Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Out of the armchair and into the arms of Kripkean orthodoxy

From the NYT:
A new study suggests that concussions and head trauma can cause degenerative diseases similar to A.L.S. and that Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig's disease.

I wonder what the experimental philosophers are going to say? It certainly does look like the authors of the study are with Kripke. Upon coming to doubt that Gherig had A.L.S., they didn't say that they had evidence that A.L.S. isn't Lou Gherig's disease, they said that they had evidence that Lou Gherig had neither A.L.S. nor Lou Gherig's disease. Maybe the experimental philosophers will do a cross cultural study to look for non-English speaking doctors willing to describe the results as evidence that Lou Gherig's Disease is actually a degenerative disease similar to but distinct from A.L.S. often caused by concussions and trauma.


Lewis Powell said...

Technically, even orthodox Millians/Kripkeans would treat a phrase like "Lou Gherig's Disease" as some sort of description (though they would take a view about what contribution "Lou Gherig" makes to the semantic value of that description).

The questions that come up for this case are:
a) What relationship(s) between Lou Gherig and a given disease are sufficient for the phrase "Lou Gherig's disease" to be a description which designates that disease?
b) Is the phrase "Lou Gherig's disease" functioning as a description in our ordinary use of it?

Things are complicated by apparent context-sensitivity of 's, as well as by the phenomena of a) phrases that superficially appear to be descriptions, but are more like proper names ("Queen Latifah"), and b) partially descriptive names ("Professor Littlejohn").

Clayton said...

I never expected the creator of the socratic robologues to be such a buzzkill.

What about the Holy Roman Empire?

Lewis Powell said...

I'll leave that one to Voltaire.