Naming, Necessity, and Mind
I propose to offer an interpretation of Kripke’s Naming and Necessity that has not (I believe) been offered before. I do not say that this interpretation consciously occurred to the author of that work—in fact, I think it didn’t. But I do claim that it illuminates what is going on argumentatively in the text, and it should have occurred to Kripke (though it didn’t occur to me until very recently). Nothing in the text goes against it as far as I can see. It is an interpretation that was suggested to me by reading the text but not one that Kripke intended; I believe, however, that he would have welcomed it. It really systematizes what he was arguing by unifying several strands of argument taken as separate. Let’s think of it as produced by a philosopher named “McKripke” (I should say that I am very inclined to accept the interpretation as correct philosophy). There are three main topics: the nature of naming, the nature of necessity, and the nature of mind. In each case a certain dialectic is set up exhibiting a common form, which I will describe as follows: Is naming reducible to describing? Is necessity reducible to certainty? Is the mind reducible to the body? We begin with a certain chunk of discourse and we ask whether that chunk can be analyzed by another chunk, thereby reducing the subject matter of the first chunk to the subject matter of the second chunk. Thus, we have certain words called “proper names” and we speak of them as “naming” or “denoting” or “labeling” certain entities: the question then is whether this discourse can be reduced to discourse concerning what we call “descriptions” that are said to “describe” or “characterize” or “attribute properties to” certain entities. That is, we ask whether a description theory of names is true. Similarly, we speak of necessity, saying things like “This table is necessarily made of wood”, and we ask whether such talk can be construed as expressing propositions about what we know with certainty—as in “It couldn’t turn out that this table is not made of wood” or “This table is certainly made of wood”. That is, we ask whether an epistemic theory of necessity is true. Thirdly, and similarly again, we start off using words like “pain” and “belief” and we ask whether such talk can be understood as referring to (perhaps meaning) the same as words referring to the body and brain. That is, we ask whether a materialist theory of the mind is true. Some philosophers have maintained each of these reductions, explicitly or implicitly. Thus, Frege and Russell on names, the positivists on necessity (via the notion of analyticity), and many philosophers committed to a physicalist picture of the world. Kripke opposes each of these reductions (analyses, explanations): he thinks naming is not reducible to describing, necessity is not reducible to certainty (epistemic necessity), and the mind is not reducible to the brain (including its functional properties). In each case, he mounts a three-pronged attack: semantic, metaphysical, and epistemological. In the case of names, he argues, first, that sentences of the form “NN is the F” are not (generally) analytic, e.g., “Plato was the teacher of Aristotle”: this is the semantic argument. He then argues that the reference of a name could have been other than the description entails, e.g., Plato might never have taught Aristotle (in some possible world he didn’t): this is the modal (metaphysical) argument. Third, he argues that knowledge of the description commonly associated with the name (or associated with it only by the individual speaker) is not an infallible guide to what its actual reference is, as in the Godel-Schmidt case: this is the epistemological argument. So, the attempted reduction to descriptive reference doesn’t work: names are not disguised descriptions, the naming relation is not a species of the describing relation, naming is a sui generis type of referring. He then goes on to make some suggestions about how naming actually works, introducing causal-historical chains etc. The lesson is that referring takes two fundamentally different forms, naming and describing, neither being reducible to the other; so, names have a different kind of meaning from descriptions. We might call this strategy of argument the “SME strategy”—semantic, modal (metaphysical), and epistemological. It purports to show that naming cannot be analyzed as describing. This is all very familiar and involves little in the way of creative interpretation on my part; I’m just recapitulating the text, more or less. The next stage of interpretation, however, requires some bolder moves, some hermeneutic impositions. Kripke contends that there are two notions of necessity that must on no account be confused, which he calls epistemic and metaphysical necessity; in particular, we must not try to reduce the latter to the former. He gives several examples of metaphysical necessity and argues (convincingly) that they are not reducible to, or explicable in terms of, epistemic necessity. I will put this simply as the claim that metaphysical necessity is not the same as certainty (infallibility, incorrigibility). It is a distinctive type of necessity, over and above epistemic necessity, aptly labeled “metaphysical”. Here again we may apply the SME strategy, though Kripke does not explicitly do so. First, the sentence “Necessity is certainty” is not analytic, so the predicate term cannot analyze the subject term; it expresses a synthetic proposition. Second, there are cases of necessity without certainty and certainty without necessity, so the conditions are neither necessary nor sufficient (metaphysically speaking)—as with “This table is made of wood” and “I am in pain”. Third (and now we add something to N & N), knowledge of certainty does not add up to knowledge of necessity: you can know that something is certain without knowing it is necessary (even when it is), e.g., a mathematical truth, and you can have the former concept without having the latter (you might be modally blind or otherwise incompetent). Knowledge of one property does not give you knowledge of the other property, so they can’t be the same property. There is no a priori entailment from one to the other—because the relevant terms don’t mean the same thing. Just as knowledge of an associated description doesn’t give you knowledge of reference in the case of names, so knowledge of what is certain does not give you knowledge of what is necessary. In sum, the concept of necessity (metaphysical) is not the same concept as the concept of certainty—as the three prongs of SME demonstrate. Thus, no reduction is possible; we are dealing with an irreducible type of fact. A certain modal dualism is therefore in order, as a certain referential dualism is in order for names and descriptions. That is Kripke’s basic message, though he doesn’t put it this way: the arguments are logically similar, structurally parallel. This prepares us for the third main topic of N & N: the mind-body problem. And now it is easier to see the wood for the trees—the argumentative pattern stands out more clearly. The SME strategy is written all over it: first, we have the point about the meaning of (e.g.) “pain”; then the modal counterexamples; then a version of the knowledge argument. Suppose someone claims that “pain” can be analyzed by a bodily or cerebral predicate (let’s say “C-fiber firing” to stick with tradition): the obvious initial reply is that “pain is C-fiber firing” is not analytic, so “pain” can’t mean the same as “C-fiber firing”. Then, second, we have the possibility of pain without C-fiber firing and C-fiber firing without pain (i.e., possible worlds where these things are so). These possibilities rule out an identity theory, given that identity is a necessary relation. Third, we have a knowledge argument: you can know that someone’s C-fibers are firing without knowing they are in pain; there is no a priori link between the two. Kripke doesn’t provide such an argument in N & N, but we know that he provided one later and may have had the idea at the time of the earlier work. Thus, dualism of mind and body is affirmed, as opposed to reductive materialism: the mind is as distinct from the body as naming is distinct from describing, and necessity is distinct from certainty. The same argumentative resources are deployed in all three areas: the meanings aren’t the same, the connection (correlation) is merely contingent (if it exists at all), and knowledge of the one doesn’t give knowledge of the other. Thus, no reduction is possible and duality is the outcome. We can now note various things about this interpretation of Kripke’s treatment of these topics, which may serve to underline the basic structural commonality. One: the topics themselves are not closely related; none is a special case of the others. Indeed, they are quite disparate; yet they each exemplify a common pattern of argument, a certain kind of philosophical method (a methodology). Two: Kripke is not averse to all forms of reduction; he offers some himself. He accepts reduction of natural kinds (“water is H2O”); he provides a quasi-reduction of the naming relation in the shape of causal chains; and he has no qualms about accepting Russell’s theory of descriptions (descriptions are reducible to quantifiers plus identity). Three: he says little positively about each of the areas he defends against reduction; his claims are largely negative. No full analysis of naming, no reply to Frege arguments against denotational theories, no effort to dispel disquiet about what such non-descriptive reference might consist in (it seems rather magical). Likewise, nothing much about the nature, provenance, and problems of metaphysical necessity (for example, how exactly is it known?). Also, no attempt to deal with objections to mind-body dualism or the supervenience of the mental on the physical (does he deny this?). Four (and connected): aren’t each of these topics puzzling, mysterious even? How does the mind manage to reach out to objects without descriptive or conceptual mediation? Isn’t metaphysical necessity rather spooky, inexplicable, contra-empirical? What is it? And isn’t the idea of a separate mental substance rebarbative and contrary to science? In each area there are intimations of the “queer”, the “occult”, the “non-natural”? Yet we don’t find Kripke agonizing over these questions, or even raising them. He seems oddly cavalier. Interpretatively, this provides insight into his philosophical predilections and potential vulnerabilities. Six: he doesn’t tie the topics together but treats them seriatim and independently, perhaps not recognizing the commonality of philosophical moves. Seeing them together gives a stronger sense of the philosophical geography (even geology): we see their place on the map and their deeper underpinnings. Even such diverse problems display a common form, a parallel dynamic—as we are driven this way and that. There is a reason why philosophers favor such quixotic reductions—because the alternative strikes them as worse. The primitive is apt to produce the problematic—unanalyzable denotation, modal metaphysical excess, mysterious mind-stuff. Kripke was too good a philosopher not to be aware of these intellectual dynamics, these conceptual pushes and pulls, but he did little to articulate them or stress their unavoidability. In any case, the indicated interpretation of N & N is along the lines I have suggested: a common argumentative thread hidden beneath the surface, shaping the dialectic, determining the conclusions. He could have called the work Naming, Necessity, and Mind: Some Common Themes. The book is more unified than might appear.
 See Adriana Renero’s work on Kripke’s 1979 lectures on philosophy of mind.
 It may be useful to give an example of a successful analysis or conceptual reduction–Bernard Suits’s definition of games in terms of freely chosen obstacles to a given goal (see his The Grasshopper, 1978, and my Truth by Analysis, 2012). First, if correct, the analysis will produce an analytically true sentence along the lines of “A game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”. Second, there will be no possible worlds in which the analysis fails. Third, knowledge of the definiens will suffice for knowledge of the definiendum. A good case can be made that Suits’s definition meets these conditions.
 Perhaps the most profound and intellectually revealing thing he ever said was, “I regard the mind-body problem as wide open and extremely confusing” (footnote 77, p.155, the very last words of Naming and Necessity). He realized how vexatiously difficult philosophical problems are, but also how intriguing.
 Kripke tried to impose argumentative unity on Wittgenstein in Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, with mixed results. I am suggesting that his own work displays more unity than appears on the surface: there is a pattern to the failures he discerns, despite the variety of subject matter.