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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: February 2013

8 - Saul Kripke: Naming and Necessity

Summary

Chronology

Kripke first became known for technical work on modal logic, the logic of necessity and possibility, much of it done in the late 1950s as a high-school student, and summarized in Kripke (1963). (Among other things this work popularized a revival of the picturesque Leibnizian language according to which necessity is truth in all possible worlds.) Under the influence of Kripke's later work philosophers have come to distinguish several conceptions of necessity and possibility, in a manner to be described below; but Kripke's early technical work was not tied to any special conception. Rather, it provides tools applicable to many conceptions.

It was only in the academic year 1963–64, as the belated publication of his technical work was nearing completion, that Kripke turned to more philosophical questions about the concept of necessity, and was led to raise doubts about the view, widely held among philosophers of the period, that all necessity derives from linguistic convention. At that time Kripke presented his results on that issue, and on issues about reference, which turned out to be connected with it, in seminars at Harvard, where he had been, a year after taking his undergraduate degree, appointed to the Society of Fellows.

There were further seminar presentations elsewhere in the 1960s, and a very condensed account of Kripke's picture of the reference of proper names appeared in Kaplan (1969). But Kripke's views on naming, and especially on necessity, only became generally known after a lecture series at Princeton early in 1970. An incomplete presentation was published the next year (Kripke 1971), and a transcript of the Princeton lectures, plus footnotes and addenda, constituting the first or article version of “Naming and Necessity”, appeared the year after (Kripke 1972). The later 1970s brought two related articles (Kripke 1977; 1979). The second or book version of Naming and Necessity, with a new preface, appeared the beginning of the next decade (Kripke 1980).