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Friday, 8 November 2013

Reference-fixing as an allagmatic operation (Kripke meets Simondon)

In December 2010, in Gize, I wrote an entry on this blog on the individuation of camels. There I do mention Kripke and Simondon. In fact, one can see reference-fixing procedures as allagmatic operations - operations that take place in the preparation of an individual. Surely, proper names are introduced by baptism, and name-giving is an individualization operation. But reference-fixing could be for instance, introducing the name Hesperus as the evening star or the name Cat for a (natural) kind of animals (no matter if they end up turning out to be also the morning star or robots instead). Descriptions can be wrong and yet work as reference-fixing. If it is so, a wrong description (or an incomplete one) could work as an allagmatic operation that individuates (cats or stars). Of all things, a description picks up one - or what it takes to be one - and this is enough for something to be individuated, and treated as an individual, that can be further investigated later on.

Reference-fixing produces individuals. It is a way to carve the world in individuals, to the extent that we can further say, for instance, that there is not (in the actual world) entities individuated as phlogiston. Analogously, descriptions in fiction (but not only descriptions) individuate things. We can talk about unicorns or Holmes. One of the many meta-stabilizers needed for an individual to be such is reference-fixing. Why is this camel different from all the others? Because it was given a name, and a name, as I said in the 2010 post mentioned above, provides the individual with importance, the importance of being an individual distinct from all others. I guess what is crucial in Kripke's gesture - or in the direct reference theory gesture in general - is not really the defense of the indiscernibility of identicals (or the move to make some kind of substracta theory plausible) but it is rather to show the (allagmatic) complexity of reference-fixing. It is not about satisfaction of description. Rather, it is about point at a part of the world and attempting to provide it with borders.

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