Honestly, now, can we get over it? If we're going to make mention of the fact that President Bush shaved a syllable off the prefered phrase 'Democrat*ic* Party' as a means of tweaking his opponents, let's please do it only in the context of pointing out that this pathetic gambit just shows him to be the impotent yap that he is.
Wherein Kripke's theory of fictional reference is disproved by childhood daydreams, monkeys at typewriters, and Heinrich Schliemann.
Kripke claims that a possible-worlds analysis of fictional reference cannot overcome the problem of specifying sufficiently clear identity conditions:
Granted that there is no Sherlock Holmes, one cannot say of any possible person, that he would have been Sherlock Holmes, had he existed. Several distinct possible peopleâ¦might have performed the exploits of Holmes, but there is none of whom we can say that he would have been Holmes had he performed these exploits. For if so, which one? [Naming and Necessity (22).]
Kripke concludes from this that fictional reference has to be cashed out in terms of actual, but essentiallyfictional, abstract entities. In other words, on Kripke's account, 'Sherlock Holmes' names an abstract entity--the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Since names are rigid designators, Holmes is necessarily fictional--fictional, that is, in all possible worlds in which Holmes exists.
I think there are three straightforward reasons to reject this argument.
First, it ignores phenomena like historical fiction and schoolboy daydreaming. Consider the latter sort of phenomenon (the argument is the same in either case). Suppose I imagine myself helping Superman out of a fix (it's just the kind of guy I am). On Kripke's account, one would have to say that I'm not really imagining myself here but rather some other fictional character who has many of the superficial properties that happen to inhere in me, and that this fictional "'Q' the Enchanter" is utterly, ontologically distinct from "Q" the Enchanter.
It seems to me that this bullet-biting account verges on incoherence. The first-person deictic rigidly designates the person using it. As such, Kripke's account renders propositions like 'I imagined I was helping Superman out of a fix' meaningless or impossible. Whereas such imaginings at least seem more like the routine product of a rather basic mental competence. (Confer, for instance, the rather natural account an appeal to possibilia makes available, viz., that in imagining myself running to Superman's aid, I am simply imagining me--a counterfactual me in a counterfactual world--as I interact with Superman, whom I imagine existing as a concrete entity in that same counterfactual world.)
Second, the problem in specifying identity conditions for
fictional characters as specific possibilia
is no worse than that of specifying identity conditions for fictional
characters as specific abstracta. For instance, what are the conditions under which a specific abstract entity is Sherlock Holmes? It couldn't be some causal historical relationship with the author of the Holmes stories: If another author, perhaps even a monkey, had per chance typed up a word-for-word copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles (call Conan Doyle's book Hound for short and the monkey's book Hound*), one would be epistemically justified to say that 'Holmes'* in Hound* picks out the same abstract entity as 'Holmes' does in Hound. (I'm obviously not intentionalist about meaning.)
Nor could the conditions consist in the story's
actual narrative content: We might imagine that Conan Doyle might have
written none of the Holmes books that he actually did, but
yet penned others that still use 'Sherlock Holmes' to pick out the
very Sherlock Holmes his actual books do.
In short, there seems no set of identity conditions that would pick Holmes out as an abstractum any more or less succesfully than it would pick Holmes out as a possibilium.
Third, and most importantly, Kripke's claim that we
can't specify the identity conditions of fictional or mythical entities is disproved by the process of historical discovery. Consider the following account of a hypothetical discovery. Archaeologist
Schliemann's excavators dig up some equine-looking remains, among
them an equine-looking skull with a horn protruding from the front; the
remains are determined to be of completely natural origin. Nearby is found a plaque that reads
something like that. (This is all anachronistic and etymologically bogus anyway, so please don't hold me to orthographic verisimilitude.) This plaque is next radiometrically dated, and
found to be the same age as that of the remains. A little later, some
research on the plaque turns up clues in the vast literature on Greek
mythology--clues that point to a clear causal-historical chain of usage
linking 'υνικορν' to 'unicorn.'
The preceding successfully outlines a
set of circumstances under which we would know we had discovered
the remains of a real unicorn. If there are epistemological problems here, as Kripke claims (see, e.g., pp.157-8 of Naming and Necessity),
those problems are of a far more general nature than Kripke seems to
appreciate, since if those problems obtain in our discovering the historicity of unicorns, they obtain also in the case
of our discovering the historicity of, say, Troy (which had been thought a mythical city before Schliemann discovered it).
[Treoblogging] Heard on the radio while somewhere between Elburn, IL and Centerville, IA:
A motorist collided with a parked car on Oak St. last Tuesday. Frank Johnson was driving west-bound on Oak and apparently did not see the automobile parked there. There were no injuries reported, but it was estimated that the damage to both vehicles could reach $500.
In other news, police issued several citations to underage patrons at [local bar name]. Jefferson High School seniors Cindy Smith, Jackie Freeman, Jon Davis and Katie Winslip were all fined $75 for the offense....