Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 507–535 | Cite as

Proper Names and Relational Modality

  • Kathrin Gluer
  • Peter Pagin
Research Article


Saul Kripke’s thesis that ordinary proper names are rigid designators is supported by widely shared intuitions about the occurrence of names in ordinary modal contexts. By those intuitions names are scopeless with respect to the modal expressions. That is, sentences in a pair like (a) Aristotle might have been fond of dogs, (b) Concerning Aristotle, it is true that he might have been fond of dogs will have the same truth value. The same does not in general hold for definite descriptions. If one, like Kripke, accounts for this difference by means of the intensions of the names and the descriptions, the conclusion is that names do not in general have the same intension as any normal, identifying description. However, this difference can be accounted for alternatively by appeal to the semantics of the modal expressions. On the account we suggest, dubbed ‘relational modality’, simple singular terms, like proper names, contribute to modal contexts simply by their actual world reference, not by their descriptive content. That account turns out to be fully equivalent with the rigidity account when it comes to truth of modal and non-modal sentence (with respect to the actual world), and hence supports the same basic intuitions. Here we present the relational modality account and compare it with others, in particular Kripke’s own.


Actuality Definite descriptions Kripke Modality Necessity Possible worlds semantics Proper names Rigid designators Two-dimensionalism Truth 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Almog J. (1986). Naming without necessity. Journal of Philosophy, 83, 210-242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chalmers D. (1996). The conscious mind. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Davies M. (1981). Meaning, quantification, necessity. London, Routledge and Kegan PaulGoogle Scholar
  4. Dummett M. (1981a). Frege: philosophy of language, 2 edn. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  5. Dummett M. (1981b). The interpretation of Frege’s philosophy. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  6. Dummett M. (1991). The logical basis of metaphysics. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  7. Evans, G. (1979). Reference and contingency. The Monist, 62, 161-189. (Reprinted in Evans, 1985).Google Scholar
  8. Evans G. (1985). Collected papers. Oxford, Clarendon PressGoogle Scholar
  9. Glüer K., Pagin P. (2006). Relational modality. In: Lagerlund H., Sliwinski R. (eds) Festschrift for krister Segerberg. Sweden, Uppsala Philosophical StudiesGoogle Scholar
  10. Hintikka J. (1962). Knowledge and belief. Ithaca, NY, Cornell University PressGoogle Scholar
  11. Jackson F. (1998). From metaphysics to ethics: a defence of conceptual analysis. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  12. Kamp H. (1971). Formal properties of now. Theoria 37, 227-273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kaplan D. (1979). Dthat. In: Peter H.K.W., French A., Uehuling T.E. Jr. (eds) Contemporary Perspectives in the Philosophy of Language. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, pp. 383-400Google Scholar
  14. Kaplan D. (1986). Opacity. In: Schilpp P.A., Hahn L.E. (eds) The Philosophy of WV Quine. La Salle, I, Open CourtGoogle Scholar
  15. Kripke S. (1980). Naming and necessity. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  16. Loar B. (1976). The semantics of singular terms. Philosophical Studies, 30, 353-377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Quine W.V.O. (1952). Methods of logic. London, Routledge and Kegan PaulGoogle Scholar
  18. Quine,W. V. O. (1956). Quantifiers and propositional attitudes. Journal of Philosophy 53, 177-187. (Reprinted in Quine, 1976.)Google Scholar
  19. Quine W.V.O. (1976). The ways of paradox and other essays. 2 edn. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  20. Searle J. (1958). Proper names. Mind, 67, 166-173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Soames S. (1998). The modal argument: wide scope and rigidified descriptions. Nous, 32, 1-22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Soames S. (2002). Beyond rigidity: the unfinished semantic agenda of naming and necessity. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  23. Soames S. (2005). Reference and description. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University PressGoogle Scholar
  24. Sosa D. (2001). Rigidity in the scope of Russell’s theory. Nous, 35, 1-38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stalnaker, R. (1978). Assertion. Syntax and semantics, New York: Academic Press. 9, 315-332. (Reprinted in Stalnaker, 1999, 78-95).Google Scholar
  26. Stalnaker R. (1999). Context and content. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  27. Stanley J. (1997a). Names and rigid designation. In: Hale B., Wright C. (eds) A Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Oxford, BlackwellGoogle Scholar
  28. Stanley J. (1997b). Rigidity and content. In: Heck R. (eds) Language, Thought and Logic: Essays in Honor of Michael Dummett. Oxford, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  29. Stanley J. (2002). Modality and what is said. Philosophical Perspectives 16, 312-344Google Scholar
  30. Yu P. (1980). The modal argument against description theories of names. Analysis, 40, 208-209CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations