Actually-Rigidified Descriptivism Revisited



In response to Kripke's modal argument contemporary descriptivists suggest that referring terms, e.g., ‘water’, are synonymous with actually-rigidified definite descriptions, e.g., ‘the actual watery stuff’. Following Scott Soames, this strategy has the counterintuitive consequence that possible speakers on Perfect Earth cannot be ascribed water-beliefs without beliefs about the actual world. Co-indexing the actuality and possibility operators has the equally untoward result that possible speakers on Twin Earth are ascribed water-beliefs. So, Soames's dilemma is that the descriptivist can account for either Twin Earth or Perfect Earth but not both. In response, this paper argues that since ‘actual’ is an indexical, the content of water-beliefs is egocentric, and so if the descriptivist avails herself of relativized propositions as the content of such beliefs, she is able to account for both Twin Earth and Perfect Earth. The lesson is that we have to tread carefully when making inferences about the contents of beliefs from the semantics of belief-reporting sentences that contain actually-rigidified expressions.