In this section I will deal with Saul Kripke's A Puzzle About Belief. In this paper Kripke presents a puzzle about names and belief. His main thesis is that "the puzzle is a puzzle" and that, as such, "any account of belief must ultimately come to grips with it."[1] Kripke's purpose seems to be to convince us that the puzzle is something to worry about; but it really is more a defense of his form of Millianism.

Section I deals with some preliminary issues regarding substitutivity. He begins by stating that the view that he developed in Naming and Necessity and elsewhere is a Millian one. That is, that "a proper name is, so to speak, simply a name. It simply refers to its bearer, and has no other linguistic function. In particular, unlike a definite description, a name does not describe its bearer as possessing any special identifying features."[2] He concludes that the Millian view entails "that proper names of the same thing are everywhere interchangeable not only salva veritate but even salva significatione: the proposition expressed by a sentence should remain the same no matter what name of the object it uses."[3] Thus, we can infer that they are also substitutable in modal contexts, and further, that they are substitutable in contexts which involve knowledge, belief, and epistemic modalities.[4]

This is contrasted by the case of definite descriptions in which propositions are easily changed by substituting into modal contexts. Kripke's example is "The smallest prime is even" expresses a necessary truth, but "Jones favourite number is even" expresses a contingent one, even if Jone's favourite number happens to be the smallest prime."[5]

Kripke next shows how it has been supposed that the Millian view also fails in a modal context. But, he has already shown us elsewhere that this argument against Mill fails.[6] Thus, he concludes that it is a consequence of rigid designation "that codesignative proper names are interchangeable salva veritate in all contexts of (metaphysical) necessity and possibility; further, that replacement of a proper name by a codesignative name leaves the modal value of any sentence unchanged."[7] If one accepts the Millian view of proper names and rigid designation, then, he is in fact correct. But, I would argue that this is almost trivial. As I commented at the end of my analysis of Naming and Necessity, we rarely speak in a purely metaphysical fashion. We use language to convey thoughts, thoughts which contain information, knowledge. This is an epistemological use of language. Of course, we are able to make metaphysical claims with language; although, must of us do so in a very loose fashion usually. The normal use of language is rarely concerned with strict metaphysical claims.

I maintain a sort of neo-Fregean position that is close to the one presented by Kripke in the paragraph following the last quote (p. 107). I believe that 'Hesperus' and 'Phosphorus', 'Mark Twain' and 'Samuel Clemens', 'London' and 'Londres', and so forth, are in fact codesignative proper names; they are rigid designators a la Kripke (metaphysically), but they still in fact have a different sense (epistemologically). I have no quarrel with the fact that these pairs of names pick out the same metaphysical object. But, they are not always used in a completely codesignative way. It is a true claim to say that 'Hesperus is Phosphorus' when one wants to make the metaphysical claim that they are both names for the planet Venus. It is an equally valid claim, and we often speak this way, to say that 'Hesperus is not Phosphorus' when one wants to refer to the fact that these names have different connotations. This is in fact the way that we speak. If an account of belief were to "come to grips" with the way we actually speak, then it would already take into account the puzzle about our beliefs.

Kripke uses the example of 'Feynman' and 'Gell-Mann', which most people would identify as 'leading contemporary theoretical physicists', to show that the premise that failure of interchangeability of codesignative names in belief contexts is due to a difference of 'defining' descriptions is false. At best, this argument only shows that it is sometimes false. I would argue though that these are not proper 'baptismal' descriptions a la Kripke, and thus, they do not rigidly designate any particular person. Again, we routinely talk like that, although, when we do, it is really only 'small talk'; we are not actually communicating any information. One is able to refer to, say, Feynman, but only in a very vague and cursory way. I feel that Kripke was very disingenuous in this argument. Based on Naming and Necessity he would never claim that this description referred to any unique object, or that it was a rigid designator. To then apply this 'description' to show that this Fregean premise fails is not kosher. 'Feynman' and 'Gell-Mann' most certainly have different senses, even if all one knows it that they are both 'leading contemporary theoretical physicists'. Someone who only knows what we have stipulated does not need to know that they have different senses to ask whether they are two different physicists or one. They ask because they do not know.

In Section II, Kripke lays out some general principles that he will use to explicate the puzzle. He tells us explicitly that the disquotational principle is "stated as follows, where 'p' is to be replaced, inside and outside all quotation marks, by any appropriate standard English sentence: "If a normal English speaker, on reflection, sincerely assent to 'p', then he believes that 'p'.""[8] We are, of course he claims, allowed "to draw conclusions, stated in English, about the speakers of any language."[9] Finally, he assumes the principle of translation as follows: "If a sentence of one language expresses a truth in that language, then any translation of it into any other language also expresses a truth (in that other language.)"[10]

Kripke uses a traditional argument against Millianism, in which substitution of codesignative proper names fails, to show that it is not really a reductio ad absurdum of substitutivity. The traditional argument shows that substitution of codesignative proper names fails in belief contexts, and is thus a reductio ad absurdum of substitution. Since substitution is entailed by Millianism, it appears that it is a reductio ad absurdum of Millianism. Kripke wants to show that this is in fact false by generating the same results without using substitution. He will only use two very basic principles, disquotation and translation, to effect the same puzzle.

The puzzle: Pierre, a normal French speaker, lives in France and speaks only French. He has heard of the famous English city Londres which, based upon what he has heard, he believes to be pretty. Thus, we would conclude, based on his sincere utterance that Pierre believes that London is pretty. Later, Pierre moves to London, albeit to a shabby part. His neighbors know no French and so he learns English by the 'direct method'. He rarely leaves his own neighborhood, and so, is willing to assent in English to: London is not pretty, and inclination to assent to: London is pretty. He still assents, in French, to: Londres est jolie. But, we must conclude that Pierre has contradictory beliefs. But, surely, Pierre cannot be convicted of inconsistency; he only lacks information.[11] With some minor variations Kripke generates four versions of the puzzle that exhaust the logical possibilities that all generate something false or contradictory.[12] Since the puzzle can be generated with substitution, the traditional argument should not be seen as a reductio ad absurdum of substitution.

Kripke claims that to redescribe the situation, such that 'all the relevant facts' are presented, is no answer. The question as to whether Pierre does, or does not, believe that London is pretty will still be unanswered. One response by a Fregean that Kripke wants to dismiss is that there are different descriptions that refer to the two cities of Pierre's beliefs. He does believe that descriptions may play a role, but he tries to show us how the Fregean view fails[13]

Suppose that Pierre believes that London is the largest city in England, Buckingham Palace is there, the Queen of England lives there, and these properties uniquely identify London. Earlier, when he spoke only French, Pierre used exactly the same identifying descriptions to refer to Londres. Of course, his beliefs involved 'Angleterre', 'le Palais de Buckingham' and 'la Reine d'Angleterre'. Kripke believes that once Pierre becomes bilingual he does not have to conclude that 'London' and 'Londres' name the same city, even though he uses the same identifying descriptions to refer to them. Kripke says Pierre must only conclude that they name two different countries, etc.[14] In fact, Kripke believes that if Pierre were to conclude that they are codesignative proper names, based on his beliefs as an English speaker and on his beliefs as a French speaker, "he would in fact be guilty of a logical fallacy."[15]

A possible solution might be that the principle of translation does not hold for proper names.[16] But, Kripke is able to generate the same paradox with a single language; no translation is involved, only the disquotational principle. Peter has learned of the famous pianist 'Paderewski'. Thus, we conclude that Peter believes that Paderewski had musical talent. Later, he learns of the Polish Prime Minister named 'Paderewski', but Peter is skeptical of the musical abilities of politicians. So, we conclude that Peter believes that Paderewski had no musical talent. Kripke believes that this shows that restriction that names not be translated is "ineffective, as well as implausible and drastic."[17]

Thus, Kripke concludes that the puzzle is a puzzle, and that any theory of belief and names must deal with it.[18] He does not blame substitution, as the puzzle can be generated by disquotation plus substitutivity, disquotation plus translation, and even by disquotation alone.[19]

I have several problems with A Puzzle About Belief. First, as I have already stated, it may be a consequence of rigid designation that codesignative proper names are interchangeable in contexts of (metaphysical) necessity and possibility. But, this is an almost trivial point. It does not get Kripke substitutability in all contexts of necessity and possibility. We do not speak in a purely metaphysical fashion. Language expresses thoughts. Expressed thoughts contain information; information that we may lack a consistent base for or of which we may just be wrong.

Second, I feel that his Feynman – Gell-Mann argument was very disingenuous as I previously stated. Based on rigid designation and Kripke's idea of descriptive baptism he would never claim that the phrase 'a leading theoretical contemporary physicist' referred to any unique object. To claim that this shows that substitutability of codesignative names is not due to differences of 'sense' is false. This argument only shows that we clearly are able to refer to objects when we lack basic information needed to disambiguate one from another.

Third, Kripke claims 'anyone, leading logician or no, is in principle in a position to notice and correct contradictory beliefs if he has them."[20] This claim is clearly false. His statement entails that someone is even able to notice his or her own contradictory beliefs. This is clearly not always possible. His own examples show that this is so. Pierre and Peter are missing key pieces of information which would allow them to even notice that their beliefs (as we ascribe them) are contradictory. Thus, they are in no position to correct anything.

The last problem that I have is with Kripke's contention that Pierre's beliefs in French about Angleterre and his beliefs in English about England are in fact "exactly the same uniquely identifying properties."[21] If Pierre actually held the same exact descriptions he most certainly could not conclude that England and Angleterre were in fact two different countries. Thus, they are not the same exact descriptions.

After rereading A Puzzle About Belief and Naming and Necessity for the third or fourth time I came to the above conclusions. Then, just recently, I stumbled across on article by David Sosa, entitled The Import of the Puzzle About Belief.[22] In this paper Sosa gives a detailed examination of Kripke's paper and shows the exact same problems that I discovered. Sosa also is able to show how Kripke's alleged defense of Millianism is actually an argument against it. To generate the puzzles which Kripke does, requires another principle which presupposes Millianism. This he cannot do. Fregean description theory is able to accommodate all of Kripke's examples of apparent failure of codesignative names to be interchangeable in belief contexts. Under a Fregean theory 'Paderewski' and 'Paderewski', 'London' and 'Londres', 'England' and 'Angleterre', 'Samuel Clemens' and 'Mark Twain' would all have a different 'sense'. This may be due to being proper names in different languages, descriptions in different languages, lack of knowledge that one person is the same as another even when they have the same name, or just plain ambiguity such as in the Feynman – Gell-Mann example. All of these names which are supposedly translatable or have exactly the same description do have a different sense when one lacks the knowledge to properly translate or they are so blatantly ambiguous.



[1] Kripke, A Puzzle About Belief, in Meaning and Use, Margalit, A., ed., p. 102.

[2] Ibid., p. 103.

[3] Ibid., p. 104.

[4] Ibid., p. 104.

[5] Ibid., p. 105.

[6] Ibid., p. 107.

[7] Ibid., p. 107.

[8] Ibid., p. 112-113.

[9] Ibid., p. 114.

[10] Ibid., p. 114.

[11] Ibid., pp. 119-122.

[12] Ibid., p. 123.

[13] Ibid., p. 124-126.

[14] Ibid., p. 126.

[15] Ibid., p. 127.

[16] Ibid., p. 128.

[17] Ibid., p. 130-131.

[18] Ibid., p. 132.

[19] Ibid., p. 134.

[20] Ibid., p. 122.

[21] Ibid., p. 125.

[22] Sosa, David, The Import of the Puzzle About Belief, The Philosophical Review, 105 (3), pp. 373-402.