Reference and Existence: The John Locke Lectures

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Reference and Existence, Saul Kripke's John Locke Lectures for 1973, can be read as a sequel to his classic Naming and Necessity. It confronts important issues left open in that work -- among them, the semantics of proper names and natural kind terms as they occur in fiction and in myth; negative existential statements; the ontology of fiction and myth (whether it is true that fictional characters like Hamlet, or mythical kinds like bandersnatches, might have existed). In treating these questions, he makes a number of methodological observations that go beyond the framework of his earlier book -- including the striking claim that fiction cannot provide a test for theories of reference and naming. In addition, these lectures provide a glimpse into the transition to the pragmatics of singular reference that dominated his influential paper, "Speaker's Reference and Semantic Reference" -- a paper that helped reorient linguistic and philosophical semantics. Some of the themes have been worked out in later writings by other philosophers -- many influenced by typescripts of the lectures in circulation -- but none have approached the careful, systematic treatment provided here. The virtuosity of Naming and Necessity -- the colloquial ease of the tone, the dazzling, on-the-spot formulations, the logical structure of the overall view gradually emerging over the course of the lectures -- is on display here as well.

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About the Author:


The author of pioneering results in modal logic while still in high school, Saul A. Kripke continued to develop and extend these insights in subsequent technical work. With "Identity and Necessity" and Naming and Necessity -- two published lectures given in the early 1970's that became classics almost upon publication -- his work turned towards the philosophical implications of his formal investigations. Then and now, his work is marked by formal rigor coupled with an engaging and accessible prose style. Saul Kripke is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University.

Review:


"The clarity, openness and, indeed, the honesty of his lectures is impressive, as are the recurring flashes of laconic humor"--Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


"Everything I think about goes back in some way to Kripke and his ideas. For years, many of his legendary lectures have been unavailable -- except in various preprints, difficult-to-read Xeroxes, etc. Now, with the publication by Oxford University Press of the first volume of his collected essays, Philosophical Troubles, and the John Locke Lectures, this problem has been partially remedied. His writing (even though it has often come in part from spoken lectures) is like no other -- equal parts perverse, funny, brilliant, and surprising. I think of him as not so much an heir to Russell and Wittgenstein, but to Poe and Twain."--Errol Morris, Filmmaker


"For decades getting a copy of these lectures has been a holy grail for philosophers working on fiction. It is a landmark event to have them now publicly available, where they can get the critical attention--and have the full impact--they deserve. This volume will be essential reading for anyone working on fictional discourse, nonexistence claims, the ontology of fiction, and related issues. It will no doubt be a major influence on work in these areas for decades to come."--Amie Thomasson, Professor of Philosophy, Cooper Fellow, and Parodi Senior Scholar in Philosophy of Art, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami


"Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity is widely acknowledged as one of the most important works of twentieth century philosophy. In his 1973 Locke lectures he develops, extends, and elaborates the ideas in Naming and Necessity in major ways, and replies to potential objections. Rumours of the contents have circulated in the philosophical community, as have samizdat copies of the transcript, but in the absence of an authorized version most people have been reluctant to address the views directly as Kripke's. The publication of these lectures will be an event comparable in salience and significance to the posthumous publication of some of Wittgenstein's works, both for the history of recent analytic philosophy and for contemporary philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and metaphysics, where Kripke's ideas are fundamental to much of what is going on now."--Timothy Williamson, Wykeham Professor of Logic, University of Oxford


"I will simply say that this is a book that you must read if you want to know where Kripke's thinking took him when he took the revolutionary views he developed in Naming and Necessity and confronted the problem of empty names and nonexistence. Along the way you will also learn an important part of the reason why the debate about empty names has taken the direction it has over the last forty or so years and why it continues to occupy centre stage in the philosophy of language." -- The Philosophical Quarterly


"Overall, Reference and Existence is a tour de force. It anticipates many celebrated advances in metaphysics that took place in the years since the lectures were delivered. Parts of it have shaped the debate in the philosophy of language in the same period. It is full of deep and original insights not yet fully appreciated by those working in the field. And it completes the picture painted in Naming and Necessity, one of the most important philosophical works published in the twentieth century. Forty years was a long time to wait. It was worth it!" --Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


"In the introduction to the book, Kripke modestly worries whether publication of this material 'would still be of some interest' (p. ix). 'Of course', this reviewer concludes. And this reviewer stresses further that publication finally allows an extremely important body of work to take its rightful place in the published canon of analytic philosophy." -- Mind


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