Naming and Necessity (Saul Kripke)

Kripke’s thesis is that rigid designators are true, we have an intuition of them, and that they are the same in every possible world (Kripke 48).   A designator is a common term that covers names and definitions (24). Specifically, names are rigid designators (48).

Kripke also has a lucid discussion on what a “possible world” is (and isn’t).  We imagine a situation that could have been otherwise. What properties of x would remain in that world and which would be different?  

Example: “The man who invented bifocals is Benjamin Franklin.”

“Benjamin Franklin” is a rigid designator.  Benjamin Franklin is Benjamin Franklin in every possible world.  But the phrase “the man who invented bifocals” is a nonrigid designator.  One can imagine a world where someone other than Franklin invented bifocals.  

His most notorious and ground-breaking argument is that there can be both contingent a priori truths and necessary a posteriori truths.  How? Take Goldbach’s conjecture: every even number greater than two is the sum of its primes. This appears to be necessary, per mathematics, but is only known a posteriori.


*Kripke agrees with Mill that singular names are non-connotative (127).

*General terms, those of natural kinds, have a greater kinship with proper names that normally realized (134).

*a priori truths can be contingent, meaning the fixed reference for a term isn’t always synonymous with a term (135).

*the relationship between a brain state and a mental state is a contingent one, and relations of identity cannot be contingent (154).


Kripke sometimes spends several pages analyzing a minor point with little payout.


One can see why this book broke new ground.  I read it after I read Plantinga’s The Nature of Necessity, so I didn’t see what was objectionable about possible worlds semantics.  Much of the book, however, was beyond my pay grade.




One thought on “Naming and Necessity (Saul Kripke)

  1. Pingback: Paul Helm: Eternal God | Factory of the Soul

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