Friday, 28 April 2017
Saul Kripke 1945 to present
Saul Kripke is a great logician and philosopher. He has done amazing work on some very interesting topics in philosophy. He is a real philosopher's philosopher. Born in Oberlin, Ohio, he came from an interesting family and they moved to New York. He was a very studious child, wanting to learn actual philosophy. His Dad (a famous rabbi), was saying to him once: I could get you a reference work on philosophy (or something of that kind - I don't know the exact quote - webmaster). The young child replied 'No, I want to read real philosophers!'. Thus began an illustrious and illuminating career.
Even as a teenager, Saul Kripke launched seminal investigations into modal logic. He took what was just a bare axiom system and gave it meanings. He told us of Liebniz's possible worlds, and that when you link them up with the formulas of modal logic, you get a marvellous formal tool which has been carried into many developments and usage today, even in fields outside philosophy.
But something was amiss in paradise. Not satisfied with the pictures of language of his forebears, Frege and Russell, the Kripke was hatching very important new insights about reference, modality, and related topics. Coming to a head in his Naming and Necessity lectures, these ideas shook the very foundations of modern philosopjhy. I still read this book whenever I need to get clear about something to do with the complex issues posed by naming and necessity. (In case the relation between these topics isn't clear - and I hope it is - I will illustrate it as follows: if you name something, and then you name something else, then that is a necessary fact if they are different or the same. So names aren't saying this and this is true of you when you are named, but that you are just this object. This powerful insight continues to exercise philosophers to this day.
There are a lot of great stories about Kripke, who knows if they are true. That he gave a lecture looking through a glass at everyone. That he was known to carry things in plastic bags. Once someone asked him something funny and he said ' Oh no you don't! That would be just another Kripke anecdote if I said anything' (or words to the effect).
He has a new paper out about 'and' and 'but'. He has worked on knowledge, fiction, truth, meaning, and mind. There is even a Saul Kripke Centre dedicated to his work in philosophy.
Kripke is not satisfied with mere ideas about philosophy. He won't just waffle on and try to sound smart. He understands far more than you will ever know.