Apr 18, 2022 Uncategorized

Form and Nature of Any Language Essay


For each of the eleven questions, answer with a minimum of 250 words.

1. Describe and contrast Russell’s descriptivist theory of the reference of proper names with Strawson-Searle’s cluster descriptivist theory. Explain the difference in focus (individual vs. community) that lies behind the two approaches.

2. Outline descriptivist theories of the reference of proper names (see previous question) and discuss how the work of Strawson on perception and Donnellan on referential use of definite descriptions began to raise questions about these theories.

3. Outline descriptivist theories of the reference of proper names (see the two previous questions) and discuss the main counter-examples brought against them by Donnellan and Kripke. Distinguish examples that tell against both cluster descriptivist approaches and Russell’s approach from examples that tell only against Russell’s approach. Distinguish examples that tell against communal cluster theories from examples that tell only against idiolectal cluster theories.

4. Contrast the descriptivist approach to the reference of proper names with the alternative picture presented by Donnellan and Kripke. Give one or two counterexamples to the descriptivist approach. Why is the Donnellan-Kripke approach termed a “picture” rather than a theory?

5. Explain Putnam’s cat/robot case. Explain why it indicates that definitions of natural kind terms like ‘cat’ are not analytically true, or true by definition, or even apriori.

6. Using Putnam’s discussion of the natural kind term “lemon”, discuss his criticism of traditional definitional accounts of meaning and reference (distinguish these) of natural kind terms. What considerations show that understanding the term is not centrally a matter of knowing its dictionary definition?

7. Discuss Putnam’s account of definitions of physical magnitude terms such as “electricity” or “mass”, or natural kind terms in science such as “atom”. Make use of “The Analytic and the Synthetic” and “Explanation and Reference”. Why are such definitions not made true by virtue of the fact that they are definitions? Make some background reference to Quine’s discussion of analyticity. Why is there reason to take such definitions to be empirical, not apriori (explain these last two terms).

8. Explain what anti-individualism is. Explain by reference to examples what natures are. Explain how anti-individualism differs from Putnam’s construal of his twin-earth thought experiment regarding thoughts about natural kinds. Consider not only his focus on linguistic reference, but his assumption that the twins are in the same psychological states. How does he use this assumption to interpret his argument?

9. Explain what anti-individualism is. Contrast the aluminum (or water) thought experiment with the arthritis thought experiment. Explain differences and similarities in the lessons that antiindividualism draws from these two thought experiments.

10. Using Putnam’s account of definition as background, explain the sofa thought experiment from “Intellectual Norms and Foundations of Mind” and its lessons for anti-individualism. Explain why this thought experiment and other considerations suggest that social relations are not the most basic ground for anti-individualism.

11. Discuss the notions of reflection and incomplete understanding by reference to the arthritis and sofa thought experiments. (You may also use the other aluminum/water thought experiment and Putnam’s cats/robots thought experiment, if you wish.) How does anti-individualism contribute to understanding the epistemic status of “armchair” reflection? How does it improve on tradition concepts of armchair reflection?