Rigid Application

Philosophical Studies 125 (2):139-165 (2005)
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Kripke defines a rigid designator as one that designates the same object in every possible world in which that object exists. He argues that proper names are rigid. So also, he claims, are various natural kind terms. But we wonder how they could be. These terms are general and it is not obvious that they designate at all. It has been proposed that these kind terms rigidly designate abstract objects. This proposal has been criticized because all terms then seem to come out rigid, thus trivializing rigidity. The paper starts with further criticisms of this proposal aimed particularly at a recent version given by LaPorte. The paper goes on to develop and defend an alternative proposal presented briefly in Devitt and Sterelny (1999): instead of taking those natural kind terms to rigidly designate an object we take them to rigidly apply to the members of their extensions. Schwartz has rightly insisted that a notion of rigidity must do some theoretical work if it is to be interesting. The paper argues that rigid application for kind terms does the same primary work as rigid designation for singular terms, the work of refuting description theories of some terms; and it does the same secondary work, of explaining certain modal phenomena (with one exception).



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Michael Devitt
CUNY Graduate Center

Citations of this work

Resurrecting Biological Essentialism.Michael Devitt - 2008 - Philosophy of Science 75 (3):344-382.
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