Synthese Library Volume 40, 1972, pp 253-355

Naming and Necessity

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I hope that some people see some connection between the two topics in the title. If not, anyway, such connections will be developed in the course of these talks. Furthermore, because of the use of tools involving reference and necessity in analytic philosophy today, our views on these topics really have wide-ranging implications for other problems in philosophy that traditionally might be thought far-removed, like arguments over the mind-body problem or the so-called ‘identity thesis’. Materialism, in this form, often now gets involved in very intricate ways in questions about what is necessary or contingent in identity of properties — questions like that. So, it is really very important to philosophers who may want to work in many domains to get clear about these concepts. Maybe I will say something about the mind-body problem in the course of these talks. I want to talk also at some point (I don’t know if I can get it in) about substances and natural kinds.

In January and February of 1970, I gave the three talks at Princeton University transcribed here. As the style of the transcript makes clear, I gave the talks without a written text, and, in fact, without notes. The present text is lightly edited from the verbatim transcript; an occasional passage has been added to expand the thought, an occasional sentence has been rewritten, but no attempt has been made to change the informal style of the original. Many of the footnotes have been added to the original, but a few were originally spoken asides in the talks themselves.
I hope the reader will bear these facts in mind as he reads the text. Imagining it spoken, with proper pauses and emphases, may occasionally facilitate comprehension. I have agreed to publish the talks in this form with some reservations. The time allotted, and the informal style, necessitated a certain amount of compression of the argument, inability to treat certain objections, and the like. Especially in the concluding sections on scientific identities and the mind-body problem thoroughness had to be sacrificed. Some topics essential to a full presentation of the viewpoint argued here, especially that of existence statements and empty names, had to be omitted altogether. Further, the informality of the presentation may well have engendered a sacrifice of clarity at certain points. All these defects were accepted in the interest of early publication. I hope that perhaps I will have the chance to do a more thorough job later. To repeat, I hope the reader will bear in mind that he is largely reading informal lectures, not only when he encounters repetitions or infelicities, but also when he encounters irreverence or corn.
The erratum of this chapter is available at