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Keywords:

  • intuition;
  • reference;
  • descriptivism;
  • experimental philosophy;
  • proper names

Abstract

Saul Kripke's thought experiments on the reference of proper names target the theory that the properties which identify a term's referent are the subject of an implicit agreement. Recently, survey versions of the experiments have been thought to show that intuitions about reference are culturally contingent. Proposing a revisionary interpretation, this article argues, first, that Kripke's Cicero/Feynman experiment reveals that every name user knows enough to be capable of identifying the same individual as the name's most informed users. Second, the article shows that Kripke's presentation of the Gödel/Jonah experiment is ambiguous with respect to the properties attributed to the referent. Disambiguated, the experiment fails to reveal that name users may be mistaken in every unique property they attribute. Since the experiment's ambiguity is replicated in survey presentations, cross-cultural variation in survey response fails to show that intuitions about reference are culturally contingent.