The Epistemology of Necessity
Pollock, William J.
The thesis examines the direct reference theory of proper names and natural kind terms as expounded by Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam and others and finds that it has not succeeded in replacing some kind of description theory of the reference of such terms - although it does concede that the traditional Fregean theory is not quite correct. It is argued that the direct reference theory is mistaken on several counts. First of all it is question-begging. Secondly, it is guilty of a 'use/mention' confusion. And thirdly, and most importantly, it fails to deal with the notion of understanding. The notion of understanding is crucial to the present thesis - specifically, what is understood by a proper name or natural kind term. It is concluded that sense (expressed in the form of descriptions) is at least necessary for reference, which makes a significant difference to Kripke's claim that there are necessary a posteriori truths as well as contingent a priori truths. It is also argued that sense could be sufficient for reference, if it is accepted that it is speakers who effect reference. In this sense, sense determines reference. The thesis therefore not only argues against the account of reference given by the direct reference theorists, it also gives an account of how proper names and natural kind terms actually do function in natural language. As far as the epistemology of necessity is concerned the thesis concludes that Kripke (along with many others) has not succeeded in establishing the existence of the necessary a posteriori nor the contingent a priori from the theory of direct reference. Whether such truths can be established by some other means, or in principle, is not the concern of the thesis; although the point is made that, if a certain view of sense is accepted, then questions of necessity and a priority seem inappropriate.