April 30, 2012

A Joke on Theories of Reference


A man walks into a bar.  A causal theorist of language is the bartender that night.  The man approaches the bartender in search of a woman.

Man: "I heard that I could get some play around here.  Who's the sluttiest girl in this place?"
Bartender (C): "If you're looking for some action, you should talk to Fiona."
Man: "Who's Fiona?"
Bartender (C): "Fiona names that which was so-named in this world, but could be differently named in some other possible world, and so anything I tell you about her would only be contingent and secondary to her direct reference."
Man: "Thanks a lot, dick!"

Clearly pissed off, the man curses the bartender and leaves, but returns the next night.  A descriptive theorist of language is the bartender that night.  The man approaches the bartender in search of a woman.

Man: "I heard that I could get some play around here.  Who's the sluttiest girl in this place?"
Bartender (D): "If you're looking for some action, you should talk to Fiona."
Man: "Who's Fiona?"
Bartender: "She's the woman with the six teeth and the eye patch at the end of the bar."
Man: "Thanks!
Bartender (D): "You're welcome."
Man: "You know, the bartender last night wasn't nearly as straightforward with me."
Bartender (D): "That's just how he gets his goat off!  He's always trying to jerk a flaccid designator into a rigid one."

Summary: 
  1. If you don't know what a referent for something is, you learn what it is by a description of it, not by masturbating possible worlds semantics.

1 comment:

  1. dude that was hilarious. Kripke's designator is small and insignificant; isn't his metaphysics stupid? Just like David Lewis's. I've always wondered what Lewis could say if you replaced every occurrence of "world" with "bitch donkey". But 'remember,' he says on page 87, the thesis that there is a plurality of worlds is useful for analysis, so that proves its truth. Remember.

    Perhaps something along the lines of the basic observation statements in Quine's behavioristic account could ground descriptive theories of reference. Or at least that kind of thing; since it has an empirically verifiable criterion instead of Kripke jizzing all over himself.

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