Rigid Designation and Theoretical Identities

Document Type


Publication Date



Print publication date: 2012

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013


"This book articulates and defends the position that terms for properties are rigid designators and that property designators' rigidity is put to good use in important philosophical arguments supporting and impugning various theoretical identity statements, including psychophysical identity statements. In the first chapter, rigidity in general is explained. Special problems raised by property designators specifically are discussed. In the next two chapters it is argued that designators for properties are subject to a genuine distinction and one that plays the same role that the rigid–nonrigid distinction plays for concrete-object designators: hence it is a rigid–nonrigid distinction. This distinction can be understood whether property designators are construed as singular terms (perhaps higher-order singular terms) or as merely predicative terms, as chapters 4 and 5 argue. In the final three chapters, the necessity of theoretical identities like ‘water = H2O’ is upheld, as is a skeptical argument impugning psychophysical identities like ‘pain = c-fiber firing’. Special attention is paid to the skeptical argument, which has been rejected by analytic functionalists (including Lewis), concept dualists (including Papineau), and scientific necessitarians (most of whom embrace scientific essentialism: including Shoemaker). Arguments aiming to establish scientific necessitarianism are rejected in favor of a broadly empiricist skepticism regarding psychophysical identities and many other statements that scientific necessitarians would regard as true and necessary. The book as a whole constitutes a broad defense of a tradition or set of traditions originating largely in seminal work from Kripke." -- from publisher's website.