MOVING TO FRONT FROM YESTERDAY--TYPOS NOW FIXED
Mr. Morris kindly sent some thoughtful responses to some of the criticisms and challenges raised on the earlier thread about his New York Times blog postings about Kripke and Kuhn.
Here are some thoughts about various comments on your blog:
(1) the criticism that the Goldie example is misleading and should be emended to include time, so the appropriate definite description would be "the fish in the bowl that is gold at such-and-such a time." I commented in a footnote that a descriptivist would probably find my account overly simplistic--it is--but the task was to provide an intuitive picture of Kripkes view vs. the theory of descriptions. I believe the Goldie example does this. I chose not to go into the many different iterations of descriptivism Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Strawson, Searle et al. I also chose not to go into Kripke's modal views, his defense of essentialism, the necessary a posteriori, rigid designation, etc. You can't go into everything. And please remember, this essay was written for a popular audience.
(2) the criticism that Wittgenstein was not a relativist. OK, but I was writing about Cavell and Kuhn's interpretation of Wittgenstein. For them, Paragraph 241 of Philosophical Investigations implied relativism. At least, they worried about this possibility. Cavell tells us this in his memoir and in my interview with him. It's not about what I think; it's about how they interpreted Wittgenstein's work. (Also, they are not the only ones. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us that paragraph 241 grounds a relativistic reading of Wittgenstein.)
(3) the criticism that Kuhn, himself, was not a relativist. Several philosophers commented that Kuhn had declared on numerous occasions that he was not a relativist. But just because he said he wasn't a relativist doesn't mean he wasn't one. He may not have been consistently a relativist, but there is ample evidence that throughout his career, he flirted with relativism, including the relativism of truth. I provided a number of appropriate quotations in my essay to support this view.
(4) the criticism that Kuhn was not writing about Hippasus nor about the legend of how he was thrown overboard by angry Pythagoreans. That my excursion into Greek mathematics was beside the point. I agree that Kuhn was not writing about Hippasus. I acknowledge this in my essay. I wrote, "...there is no indication that this is what Kuhn had in mind. Even though the story is so well known that it is hard to believe he wasn't aware of it, he doesnt mention the legend. Just the mathematical proof. But the history of the proof or rather the meta-history of the proof, the story of how the history of the proof has been repeatedly revised and rewritten provides a clue, an insight into what kind of metaphor it might be." To me, it is ironic that the legend of Hippasus concerns intolerance not Kuhnian incommensurability. If someone doesnt find it ironic, what can I do?
(5) the criticism that I have mischaracterized Kripke's views. I wrote in my essay, ...descriptions help us to fix a reference, that is, to attach a name to a thing, but descriptions (and beliefs) do not determine reference. There is a historical connection between words and things. Our beliefs about Goldie could be all wrong, and we can still refer to Goldie. It doesn't matter what belief or what theory we have about Goldie. We can grab a hold of Goldie independent of that belief or that theory. And we can say true or false things about him. Is it true that Goldie is green? Or gold? Or red? Or that Goldie has two heads. (Kripke writes in Naming and Necessity, "...in the case of proper names the reference can be fixed in various ways. In an initial baptism, it is typically fixed by an ostension or a description.") I also could have written that a definite description can fix the reference of a proper name (at the moment of baptism) but not give the meaning of a proper name. A philosopher may not agree with any of this, but is this a mischaracterization of Kripke's views? Kripke doesn't think so. He called me after reading the first two parts and told me how much he liked the essay.
(6) And last but not least, the criticism that I am a liar or (at best) a confabulator. Years ago, Werner Herzog told me a story about the man who discovered Niagara Falls. The explorer returned to Europe and was asked by an incredulous audience, What proof do you have? The explorer answered, My proof is that I saw them.
I want to reiterate my own view that I know many other philosophical readers shared, namely, that Mr. Morris delivered a tour de force of serious writing about philosophy for a popular audience. I am grateful to him for taking the time to address some of the issues raised earlier.