We are a Working Group devoted to the discussion of historical and philosophical issues in symbolic logic, mathematics, and science. We meet on occasional Wednesday evenings for a talk and a lively discussion. The group is funded by the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Department of Philosophy.

All members of the academic community are welcome to attend. We have regular participants in many different fields, including philosophy, mathematics, history of science, and psychology.

The group organizers are Lara Buchak (Philosophy), Wesley Holliday (Philosophy), John MacFarlane (Philosophy), Paolo Mancosu (Philosophy), and Seth Yalcin (Philosophy).

Our next event

November 02, 2016, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Bernhard Nickel (Harvard University)

Predicativism and the Semantic Argument

Predicativism about names holds that proper names are fundamentally count nouns, a hypothesis most directly illustrated by examples like “there are two Alfreds at Princeton.” When names are used to refer to particular objects, they form complex noun phrases. On one prominent elaboration of the view, “Alfred is in the room” has roughly this logical form: “[The] Alfred is in the room”, where the square brackets indicate that the article is present in the logical form but unpronounced. This is a form of descriptivism that may make descriptivist treatments of long-standing puzzles about proper names available while being immune to Kripke’s challenges to descriptivism. Much of the literature has asked whether predicativism can answer Kripke’s modal argument, which turns on the claim that names are rigid designators. This paper focuses on Kripke’s semantic argument, which seeks to show that the reference of a proper name cannot be fixed by a description the speaker grasps (exemplified by the Godel/Schmidt case). I argue that predicativism falls prey to this objection, as well.