Let the label binary category terms refer to natural language expressions like ‘woman’, ‘man’, ‘female’, and ‘male’. Focusing on ‘woman’ and ‘female’, I develop a novel, empirically supported theory of the meanings of English binary category terms. Given plausible assumptions about the metaphysics of sex and gender, this gender-first theory predicts that the sentence ‘Trans women are women’ expresses a truth in all contexts and the sentence ‘Women are adult human females’ expresses a truth in most ordinary contexts — thus (...) that these two sentences can and usually do express logically consistent contents. The key feature of the proposed theory is that it treats both ‘woman’ and ‘female’ as sensitive to an individual’s gender when that individual belongs to a gendered category and to an individual’s sex otherwise. The existence and plausibility of a gender-first theory of this kind opens up conceptual room for trans-inclusive positions in the philosophy of sex and gender which endorse the claim that women are adult human females, thereby both accounting for trans women’s experiences of their bodies as female and helping to disarm the sentence ‘Women are adult human females’ as a trans-exclusionary slogan. (shrink)
Experiments have led some philosophers to conclude that the reference determination of natural kind terms is neither simply descriptive nor simply causal-historical. Various theories have been aired to account for this, including ambiguity, hybrid, and different-idiolects theories. Devitt and Porter (2021) hypothesized that some terms are covered by one theory, some another, with a place for all the proposed theories. The present paper tests hypotheses that the term ‘Rio de Janeiro Myrtle’ is simply causal-historical but the term ‘rice’ is hybrid. (...) For, whereas the former term is of scientific but little practical interest, the latter is not: rice is a significant part of the human diet. So, we predicted there would be two factors to the reference determination of ‘rice’: a superficial-descriptive one and a deep-causal one. Our experiments confirmed these hypotheses using the methods of elicited production and truth value judgments. We take our results to support the hybrid Theory of ‘rice’ rather than the ambiguity or different-idiolects theory. We were not testing ‘myrtle’ but, surprisingly, our results implied that ‘myrtle’ was partly descriptive and so like ‘rice’ but not ‘Rio de Janeiro Myrtle’. A follow-up experiment confirmed these puzzling results. More investigation is needed. (shrink)
Dayal's (2004) theory of kind terms accounts for the definiteness and number marking patterns in kind terms in many languages. Brazilian Portuguese has been claimed to be a counter-example to her theory as it seems to allow bare ``singular'' kind terms, which are predicted to be impossible according to her theory. However, the empirical status of the relevant data has not been clear so far. This paper presents a new data point from Singlish and confirms the existence of bare ``singular'' (...) kind terms. A modified theory of kind terms is proposed that accounts for it. The proposed theory puts forth a number system with three basic categories, i.e. singular, plural and general. It is claimed that bare ``singular'' kind terms are in fact derived from general NPs, which are associated with number-neutral properties. The paper also discusses why bare ``singular'' kind terms are not perfectly acceptable in Brazilian Portuguese. (shrink)
Recent experimental studies have claimed to find evidence for the view that natural kind terms such as “water” are ambiguous: that they have two extensions, one determined by superficial properties, the other by underlying essence. In an online experiment, we presented to 600 participants scenarios describing discoveries of novel samples that differ in deep structure from samples of a familiar kind but are superficially identical, such as a water-like substance that is not composed of H2O. We used three different types (...) of question sets to probe whether the participants considered the sample as a member of the kind or not. Our results did not confirm the predictions of the ambiguity view. They were, rather, consistent with views that take underlying essences to be the sole criterion for membership in a natural kind. (shrink)
Since Saul Kripke’s and Hilary Putnam’s groundbreaking work in the Seventies, the idea has emerged that natural kind terms are semantically special among common nouns. Stephen P. Schwartz, for example, has argued that an artifactual kind term like “pencil” functions very differently from a natural kind term like “tiger.” This, however, blatantly violates a principle that I call Semantic Uniformity. In this paper, I defend the principle. In particular, I outline a picture of how natural kind terms function based on (...) Kripke’s and Putnam’s considerations, and I use it to rebut Schwartz’s arguments, showing that if it works for natural kind terms, it can work for artifactual kind terms too, or at least that Schwartz did not provide good enough reasons to the contrary. (shrink)
I reply to comments and criticism of my book Roads to Reference by Scott Soames (on the referents of ordinary substance terms and the conventions governing reference fixing for demonstratives, proper names, and color adjectives), Panu Raatikainen (on the exact scope of my critique of descriptivism and on the relation between referential indeterminacy and ‘‘partial reference’’), and Michael Devitt (on the role of referential intentions and anti-descriptivism in the metasemantics of demonstratives).
It is often thought that some general terms or kind terms, in particular natural kind terms, are rigid designators, and that a properly extended notion of singular-term rigidity can help explain the behaviour of such general terms. In this article, I argue that the only legitimate notion of general-term rigidity is a trivial one and identify some crucial asymmetries between a posteriori necessary truths involving names and a posteriori necessary truths involving general terms. If we pay attention to these asymmetries, (...) it becomes clear that attempts to draw a non-trivial rigid/non-rigid distinction for general terms are bound to fail to offer the explanations we expected. As opposed to singular terms, what is interesting about the behaviour of natural kind terms, even in modal contexts, cannot be accounted for by modal distinctions like rigidity/non-rigidity but must rather track non-modal features. (shrink)
Through a detailed explication of Bernard Bolzano's semantics of natural kind terms, I elucidate why and to what extent he should be recognized as a remarkable anticipator of semantic externalism. Bolzano deals with kind terms in a brief sub-section of the first volume of his Theory of Science. He divides such terms into two sub-categories, roughly corresponding to organic and inorganic kinds. It is Bolzano's account of inorganic kind terms, such as ‘gold’, that confers on him the status of an (...) anticipator of semantic externalism. He argues that ‘gold’ may be used in a way such that the superficial attributes that language users associate with it merely serve to enable them to recognize its instances. They do not, however, constitute the idea designated by the term nor do they determine its extension. Instead, the term designates an idea representing gold's unknown inner attributes, which are causally responsible for its superficial attributes. (shrink)
What kind of reference (if any) do terms such as “pencil,” “chair,” “television,” and so on have? On the matter, a de-bate between directly referential theorists and descriptiv-ist theorists is open. It is largely acknowledged that natural kind terms (such as “water,” “gold,” “tiger,” etc.) are directly referential expressions (cf. Putnam,1975). That is, they are expressions whose reference is determined by their refer-ents' nature, independent of whether we know or will ever know what this nature is. However, it does not (...) seem like-wise convincing that all artifactual kind terms (like “pen-cil,” “chair,” “television,” etc.) semantically behave the same. Terms for artifactual kinds seem more likely to be subjected to a descriptivist view, that is, definable not by links to their extensions' nature but in terms of conjunctions or clusters of properties. In his celebrated “The Meaning of ‘Meaning’” (1975), Hilary Putnam originated the mentioned debate by arguing that artifactual kind terms also refer directly. Thus, the discussion ultimately revolves around establishing whether artifactual and natural kind terms are both directly referential expressions. The authors engaged in this debate have tried to argue in favor of (or against) Putnam's proposal by highlighting the similarities (or differences) between nat-ural vis-à-vis artifactual kind words and their respective ref-erents. This paper aims to provide a thorough and reasoned overview of the debate at stake, pointing out trends and problems associated with each proposed account. (shrink)
This dissertation defends the view that concepts encode causal information and, for the first time, applies this view to a range of topics in the philosophy of language and social philosophy. In my first chapter (“Cognitive Essentialism and the Structure of Concepts”), I survey the current empirical and theoretical literature on causal-essentialist theories of concepts. In my second chapter (“Meaning Externalism and Causal Model Theory”), I propose an account of natural kind concepts according to which they encode statistical information of (...) features of a natural kind, and represents these features as causally related to each other. I show that this internalist model of concepts correctly predicts intuitions about Putnam’s twin earth scenario and Kripke’s conceivability cases that historically motivated philosophers of language to accept externalist accounts of meaning. The defended theory of concepts also informs topics that go beyond traditional issues in philosophy of language. In my third chapter (“An Essentialist Theory of the Meaning of Slurs”), I defend the view that slurs are, too, a species of kind terms: slur concepts encode mini-theories which represent an essence-like element that is causally connected to a set of negatively-valenced stereotypical features of a social group. This explains both the peculiar linguistic behavior of slurs and slurs’ dehumanizing effects. In my fourth chapter, I build on this insight, showing that the explicit language in and around pornography depicts women as ‘kinds’ or ‘breeds’ that are naturally made to enjoy certain sexual acts, and argue that this deterministic picture of women dehumanizes them. (shrink)
How is it that words come to stand for the things they stand for? Is the thing that a word stands for - its reference - fully identified or described by conventions known to the users of the word? Or is there a more roundabout relation between the reference of a word and the conventions that determine or fix it? Do words like 'water', 'three', and 'red' refer to appropriate things, just as the word 'Aristotle' refers to Aristotle? If so, (...) which things are these, and how do they come to be referred to by those words? -/- In Roads to Reference, Mario Gómez-Torrente provides novel answers to these and other questions that have been of traditional interest in the theory of reference. The book introduces a number of cases of apparent indeterminacy of reference for proper names, demonstratives, and natural kind terms, which suggest that reference-fixing conventions for them adopt the form of lists of merely sufficient conditions for reference and reference failure. He then provides arguments for a new anti-descriptivist picture of those kinds of words, according to which the reference-fixing conventions for them do not describe their reference. This book also defends realist and objectivist accounts of the reference of ordinary natural kind nouns, numerals, and adjectives for sensible qualities. According to these accounts these words refer, respectively, to 'ordinary kinds', cardinality properties, and properties of membership in intervals of sensible dimensions, and these things are fixed in subtle ways by associated reference-fixing conventions. (shrink)
The natural name theory, recently discussed by Johnson (2018), is proposed as an explanation of pure quotation where the quoted term(s) refers to a linguistic object such as in the sentence ‘In the above, ‘bank’ is ambiguous’. After outlining the theory, I raise a problem for the natural name theory. I argue that positing a resemblance relation between the name and the linguistic object it names does not allow us to rule out cases where the natural name fails to resemble (...) the linguistic object it names. I argue that to avoid this problem, we can combine the natural name theory with a type-realist metaphysics of language, and hold that the name is natural because the name is an instance of the kind that it names. I conclude by reflecting on the importance of the metaphysics of language for questions in the philosophy of language. (shrink)
This paper presents a systematic semantic study of constructions with the noun 'case'. It argues that 'cases' are situations acting as truthmakers within a sentential or epistemic case space. It develops a truthmaker-based alternative semantics of 'case'-constructions, based on Fine's recent truthmaker semantics.
In this paper, I develop an essentialist model of the semantics of slurs. I defend the view that slurs are a species of kind terms: Slur concepts encode mini-theories which represent an essence-like element that is causally connected to a set of negatively-valenced stereotypical features of a social group. The truth-conditional contribution of slur nouns can then be captured by the following schema: For a given slur S of a social group G and a person P, S is true of (...) P iff P bears the “essence” of G—whatever this essence is—which is causally responsible for stereotypical negative features associated with G and predicted of P. Since there is no essence that is causally responsible for stereotypical negative features of a social group, slurs have null-extension, and consequently, many sentences containing them are either meaningless or false. After giving a detailed outline of my theory, I show that it receives strong linguistic support. In particular, it can account for a wide range of linguistic cases that are regarded as challenging, central data for any theory of slurs. Finally, I show that my theory also receives convergent support from cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. (shrink)
'The kind Lion' denotes a kind. Yet many generics are thought to denote kinds also, like the subject-terms in 'The lion has a mane', 'Dinosaurs are extinct', and 'The potato was cultivated in Ireland by the end of the 17th century.' This view may be adequate for the linguist's overall purposes--however, if we limit our attention to the theory of reference, it seems unworkable. The problem is that what is often predicated of kinds is not what is predicated of the (...) lion, dinosaurs, and the potato. Thus, kinds are sometimes said to be abstract objects, immanent universals, nominal essences, etc. But the lion is a predatory cat--it is not an abstract object, nor an immanent universal, nor a nominal essence. I consider several proposals about resolving the dilemma; however, the conclusion is that none of the proposals are adequate. We are thus hard pressed to make sense of allegedly kind-denoting generics, and the lesson is a "Socratic" one about the depths of our ignorance. (shrink)
In recent years attacks on the Kripke-Putnam approach to natural kinds and natural kind terms have proliferated. In a recent paper, Häggqvist and Wikforss (The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 1–23, 2017) attack the once-dominant essentialist account of natural kinds. Häggqvist & Wikforss also suggest that it is time to return to some sort of cluster-based descriptivist semantics for natural kind terms, thus targeting both the metaphysical and semantic tenets that underpin the Kripke-Putnam approach. In our paper we (...) want to challenge both parts of Häggqvist and Wikforss’ project. We will argue that the anti-essentialist considerations and arguments they raise against the Kripke-Putnam view are far from compelling in some cases, and certainly not decisive against a reasonable form of the view. On the semantic side, although Häggqvist and Wikforss give few details about what a viable cluster-based descriptivist theory should look like, we will argue that one can already see the approach to be a non-starter. Ignorance and error arguments of the kinds provided by Kripke and Putnam continue to be decisive objections. The only way we can see to save the cluster descriptivist approach is to make the essential properties postulated by Kripke and Putnam become essential features of the descriptive cluster. But this makes the success of the approach parasitic on the correctness of the Kripke-Putnam view. (shrink)
As is well known, the linguistic/philosophical reflection on natural kind terms has undergone a remarkable development in the early seventies with Putnam and Kripke’s essentialist approaches, touching upon different aspects of Kan’s slant. Preliminarily, however, it might be useful to review some of the theoretical stages in Locke and Leibniz’s approaches on natural kind terms in the light of contemporary reflections, to eventually pinpoint Kant’s contribution and see how some commentators have placed it within the theory of direct reference. Starting (...) with textual evidence even from the logical corpus, in the present essay I will attempt to discuss some of the arguments dismissing Kant’s adherence to this view. These assume that in his approach to the semantics of natural kind Kant appears to be still holding on to a nominalist/conceptualist position, though he seems to be well aware of a few key issues for the theorists of direct reference. (shrink)
I examine two sets of experimental results about the semantics of general terms, by Genone and Lombrozo (2012) and by Nichols, Pinillos and Mallon (forthcoming) that allegedly reveal significant variations in semantic intuitions as regards the correct application of general terms. The two sets of authors propose two entirely different semantic treatments: Genone and Lombrozo espouse a hybrid semantics whereas Nichols, Pinillos and Mallon are inclined towards an appeal to ambiguity. I cast some doubts on the coherence of a hybrid (...) theory and argue in favor of the ambiguity approach. But I also argue that the sort of ambiguitiy Nichols, Pinillos and Mallon postulate is easy to incorporate to non-descriptivist approaches. (shrink)
Within philosophy of science, debates about realism often turn on whether posited entities exist or whether scientific claims are true. Natural kinds tend to be investigated by philosophers of language or metaphysicians, for whom semantic or ontological considerations can overshadow scientific ones. Since science crucially involves dividing the world up into categories of things, however, issues concerning classification ought to be central for philosophy of science. Muhammad Ali Khalidi's book fills that gap, and I commend it to readers with an (...) interest in scientific taxonomy and natural kinds. He works through general issues to craft a useful philosophical conception and uses the account to think through a wide range of specific examples. Although there are differences in the details, that one-sentence summary of Khalidi's book could just as well describe my own recent monograph on natural kinds. (shrink)
This paper considers the problem of assigning meanings to empty natural kind terms. It does so in the context of the Twin-Earth externalist-internalist debate about whether the meanings of natural kind terms are individuated by the external physical environment of the speakers using these terms. The paper clarifies and outlines the different ways in which meanings could be assigned to empty natural kind terms. And it argues that externalists do not have the semantic resources to assign them meanings. The paper (...) ends on a sceptical note concerning the fruitfulness of using the Twin-Earth setting in debates about the semantics of empty natural kind terms. (shrink)
This book pursues the question of how and whether natural language allows for reference to abstract objects in a fully systematic way. By making full use of contemporary linguistic semantics, it presents a much greater range of linguistic generalizations than has previously been taken into consideration in philosophical discussions, and it argues for an ontological picture is very different from that generally taken for granted by philosophers and semanticists alike. Reference to abstract objects such as properties, numbers, propositions, and degrees (...) is considerably more marginal than generally held. (shrink)
This paper addresses recent literature on rigid designation and natural kind terms that draws on the inferentialist approaches of Sellars and Brandom, among others. Much of the orthodox literature on rigidity may be seen as appealing, more or less explicitly, to a semantic form of “the given” in Sellars’s terms. However, the important insights of that literature may be reconstructed and articulated in terms more congenial to the Pittsburgh school of normative functionalism.
How do people manage to refer to chocolate, despite knowing so little about it? Traditional semantic externalism gives a two-part answer, a negative claim that meanings are not determined inside speakers' heads, and a positive claim that meanings are fixed by external factors. This gets the semantics of ‘chocolate’ half right: the negative claim is correct, but the positive claim is not. There is nothing special about ‘chocolate’, and scientifically respectable natural-kind terms also fail to live up to the positive (...) expectations of traditional externalism. However, kind-term indeterminacy is compatible with important advances associated with externalism's de re understanding of kind terms. (shrink)
We defend the view that defines the rigidity of general terms as sameness of designated universal across possible worlds from the objection that such a characterization is incapable of distinguishing rigid from non-rigid readings of general terms and, thus, that it trivializes the notion of rigidity. We also argue that previous attempts to offer a solution to the trivialization problem do no succeed.
A paradigmatic case of rigidity for singular terms is that of proper names. And it would seem that a paradigmatic case of rigidity for general terms is that of natural kind terms. However, many philosophers think that rigidity cannot be extended from singular terms to general terms. The reason for this is that rigidity appears to become trivial when such terms are considered: natural kind terms come out as rigid, but so do all other general terms, and in particular all (...) descriptive general terms. This paper offers an account of rigidity for natural kind terms which does not trivialise in this way. On this account, natural kind terms are de jure obstinately rigid designators and other general terms, such as descriptive general terms, are not. (shrink)
We argue that the view that kind terms designate universals does not fall prey to the trivialization problem. We also argue that the view can respond to other challenges, specifically, the claims that an adequate notion of rigidity for kind terms must: (a) classify natural kind terms as rigid and classify many other general terms as non-rigid and (b) account for the necessity of true theoretical identifications involving rigid terms.
It is commonly assumed that natural kind terms constitute a distinct semantic category. This idea emerged during the 1970's following Kripke's and Putnam's well-known remarks on natural kind terms. The idea has stayed with us, although it is now recognized that the issues are considerably more complex than initially thought. Thus, it has become clear that much of Kripke's and Putnam's discussions were based on rather simplified views of natural kinds. It also turns out that the semantic issues are less (...) straightforward than assumed - in particular, it is far from clear what it might mean to say that a kind term is rigid. Strikingly, however, these worries have not done much to undermine the confident assumption that natural kind terms form a special semantic category. In the paper I try to shake that confidence. I argue that although natural kind terms are no doubt important (for instance, from an explanatory point of view), we are certainly not warranted in concluding that they form a separate, semantic category among the kind terms. (shrink)
Kripke argued, famously, that proper names are rigid designators. It is often assumed that some kind terms (most prominently natural kind terms) are rigid designators as well. This is thought to have significant theoretical consequences, such as the necessity of certain a posteriori identities involving natural kind terms. However, there is no agreement on what it is for a kind term to be rigid. In this paper I will first take a detailed look at the most common view: that rigid (...) kind terms are those which designate the same kind in all possible worlds. This view has been subjected to much recent criticism. I will argue that, while the proponents of the view do seem to have good answers to some of the arguments presented against it, it fails because this notion of rigidity cannot deliver aposteriori necessities. Time permitting, I will also sketch an alternative view which seems far more promising. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to illustrate how a belief in the existence of kinds may be justified for the particular case of natural kinds: particularly noteworthy in this respect is the weight borne by scientific natural kinds (e.g., physical, chemical, and biological kinds) in (i) inductive arguments; (ii) the laws of nature; and (iii) causal explanations. It is argued that biological taxa are properly viewed as kinds as well, despite the fact that they have been by some alleged (...) to be individuals. Since it turns out that the arguments associated with the standard Kripke/Putnam semantics for natural kind terms only establish the non-descriptiveness of natural kind terms and not their rigidity, the door is open to analyze these terms as denoting traditional predicate-extensions. Finally, special issues raised by physical and chemical kinds are considered briefly, in particular impurities, isotopes and the threat of incommensurability. (shrink)
Hanoch Ben-Yami has argued that the theory of the semantics of natural kind terms proposed by Kripke and Putnam is false and has proposed an allegedly novel account of the semantics of kind terms. In this article, I critically examine Ben-Yami’s arguments. I will argue that Ben-Yami’s objections do not show that Kripke and Putnam’s theory is false, but at most that the specific versions of it held by Kripke and Putnam have some weaknesses. Moreover, I will argue that Ben-Yami’s (...) account is not a novel account but it is only an unsatisfactory version of Kripke and Putnam’s theory. (shrink)
It is widely held that the meaning of certain types of terms, such as natural kind terms, is individuated externalistically, in terms of the individual's external environment. Recently a more radical thesis has emerged, a thesis we dub 'a posteriori semantics.' The suggestion is that not only does a term's meaning depend on the external environment, but so does its semantics. One motivation for this is the aim to account for cases where a putative natural kind term fails to pick (...) out a natural kind: The term may have a standard externalist semantics (if it picks out a natural kind) or a more descriptivist one (if it does not). Knowing which semantics applies will therefore require detailed empirical knowledge. This move has also been employed in cases where a singular term, such as a name, fails to have a reference. We argue that a posteriori semantics is inherently implausible, since the type of semantics common terms should be given ought not to be conditional on details of chemistry or physics. A number of difficulties for the position—'metaphysical,' epistemological, and methodological—are articulated. Finally, we suggest that a posteriori semantics misconstrues the way in which semantics is empirical. (shrink)
we explore the view that defines rigidity of general terms as sameness of designation across possible worlds. On this view, a general term is rigid just in case it designates the same universal (species, substance or property) in every possible world. This view has been proposed most notably by Bernard Linsky, Nathan Salmon and more recently by Joseph LaPorte, and it has been criticised by several philosophers, including Stephen Schwartz and Scott Soames.
Names and natural kind terms have long been a major focus of debates about meaning and reference. This article discusses some of the theories and arguments that have appeared in those debates. It is remarkably difficult to say what names are without making controversial theoretical assumptions. This article does not attempt to do so here. It instead relies on paradigm examples that nearly all theorists would agree are proper names, for instance, ‘Aristotle’, ‘Mark Twain’, ‘London’, ‘Venus’, and ‘Pegasus’. All of (...) the proper names that are discussed in the article are singular nouns that have no syntactic structure. Most of them refer to objects, but some, such as ‘Pegasus’, apparently do not. The article begins with proper names and the question ‘What is the meaning of a proper name?’ It turns to natural kind terms later. (shrink)
Temporal externalism (TE) is the thesis (defended by Jackman (1999)) that the contents of some of an individual’s thoughts and utterances at time t may be determined by linguistic developments subsequent to t. TE has received little discussion so far, Brown 2000 and Stoneham 2002 being exceptions. I defend TE by arguing that it solves several related problems concerning the extension of natural kind terms in scientifically ignorant communities. Gary Ebbs (2000) argues that no theory can reconcile our ordinary, practical (...) judgments of sameness of extension over time with the claim that linguistic usage determines word extensions. I argue that Ebbs shows at most that no theory other than TE can effect this reconciliation. Furthermore, while Ebbs’ argument undermines Jessica Brown’s solutions to two closely related problems about natural kind term extensions (Brown 1998), TE can solve both problems without difficulty. Some criticisms of TE are briefly addressed as well. (shrink)
Several authors (Boghossian 1998; Segal 2000) allege that 'empty' would-be natural kind terms are a problem for anti-individualistic semantics. In this paper I rebut the charge by providing an anti-individualistic semantics for such terms.
Kripke claims that certainkind terms, particularly natural kind terms,are, like names, rigid designators. However,kind terms are more complicated than names aseach is connected both to a principle ofinclusion and an extension. So, there is aquestion regarding what it is that rigidlydesignating kind terms rigidly designate. Inthis paper, I assume that there are rigidlydesignating kind terms and attempt to answerthe question as to what it is that they rigidlydesignate. I then use this analysis of rigidlydesignating kind terms to show how Kripke''sreasoning (...) regarding the necessity of `Hesperusis Phosphorus'' can be extended to statementsinvolving kind terms like `Water is H2O''and `Tigers are mammals''. (shrink)
This paper explores the link between number marking and(in)definiteness in nominals and their interpretation. Differencesbetween bare singulars and plurals in languages without determinersare explained by treating bare nominals as kind terms. Differencesarise, it is argued, because singular and plural kinds relatedifferently to their instantiations. In languages with determiners,singular kinds typically occur with the definite determiner, butplural/mass kinds can be bare in some languages and definite inothers. An account of singular kinds in terms of taxonomic readingsis proposed, with number marking playing (...) a crucial role inexplaining the obligatory presence of the determiner. The variationbetween languages with respect to plural/mass kinds is explained bypositing a universal scale of definiteness, with individual languageschoosing different cut-off points for lexicalization of the definitedeterminer. The possibility of further cross-linguistic variation isalso considered. (shrink)
In this paper I examine two ways of defining the rigidity of general terms. First I discuss the view that rigid general terms express essential properties. I argue that the view is ultimately unsatisfactory, although not on the basis of the standard objections raised against it. I then discuss the characterisation in terms of sameness of designation in every possible world. I defend that view from two objections but I argue that the approach, although basically right, should be interpreted cautiously.
This paper argues for an ontological distinction between two kinds of universals, 'kinds of tropes' such as 'wisdom' and properties such as 'the property of being wise'. It argues that the distinction is parallel to that between two kinds of collections, pluralities such as 'the students' and collective objects such as 'the class'. The paper argues for the priortity of distributive readings with pluralities on the basis of predicates of extent or shape, such 'large' or 'long'.
Kripke and Putnam have convinced most philosophers that we cannot do metaphysics of nature by analysing the senses of natural kind terms -- simply because natural kind terms do not have senses. Neo-descriptivists, especially Frank Jackson and David Chalmers, believe that this view is mistaken. Merging classical descriptivism with a Kaplan-inspired two-dimensional framework, neo-descriptivists devise a semantics for natural kind terms that assigns natural kind terms so-called 'primary intensions'. Since primary intensions are senses by other names, Jackson and Chalmers conclude (...) that we can and should do metaphysics of nature by analysing the natural kind concepts competent speakers possess. I argue that neo-descriptivism does not provide a suitable basis for doing this kind of metaphysics. I first of all give a detailed account of the neo-descriptivist semantics and deflate the intuitive support neo-descriptivists try to draw from their case of the XYZ-world. I then present three arguments -- the Argument from Ignorance, the Argument from Conceptual Analysis, and the Argument from Laziness. Taken together, these arguments undermine the neo-descriptivist analysis of natural kind terms. I conclude that natural kind terms do not have senses, that we cannot do metaphysics of nature by analysing the senses of our kind terms, and that the Kripke-Putnam account still provides the best semantics for natural kind terms we have. (shrink)