Hilary Putnam, “Meaning and Reference”, The Journal of Philosophy, 70 (1973): 699-711.
For the purposes of this assignment, you only need to read up to the section “Indexicality and Rigidity”, which begins on page 706.
Putnam begins this essay by sketching, and then criticizing, the traditional distinction between intension (meaning) and extension (reference). As he notes, intensions are often taken to be “concepts” and, therefore, to be a sort of mental entity. Frege rejects the view that senses are mental entities, insisting that they are objective. But, as Putnam notes, Frege nonetheless regards grasping a sense as a psychological act or state. Frege, of course, also held that sense determines reference, or that intension determines extension.
According to Putnam, traditional views about meaning are committed to two claims:
(1) That knowing the meaning of a term is just a matter of being in a certain psychological state.
(2) That the meaning of a term determines its extension (in the sense that sameness of intension entails sameness of extension).
Putnam’s central claim is “that these two assumptions are not jointly satisfied by any notion, let alone any notion of meaning”.
Write a short essay on Putnam’s paper, setting out and explaining his argument for the claim that (1) and (2) are not jointly satisfied.
Putnam argues that (1) and (2), taken together, imply:
(3) If two speakers are in the same psychological state, then each term they understand must have the same extension for them.
It is (3) that is the target of Putnam’s examples. Explain why (3) is supposed to follow from (1) and (2).
A critical step in Putnam’s argument is his now famous “Twin Earth” thought experiment. Putnam has us imagine a distant planet that is exactly like Earth except that what is in the streams, lakes, oceans, and rain of Twin Earth is not H2O but something that is XYZ. As Putnam notes, it is crucial to his thought experiment that “water” is a “natural kind term”: It’s a presupposition of our use of that term that we are picking out a certain kind of stuff, namely, the same kind of stuff as typical samples of water. But what “same kind of stuff” means will not necessarily be obvious; it requires empirical investigation. What conclusion does Putnam want to draw from this example?
Putnam introduces another now famous example, which he takes to be of roughly the same form. Putnam says that he personally cannot tell elms from beeches; he then claims that his “concept” of a beech is the same as his “concept” of an elm. Nonetheless, Putnam claims, his word “elm” applies only to elms and his word “beech” applies only to beeches. But there is a different Twin Earth on which the words “elm” and “beech” are switched, so that Twin Putnam’s word “elm” applies to beeches. What does Putnam think that this example is supposed to show?
Like “water”, the terms “elm” and “beech” are natural kind terms.
As this is a short paper with a defined purpose, you need not worry about writing an introduction, about motivating what you are trying to do, or any such thing. Simply launch directly into talking about Putnam’s argument.
Your essay should be around 800 words in length (exclusive of your bibliography). Please include a word count at the end of your essay.
This material may consist of step-by-step explanations on how to solve a problem or examples of proper writing, including the use of citations, references, bibliographies, and formatting. This material is made available for the sole purpose of studying and learning - misuse is strictly forbidden.Perhaps the simplest place to start is by presenting the three components of traditional views about meaning: (a) the meaning of a term (its intension); (b) knowing the meaning of a term (knowing its intension); (c) the term’s extension, i.e. what falls under the term. The distinction between (a) and (b), according to Putnam, is a concession to Frege’s point that meanings are public, not private, because a particular meaning can be known by more than just one person. Then, to ground this idea of public meaning, Frege proposed that “concepts…[are] abstract entities” (Putnam 700) rather than mental objects. That leaves knowing the meaning of a concept to be a mental process or state. Taken together, these considerations entail this first assumption: “(1) That knowing the meaning...