Kaplan’s Theory of Indexicals Introduction to Pragmatics Elizabeth Coppock Fall 2010 Indexicals Indexical: A word whose referent is dependent on the context of use, which provides a rule which determines the referent in terms of certain aspects of the context. (Kaplan 1977, Demonstratives, p. 490) Examples: I, my, you, that, this, here, now, tomorrow, yesterday, actual, present Demonstratives Demonstrative: An indexical that requires an associated demonstration. Examples: this, that Cf. Fillmore’s gestural uses of deictic terms. Pure Indexical Pure indexical: An indexical for which no demonstration is required. Example: I, now, here, tomorrow. (Although here has a demonstrative use: “In two weeks, I will be here [pointing]”) Two obvious principles 1. The referent of a pure indexical depends on the context, and the referent of a demonstrative depends on the associated demonstration. 2. Indexicals, pure and demonstrative alike, are directly referential. Directly referential An expression is directly referential if its referent, once determined, is taken as fixed for all possible circumstances. (Like Kripke’s rigid designators) Proper names (John) are directly referential Definite descriptions (the man) are not Said by me today (in the US): “The president is a Democrat” Alternative World 2 The actual world Alternative World 1 true true false Said by me today: “The president is a Democrat” Alternative World 5 Alternative World 3 Alternative World 4 true false true Said by me today: “Barack Obama is a Democrat” Alternative World 2 The actual world Alternative World 1 true true true Said by me today: “Barack Obama is a Democrat” Alternative World 5 Alternative World 3 Alternative World 4 true true true Said by Barack Obama today: “I am a Democrat” Alternative World 2 The actual world Alternative World 1 true true true Said by Barack Obama today: “I am a Democrat” Alternative World 5 Alternative World 3 Alternative World 4 true true true Conclusion “Barack Obama” designates the same individual in every possible world; it is directly referential. “The president” can designate different individuals in different possible worlds. When Barack Obama says “I”, he means “Barack Obama”. “I” is directly referential too. (Complication) There are so-called descriptive uses of indexicals. Says a prisoner on death row (Nunberg): I am traditionally allowed a last meal. [“I” – a person on death row.] But nevermind that. Ignore this slide. Recall: Directly referential An expression is directly referential if its referent, once determined, is taken as fixed for all possible circumstances. Kaplan continues: This does not mean it could not have been used to designate a different object; in a different context, it might have. But regardless of the circumstance of evaluation, it picks out the same object. Context vs. Circumstance Context of utterance: Who is speaking to whom, where, when, what they’re gesturing to, etc. Circumstance of evaluation: A possible world at which the truth of the utterance might be evaluated. Alternative World 5 “I am a Democrat” Actual World Context: Speaker=Obama: true Context: Speaker=Obama: true Speaker=McCain: false Speaker=McCain: true Direct Reference The word “I”, uttered by Barack Obama (or whoever), picks out the same individual in every possible world. You don’t have to look to see what properties the object has in the world in order to decide what it refers to. Unlike definite descriptions, whose referent depends on who is the president. The only thing that can affect what “I” refers to is who the speaker is. Indexicals and Descriptive Content Descriptions like “the president” and “a president” do have descriptive content: they describe the discourse referent as a president. Proper names have no descriptive content. (What’s in a name?...) Do indexicals have descriptive content? Sure. “I” describes the referent as being the speaker. But “the descriptive meaning of a directly referential term is no part of the propositional content” (p. 497) Content vs. Character Character: The aspect of meaning that two utterances of the same sentence share across different contexts of utterance. Content: The proposition expressed by an utterance, with the referents of all of the indexicals resolved. Same or different meaning? May 11, 2010: I am turning 30 today. May 12, 2010: I am turning 30 today. Same or different meaning? May 11, 2010: I am turning 30 today. May 12, 2010: I turned 30 yesterday. Same character, different content May 11, 2010: I am turning 30 today. May 12, 2010: I am turning 30 today. Same content, different character May 11, 2010: I am turning 30 today. May 12, 2010: I turned 30 yesterday. Indexicals and Descriptive Content “Indexicals have descriptive meaning, but this meaning is relevant only to determining a referent in a context of use and not to determining a relevant individual in a circumstance of evaluation.” I.e., the descriptive meaning is part of the character, but not the content. Imagine if it were otherwise! Suppose “I do not exist” is true in a circumstance of evaluation if and only if the speaker (assuming there is one) of the circumstance does not exist in the circumstance. Nonsense! If that were the correct analysis, what I said could not be true. From which it follows that: It is impossible that I do not exist. Impossibility Something that is possible is true in at least one possible world. Something that is impossible is false at every possible world. Something that is necessary is true at every possible world. Alternative World 8 The actual world Alternative World 7 “I am here now” Kaplan calls this a logical truth meaning that whenever it is uttered, it is true. But it is never a necessary truth because the circumstances could be otherwise.