Escape from Twin Earth: Putnam's 'Logic' of Natural Kind Terms
Abstract:Many still seem confident that the kind of semantic theory Putnam once proposed for natural kind terms is right. This paper seeks to show that this confidence is misplaced because the general idea underlying the theory is incoherent. Consequently, the theory must be rejected prior to any consideration of its epistemological, ontological or metaphysical acceptability. Part I sets the stage by showing that falsehoods, indeed absurdities, follow from the theory when one deliberately suspends certain devices Putnam built into it, presumably in order to block such entailments. Part II then raises the decisive issue of at what cost these devices do the job they need to do. It argues that - apart from possessing no other motivation than their capacity to block the consequences derived in Part I - they only fulfil this blocking function if they render the theory unable to deal with fiction and related 'make-believe' activities. Part III indicates the affinity Putnam's account has with the classically 'denotative' view of meaning, and thus how its weaknesses may be seen as a variant of the classical weakness of 'denotative' approaches. It concludes that the theory is a conceptual muddle.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: May 1, 2001