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Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 13, Issue 3, 2013

Chen Bo
Pages 421-445

Kripke’s Semantic Argument against Descriptivism Reconsidered

There are two problematic assumptions in Kripke’s semantic argument against descriptivism. Assumption 1 is that the referential relation of a name to an object is only an objective or metaphysical relation between language and the world; it has nothing to do with the understanding of the name by our linguistic community. Assumption 2 is that descriptivism has to hold that, if name a has its meaning and the meaning is given by one description or a cluster of descriptions, the description(s) should supply a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for determining what a designates; and that it is possible for us to find out such a set of conditions. Emphasizing the sociality, intentionality, conventionality and historicity of language and meaning, this paper rejects Assumption 1, and argues that Assumption 2 is an unfair interpretation of descriptivism, and it is not necessary for descriptivists to hold Assumption 2. This paper finally concludes that Kripke’s semantic argument against descriptivism fails.

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