Dialogue

Articles

Ostension, Names and Natural Kind Terms

Mohan Matthena1

a1 The University of Alberta

It seems to be a part of the oral and written tradition of contemporary philosophy that Saul Kripke and Hilary Putnam have resurrected a kind of Aristotelianism about natural kinds by reference to purely semantic ideas. Thus in a recent issue of the Journal of Philosophy, M. R. Ayers writes that according to Kripke and Putnam: “The names ‘gold’, ‘tiger’ etc. have their meaning … by being the name of, or, more technically, by ‘rigidly designating’, a natural kind.” And in the immediately following pages he suggests that the view Kripke and Putnam arrive at is “not at all unlike Aristotelian doctrine”, but arrived at from “the rather special point of view of a concern with modal logic, and against the background of Russell's theory of descriptions, the modern obsession with proper names, and so forth”. Presumably what Ayers is alleging here is that something like the Aristotelian position on substance, species, essential properties and so forth is or is intended to be the outcome of the Kripke-Putnam investigations.