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The pragmatics of rigidity

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					Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




                                   The pragmatics of rigidity
                                                      Bart Geurts




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




                            Names as definite descriptions




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Preliminaries


               Names are definite NPs: ‘Fred’ is semantically equivalent
               to ‘the individual called ‘Fred’ ’.
               Definite NPs are presupposition-inducing expressions.
               Not all definite NPs behave alike, but such distinctions as
               can be observed never draw a line between names and
               other definites.
               In particular, overt definites can be just as rigid as names
               usually are [e.g. ‘the table’].
               Like definites generally, names aren’t always rigid.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Non-rigid occurrences of names

       Bound-variable uses

        [1] If a child is christened ‘Bambi’, then Disney will sue
            {her/the child’s/Bambi’s} parents.
        [2] Betty believes that she has a son named ‘Marvin’, and she
            believes that {he/her son/Marvin} is gay.
        [3] Every time we do our Beatles act, [the one who
            impersonates] Ringo gets drunk afterwards.
        [4] Every time Marvin goes to see a performance of Hamlet,
            he falls in love with [the actress who plays the part of]
            Ophelia.



Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Non-rigid occurrences of names

       Local accommodation uses

               In English, Leslie may be a man or a woman, but Marvin is
               always male.
               The electoral process is under attack, and it is proposed, in
               light of recent results, that alphabetical order would be a
               better method of selection than the present one. Someone
               supposes that ‘Aaron Aardvark’ might be the winning name
               and says, ‘If that procedure had been instituted, Ronald
               Reagan would still be doing TV commercials, and Aaron
               Aardvark might have been president.’               [Bach 1987]



Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Non-rigid occurrences of names




       Names in counterfactuals

       His father would have been even happier if . . .
                  . . . Fred had been a Ferrari.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




                                            Names and labels




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Labels


               ‘Fred’ is a label that may be used to refer to an individual
               bearing the label; but the label as such doesn’t refer to
               anything.
               Everyone called ‘Fred’ shares the same label.
               There are a lot of very different ways in which a label may
               become attached to an individual.
               The ‘causal theory of reference’ isn’t false, but it is neither
               causal nor is it about reference: it is about certain ways of
               labeling.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Varieties of labeling

                        first names vs. surnames
                        numbers [on houses, banknotes, football players]
                        colours
                        names of computer files
                        ...
               In most of these cases it is evident that the labels in
               question don’t refer.
               What all these labeling practices have in common is just
               that some link is established between a label and its
               bearers, but the nature of the links and the ways they are
               initiated and sustained are different from case to case.
               The ‘causal theory of reference’ fits only some of these
               uses: it is a partial theory of labeling.


Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




                                   The pragmatics of rigidity




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Explaining rigidity

               The meaning of a name N is ‘the individual named N’,
               where ‘the’ is to be analysed in presuppositional terms.
               Given that the property of bearing the name N is an
               accidental one, referring to an individual with N will not, in
               general, be particularly effective unless the hearer already
               knows the intended referent, and that it is called N.
               Therefore, a name is typically used to refer to an individual
               that was already known to the hearer beforehand, and if a
               name is thus used it will appear to be rigid.
               Given the nature of presupposition, this also holds if a
               name is interpreted by way of accommodation.



Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Rigidity is just a form of context dependence


               Kripke’s strategy: Fix the referent of a name before you
               broach the issue whether or not the name is rigid.
               But this will work for any definite NP:
                        A cowboy entered the saloon. {He/The man} was drunk.
                        I have here an antique gold coin. {It/The coin} is Greek.
               Once a referent has been fixed, any expression that picks
               out the referent without conveying new information about it
               will appear to be rigid.
               Rigidity is a pragmatic phenomenon.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




                                Names and truth conditions




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Kripke’s main argument




               A name only contributes a referent to the truth conditions
               of the sentence in which it occurs.
               This holds for simple and complex sentences alike.
               It is evident that this is so, i.e. speakers’ intuitions are
               unequivocal on this score.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Problems with Kripke’s argument
               The very notion of truth-conditional content is problematic.
               Cf.
                        Unless we give it some special technical meaning, the
                        locution ‘what is said’ is very far from equivocal. . . .
                        Kaplan’s readers learn to focus on the sense of ‘what is
                        said’ that he has in mind, ignoring the fact that the same
                        words can be used to make different distinctions. For the
                        time being, the words mark a definite distinction. But why
                        mark that distinction rather than others that we could
                        equally well attend to?                           [Lewis 1981]
               The point is not just that, as things stand, we have an
               imperfect grasp of what truth conditions are.
               The point is, rather, that our intuitions about the same
               content may vary from context to context.

Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Now it’s rigid, now it’s not



        [1]        a. Every time we do our Beatles act, Ringo gets drunk
                      afterwards.
                   b. We did our Beatles act last night. Ringo was drunk, as
                      usual.
        [2]        a. Every time Marvin goes to see a performance of Hamlet, he
                      falls in love with Ophelia.
                   b. Last week, Marvin went to see a performance of Hamlet,
                      and as you would expect, he fell in love with Ophelia.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Presupposition failure

               Speakers’ intuitions about presupposition failure are not
               clear cut.
               Apart from this, they depend on topicality:
                        Confronted with the classical example, ‘The king of France
                        is bald’, we may well feel it natural to say, straight off, that
                        the question whether the statement is true or false doesn’t
                        arise because there is no king of France. But suppose the
                        statement occurring in the context of a set of answers to the
                        question: ‘What examples, if any, are there of famous
                        contemporary figures who are bald?’ . . . [Strawson 1964]
               This observation generalises to other presupposition-
               inducing expressions, including (inter alia) quantifiers and
               names.


Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Presupposition failure in quantifiers




        [1] Every Swiss matador adores Dolores del Rio.
        [2] No Swiss matador adores Dolores del Rio.
        [3] There are no Swiss matadors in the drawing room.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Presupposition failure in names

       Who is going to lead the Bush campaign?
       Minnie Mouse is going to lead the Bush campaign.

                      Who is running for president?
                      Peter Pan is running for president.


          Even if we had a Millian story about names like ‘Minnie
           Mouse’ and ‘Peter Pan’, it is unclear how these fluctuating
           intuitions might be accounted for.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity
Names as definite descriptions             Names and labels   The pragmatics of rigidity   Names and truth conditions




Closing remarks



               Let’s stop talking about truth-conditional content.
               Instead, let’s talk about various kinds of information, and
               how they may affect speakers’ judgments depending on
               the context.
               Then it will be easier to live with the fact that names aren’t
               so special, after all.




Bart Geurts: The pragmatics of rigidity

				
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