosophy of language, and where scientific or empirical principles, came into the picture.
  2. This made the rabbit trick look easy, but instead of removing the mystery, it only increased it. The mechanism seemed to involve things in addition to the magician's top hat, i.e., the theory of direct reference, but still no deeply metaphysical rabbit-parts. The practical question was answered: How do you extract nontrivial essentialism from the philosophy of language? You use this mechanism. But the deeper and more puzzling problem remained: How is it possible to extract a rabbit from an empty hat? I was determined to get to the bottom of the mechanism, and uncover its hidden props. It was Donnellan's talk in 1974 that provided the impetus for the research which culminates in the present work.
  3. Putnam's work, on which Donnellan's paper was originally a commentary, has deservedly received a great deal of attention since its appearance in 1973. Donnellan's paper has remained unpublished. With Donnellan's permission, I have attempted to present some of the central ideas of his paper in Section 17 below. The reader is hereby cautioned, however, that I do not know to what extent these ideas form part of his present view on the subject.
  4. The present book was written in widely separated periods. Much of it was written between mid-1977 and mid-1978 in my native city of Hawthorne, California, as part of my doctoral dissertation. Further work had to wait until the summers of 1979 and 1980, to be done in the sweltering humidity of Princeton, New Jersey. My labor consisted largely in putting down in pencil the details of an extended argument that I had been thinking through since Donnellan's talk in 1974.
  5. The interim has seen a veritable explosion of literature on the "new" or "causal" theory of reference, though relatively little is concerned with one of the main issues with which the present book is concerned, the relation of the theory to essentialism. Some of the published criticisms of the theory are mentioned in Part I below, but those that are mentioned are brought in only as a means for elaborating the theory. No attempt is made here to construct a complete defense of the theory against its critics, or to resolve all of the well-known difficulties that the theory encounters with certain referentially opaque constructions and with non-denoting names. I argue that these phenomena do not disprove the theory, but it is not my objective here to show how the apparent difficulties are ultimately to be resolved.
  6. The bibliography was compiled primarily with an eye to listing those works actually referred to in the text or actually consulted in preparing the book. It does not constitute a complete list of important works dealing with the theory of direct reference or essentialism. In particular, a significant part of the critical literature on the theory of direct reference is conspicuously missing, though much of the rest is included.
  7. All page references to Kripke's Naming and Necessity given throughout this book are to the 1980 book edition (Harvard4 University Press or Basil Blackwell5) [ … snip … pagination …]. All page references to Putnam's "The Meaning of 'Meaning'" are to his Philosophical Papers II edition (1975d6). [ … snip … other edition … pagination …].
  8. Throughout the work, many complex expressions are referred to time and again. These expressions have been labeled for easy reference, and an index of the labeled expressions is provided at the end.
  9. I thank The Journal of Philosophy for allowing me to incorporate portions of my "How Not to Derive Essentialism from the Theory of Reference" (Salmon, 1979b7) as well as portions of my review of Leonard Linsky's Names and Descriptions (Salmon, 1979a8) into the present work. I am grateful to Saul Kripke for permission to quote extensively from Naming and Necessity and to Hilary Putnam and the University of Minnesota Press for permission to quote extensively from Putnam's essay "The Meaning of 'Meaning'" (Putnam, 1975a). [ … snip … typing …]
  10. Several individuals have contributed in various ways to the successful completion of this project. I owe a profound debt of thanks to David Kaplan for his helpful, detailed comments on the 1977-78 draft, and for countless hours of delightful and illuminating discussion on the topics raised in the present work. Thanks are due also to Tyler Burge, Keith Donnellan, Graeme Forbes, William Hively, Saul Kripke, the anonymous reviewers of my manuscript, and the participants in my seminars on the philosophy of language and metaphysics at Princeton University in the fall semesters of 1978 and 1980 for their valuable comments and suggestions. Further thanks are due to still others too numerous to mention.
  11. Special thanks are owed to Keith Donnellan, for reasons made evident in the first three paragraphs. Very special thanks go to Eileen Conrad for her substantial donation of time and energy in assisting me in preparing the manuscript, and for her love — though not in that order.
    … Princeton, New Jersey 1980
Preface to the Expanded Edition (Full Text)
  1. Reference and Essence was born in 1979 as my doctoral dissertation on "Essentialism in Current Theories of Reference" but was conceived five years before and published two years after its birth. My thoughts and positions on the topics covered have changed little since I began thinking about the relationship among direct reference, essentialism, and modal logic9. I am pleased that interest in the book has remained strong throughout the years since its original publication.
  2. Part I clarifies the central theses and supporting arguments of the so-called theory of direct reference propounded by philosophers Keith Donnellan, David Kaplan, Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, and others. It is gratifying to have been told by many readers that they found this a very valuable introduction to contemporary analytic philosophy of semantics10. The central argument of Part II — that Kripke and Putnam made unsubstantiated claims, indeed false claims, to the effect that the theory of direct reference has nontrivial essentialist import — initially met with controversy, but few writers today would dispute it.
  3. The appendices include a controversial argument that the correct modal11 propositional logic — the logic of what might have been — does not validate the widely held thesis that no necessary truth could instead have been a contingent truth, since the thesis is false. Hence the correct modal logic12 is weaker than S5 and weaker than even S4. Though the reasoning is, to my mind, beyond reproach, the argument against S4 has proved unpopular. While I remain hopeful that future generations will find the argument as decisive as I take it to be, the current state of play leaves little cause for optimism. Orthodoxy is supported less by reason than by inertia.
  4. This edition includes five new appendices, which together span over two decades of further reflection on the same topics.
    • "Fregean Theory and the Four Worlds Paradox," a reply to David Over's review, originally appeared in the pages of Philosophical Books 25 (January 1984): 7-11, and appears here with that periodical's permission.
    • "Modal13 Paradox: Parts and Counterparts, Points and Counterpoints" originally appeared in Peter French, Theodore Uehling Jr., and Howard Wettstein, eds., Midwest Studies in Philosophy XI: Studies in Essentialism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 75-120, and appears here with permission.
    • "Cross-World Identification and Stipulation" originally appeared in Philosophical Studies 84 (1996): 203-223, and appears here with permission.
    • The fourth new appendix is a letter to Prof. Teresa Robertson concerning her insightful article, "Possibilities and the Arguments for Origin Essentialism," Mind 107 (October 199814): 729-749, and appears here with her permission.
    • "Naming, Necessity, and Beyond," a critical review of Scott Soames's Beyond Rigidity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), originally appeared in Mind 112 (July 2003): 475-492, and appears here with permission.
    … Nathan U. Salmon, Santa Barbara, California, April 1, 2004
Introduction (Full Text, some footnotes omitted)
  1. A great deal of philosophical attention has recently been devoted to an important area in the philosophy of semantics15 commonly referred to as the theory of reference. In the present work a number of philosophical issues arising from current theories of reference are examined and clarified. The theories of reference in question were not fully developed at the time that the present work was undertaken, but several versions were partly developed, to a considerable extent independently, by several contemporary philosophers of semantics16, most notably Keith Donnellan, David Kaplan, Saul Kripke, and Hilary Putnam. Donnellan's early pioneering efforts were concerned mainly with a common use of definite descriptions, the so-called referential use, with later attention given to proper names and natural kind17 terms such as ‘water' and ‘tiger'. Kaplan has begun to develop a theory of so-called indexical expressions, i.e., certain context-sensitive expressions such as ‘I', ‘here', and ‘this'. Putnam has constructed a theory of natural kind18 terms and physical magnitude terms, e.g., ‘energy', which he extends to artifact terms, e.g., ‘pencil', and some other forms of speech. Kripke has formulated a widely discussed account of proper names, and he also extends his account to natural kind19 terms and terms for natural phenomena, e.g., ‘heat'. Despite differences in scope and emphasis, these several theories bear striking similarities to one another, enough so that a sort of composite theory has been discussed as the "new" or "causal" theory of reference. Simply put, this theory asserts that the referential expressions mentioned above are non-connotative appellations, and not disguised or abbreviated descriptions which achieve reference through the mediation of a Fregean Sinn, or sense. We shall attempt to clarify this further in Part I. Since the theory asserts that certain expressions refer directly, we shall call it the theory of direct reference.
  2. Kripke's papers on the subject have attracted the most attention. In setting out his theory of reference, Kripke puts forth a number of important and exciting views, and supports them with artful and cogent argument. Fascinating issues that are related, often in an unobvious way, to the theory of direct reference are raised throughout his discussion. From a relatively simple base — the assertion that proper names are non-connotative appellations, together with this assertion's supporting arguments — Kripke launches into issues concerning the reference of proper names in modal20 and epistemic contexts, the possibility of contingent a priori truth and necessary a posteriori truth, de dicto and de re modality21, essentialism, and even the Cartesian mind-body problem. Thus, although many of the issues raised by Kripke involve concepts familiar to philosophical semantics22, such as necessary truth and de dicto and de re modality23, much of his discussion touches on issues that seem to belong more to metaphysics than to the philosophy of language.
  3. That Kripke is able to bring a relatively simple theory about the reference of proper names to bear on classical metaphysical problems is a testimony to the power of the theory. But the path from the philosophy of language to metaphysics is a slippery one. It is often difficult to tell whether one of the views being put forth is a straightforward consequence of Kripke's theory of reference (taken together with trivial or uncontroversial premises), whether it is related to the theory of reference in some less direct way, or whether it is entirely and simply independent of the theory of reference. Sorting these matters out is a delicate task. It is often difficult to determine when an argument depends on an unobvious connection between related theses, and when it uses a nontrivial suppressed premise connecting what are in fact unrelated and independent theses.
  4. The need to clarify the consequences of the theory of direct reference is especially pressing with regard to Kripke's espousal of essentialism, the doctrine that certain properties of things are properties that these things could not fail to have, except by not existing. Kripke holds for instance that a table which was in fact originally constructed from a certain hunk of wood is such that it could not have originated from a sample of water hardened into ice, and that any particular pain sensation is such that it could not have had the feel of a tickle. Indeed, the latter view is crucial to Kripke's discussion of mind-body identity theory. Kripke's essentialism seems to go hand in hand with his theory of reference.
  5. It is surprising, at least initially, that a simple theory about a very basic aspect of language could have this much metaphysical import. A proper theory of reference, one would think, should be concerned only with the nature of the semantical relations that hold between certain linguistic expressions and the objects for which they stand, and ought to be indifferent to the question of whether the objects referred to have certain of their properties essentially. A major project of the present work is to investigate the extent to which essentialism is indeed a consequence of the theory of direct reference.
  6. The book is divided into two parts. In Part I a careful attempt is made to clarify, to elaborate, and sometimes to develop further the theory of direct reference, along with its supporting arguments and an important immediate consequence, rigid designation24. It will be argued that a trivial form of essentialism is, as it were, built into the theory and is in a certain sense derivable from it, viz., the doctrine that every object is such that it could not fail to be itself. In Part II, a recent attempt by Putnam, as elaborated by Donnellan, to substantiate the claim that certain nontrivial forms of essentialism concerning natural kinds25 are also consequences of the theory of direct reference is presented and analyzed. It will be argued that this program is flawed in that it begs the crucial question by relying on nontrivial essentialist premises that are quite independent of the theory of reference. A related argument of Kripke's which uses the theory of direct reference to prove a version of essentialism concerning the origins of concrete artifacts is also analyzed, and also found to rely on an independent essentialist premise.
  7. In addition, there are two appendices. The first is an exploration into certain cross-world identification principles at work in Kripke's argument for a version of essentialism. The second arbitrates a disagreement between Donnellan and Kripke concerning the epistemological and theoretical status of the crucial essentialist premises involved in some of the relevant arguments. The result of this investigation taken together with the results of Part II will be seen as supporting the contention that nontrivial essentialism concerning natural kinds26 and concrete individuals is an intrinsically metaphysical doctrine, or set of doctrines, not reducible to, or obtainable as a product of, the philosophy of language or science.


For Nathan Salmon, see Link. Annotated printout filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 16 (S1: Sa-Sl)".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 2: See "Putnam (Hilary) - The Meaning of 'Meaning'".

Footnote 4: Harvard edition - See "Kripke (Saul) - Naming and Necessity".

Footnote 5: Blackwell edition - See "Kripke (Saul) - Naming and Necessity".

Footnote 6: See "Putnam (Hilary) - Philosophical Papers 2 - Mind, Language and Reality".

Footnote 7: See "Salmon (Nathan) - How Not to Derive Essentialism from the Theory of Reference".

Footnote 8: See "Salmon (Nathan) - Review of 'Names and Descriptions' by Leonard Linsky".

Footnote 14: See "Robertson (Teresa) - Possibilities and the Arguments for Origin Essentialism".

Footnote 24: There are aspects of the theory of direct reference that are not directly relevant to the issues concerning modality and essentialism with which the present work is chiefly concerned. The historical or casual (sic - causal?) account given by Donnellan and Kripke for determining the reference of a proper name in a given speaker's idiolect, and Putnam's sociolinguistic hypothesis concerning the division of linguistic labor, for instance, are not as important for the concerns of Part II as is the phenomenon of so-called rigid designation. Part I is mainly an attempt to clarify those aspects of the theory of direct reference that may be directly relevant to the question of whether the theory has any nontrivial essentialist import.

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