Kripke and Intuitions

Consider another case that people who dismiss intuitions would have to dismiss: Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity. Naming and Necessity is seen as a classic in philosophy circles, so dismissing it outright is a pretty heft price. Here’s why they would have to dismiss it: Kripke’s arguments generally rely on intuition.

For instance, Kripke talks about what we would think if such and such were the case. Kripke obviously knows what he thinks about the situation, and he wants (and expects) us to think it too. However, this thinking we are supposed to do is really intuition.

More specifically, take his example of Feynman. Most people cannot give a description that uniquely identifies him (the position held by those he is arguing against). At most, they could say that he is a famous physicist, but that applies to other people too. However, those people are clearly referring to a person, namely, Feynman. But how do we know this last claim that they really are referring to a person and that person is Feynman? The answer is that we know it through intuition. Hence, to dismiss intuition is to dismiss Kripke.


2 thoughts on “Kripke and Intuitions

  1. Hey! It’s Jubilee from the RF forums. I just made a very odd discovery about myself. The last few years I have bought into Kripke’s notion of a posteriori necessity without thinking about it too much–essentially, I think, on authority of the folks that advocate it. I found it extremely obvious until…well, until today.

    I actually went through my notes yesterday from a few years back, before I started seriously reading philosophy. I think I was 14 or so at the time. I noted that I disagreed with a professor who gave a lecture at a public library, and I now recognize the thought experiment he put forward as Putnam’s twin earth thought experiment. I found the point deeply counterintuitive at the time.

    I believe that my intuition changed as a result of chance encounters and authorities. I’m honestly not sure how I feel intuitively.

    As for Feynman, my reaction was like Kripke’s anticipation: “that famous physicist”. I thought about it more, “who said that famous quote about QM that is dropped”–that does pick out one person. Or “that physicist my friend talked about that one time”.

    In short, I think Kripke’s significance in this regard is showing an intuitive ambiguity in this area of philosophy that was thought prior not to exist. I think the excitement was the result of a feelin that it was respectable to talk about the mirror or nature again. I think this supports pragmatisism, in that it reinforces the philosphical ambiguity and impasse with respect to describing the world equally adequately from different philosphical camps.

    1. Hey, glad you stopped by.

      As to Putnam’s twin earth, I’m pretty suspicious of it myself, but we can sidestep that.

      As to the Feynman thing, undoubtedly some people would be able to pick him out specifically (like his mom, himself, etc.), but most people presumably wouldn’t since most people just knew of him as a famous physicist. So I think this might keep Kripke’s point intact.

      I think people’s intuitions can differ and this can obviously be beneficial for an argument for pragmatism, but I also think intuition is important no matter what (and maybe more defensible under pragmatism). I’m not sure if you are disputing that or not, but just giving my own take.

      Also, if you have some time you should definitely comment more on the postmodernism thread on RF as i think postmodernism has huge diversity and so it would be nice to have someone give their own views and answer people’s questions. That thread looks like it’s heating up a bit, which surprises me because I thought it was going to be a dud since no one was responding.

      Anyway, nice hearing from you and I hope you enjoyed some of my posts.

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