This is a preprint version of the paper which appeared in definitive form in History and Philosophy of Logic 20, 1999, 125-27. The published version should be consulted for all citations.
P. W. HUMPHREYS and J. FETZER (eds.), The New Theory of Reference, Kripke, Marcus, and its Origins. (Synthese Library, vol. 270.) Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1998. xiii + 290 pp. Dfl. 195/$105/66£. ISBN 0-7923-4898-2.
Reviewed by C. O. HILL, 39 rue Gay Lussac, Paris, 75005, France.
A session held in Boston on December 28, 1994 at the Eastern Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association in Boston had an unwarranted effect, the story of which is chronicled in this book. Quentin Smith of Western Michigan University presented a paper (pp. 3-12) whose stated aim was "to correct a fundamental and widespread misunderstanding about the origins of the New Theory of Reference" (p. 3). In it he advanced and defended the thesis that "the main misunderstanding is that it is widely believed that Kripke originated the main ideas of this theory", whereas "the key ideas in the New Theory were developed by Ruth Barcan Marcus, in her writings in 1946-47… and especially in her 1961 article on 'Modalities and Intensional Languages'… presented in February 1962 at the Boston Colloquium for the Philosophy of Science" (p. 3), in which Kripke had taken an active part. Smith attributed the misunderstanding to an insufficient familiarity with Marcus' work and to Kripke's failure to acknowledge the influence of Marcus' ideas, which he had not initially understood (pp. 9,10).
Taking umbrage, Kripke's colleague at Princeton, Scott Soames next argued (pp. 13-35) that "what Smith has done is to mistakenly read many of Kripke's arguments and doctrines back into Marcus, and then to insinuate that Kripke is guilty of theft" (p. 29; p. 14). Soames called Smith's paper shameful, careless and incompetent. Smith, Soames contended, had done Kripke "a grave injustice", written as if Kripke had "appropriated the major views expressed in Naming and Necessity from Marcus while denying her proper credit, and suggests that it is a scandal that the rest of the profession was thereby duped" (p. 29; p. 13). Smith replied (pp. 37-61). Debate and controversy ensued.
In an effort to put the discussion on objective ground, Jaakko Hintikka published the original papers in Synthese. Part I of this volume of Synthese Library reproduces them. Part II publishes an additional reply by Soames along with two papers in which another of Kripke's colleagues at Princeton, John Burgess, also attacks Smith. The tone is unnecessarily vituperative. Those papers are followed by a paper by Smith in which he focuses on "largely unknown contributions" made by Marcus and Peter Geach to the theories of direct, causal or rigid reference found in the New Theory of Reference and argues that that the "world-definition" of rigid designation associated with Kripke is preferable to the "direct-reference definition" associated with David Kaplan.
Published in Part III are sections on definite descriptions, modality, identity, referential opacity, substitutivity from the1961 Harvard dissertation of Dagfinn Ffllesdal, another participant in the famous 1962 session. This is followed by an article by Sten Lindström on the model-theoretic semantics for modal logic that Stig Kanger began developing in his 1957 Stockholm dissertation. Comparing Kanger's and Kripke's semantics for modal logic, Lindström finds that Kanger's semantics is adequate for the notion of logical necessity and that Kripke's adequately captures a form of metaphysical necessity, but that neither semantics is capable of adequately handing the notion captured by the other. The task of devising a semantics capable of treating both notions is a still unmet challenge concludes Lindström (p. 230). In a final essay, Smith continues to try to provide a more accurate and comprehensive account of the "new" theory in question. His paper includes sections on G. E. Moore's essay on "The Nature of Judgment", Ffllesdal's dissertation, Hintikka's early ideas on metaphysical possibility (1957-63), Cocchiarella and the secondary semantics for logical necessity, Plantinga's theories, plus more on Geach and, of course, Kripke and Marcus.
The book as a whole presents a wealth of facts and arguments in defence of the various positions taken. There is, however, always something ineluctably elusive about questions of influence and the origins of ideas that is not captured in attention to details. An insightful grasp of the overall picture is required. And this is all the more true when, as is the case here, major issues and important figures are under discussion.
In this case, philosophers really need to acquire a deeper and more sufficient understanding of why and how the "old" theory of reference it took hold. Any proper analysis and appraisal of Marcus' work has to be undertaken in connection with the logical and philosophical exigencies that made that "old" theory seem to be a clever solution to logical predicaments arising out of the foundations that Frege tried to lay for arithmetic in the first place. Only that will yield the necessary insight into how and why one may or may not conclude that Marcus' earliest ideas mothered and fostered a rival theory eventually able to undermine and overtake the "old" one. After all, both Frege and Russell ultimately pinpointed issues surrounding descriptions, identity, substitutivity and extensions as being the Achilles heel of logical ideas they both espoused and then abandoned.
It is also important to remember that philosophy has its fashions and its sacred cows. In the late 1940s, Marcus' work on quantified modal logic and the necessity of identity was pioneering and prophetic, but it was hardly fashionable. As is well known, Quine, the fashionable philosopher of the 1950s and 1960s (and a participant in the key 1962 session) made quashing modal and intensional logics one of the principal planks of his philosophical program. One of his targets was Marcus' earliest work. He charged, among other things, that the quantified modal logic of her doctoral thesis had "queer ontological consequences", could precipitate an ontological crisis. He warned that her theorem on the necessity of identity was such as to lead us "back into the metaphysical jungle of Aristotelian essentialism" for which an object "must be seen as having some of its traits necessarily and others contingently". Defying Quine's opprobrium, Marcus fought an uphill battle in defence of the censured theses.
Looking at the evolution of the ideas that went into the making of the "new" theory within the larger context of the charges that Quine levelled against Marcus helps shed light on the issues raised. And that debate surely prepared the ground for a wider acceptance for ideas that went into the making of a "new" theory. "Although Quine's arguments were mistaken", Soames acknowledges, "they were enormously influential and they baffled large numbers of the profession for decades" (p. 16; p. 14). (Were they duped?). This fact can partially explain how Kripke's views might appear novel, refreshing, astonishing, yet were ready to take hold.
A study of the Marcus-Quine exchange also makes it seem improbable that, as Soames categorically states, there "is no way that the formal system of Marcus' early papers could have significant consequences about ordinary names and descriptions in natural language" (p. 71), or that, as Burgess maintains, Marcus' earliest work "is only indirectly relevant to present study" (p. 89). The very nature of Quine's very public and influential complaints, ill founded or not, established its relevance. Why else might Quine have repeatedly challenged the "champion" of quantified modal logic to explain away his puzzlement about the logical behaviour of statements like "9 = the number of the planets" in modal contexts?
Another important part of the overall picture is, of course, the development of possible worlds logic, which in the hands of Hintikka, Kripke and others eventually proved to be a particularly effective device for exposing logical form and viewing the inner workings of analytic philosophy's brave new logic. Explorers of possible worlds were to make discoveries that helped to confirm the results of Marcus's earlier ventures into the discreditable world of modality and intensionality. For one thing, possible worlds logic put a spotlight on problems associated with extensionality, identity, failures of substitutivity and existential generalisation. It thus had a hand in undermining Quine's hegemony and in vindicating Marcus of many of his charges. This too created a more hospitable environment for the further development of ideas along the lines of those she had defended since Kripke was knee high to a grasshopper. In addition, the disarming, folksy style of Kripke's Naming and Necessity could warm an audience to his ideas in a way Marcus' earliest formal work could not have.
So in spite of the acrimonious tone introduced by Soames and sustained by him and Burgess, the book as a whole presents a wealth of philosophical arguments that reach deep into the heart of the philosophical enterprise as many have understood it in this century, thus providing much thought provoking material.
One final remark. In the introduction the editors note that "a few listeners walked out in apparent protest" (p. vii). There are numerous reasons why a person might leave a three hour session. This reviewer attended the session and, sickened by something eaten the evening before, was obliged to leave the room on at least two occasions, something difficult to do discreetly because the only door was located at the front of the room.