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harry deutsch

Subject Philosophy » Metaphysics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631199991.1995.x


An indexical expression is one whose extension varies with variation in features of its context of use, but which is otherwise rigid. For example, consider the sentence (1) Jones will remember everyone now in the room. The function of ‘now’ (a temporal indexical) in this sentence is to shift the temporal point at which ‘everyone in the room’ is evaluated from the future point at which Jones's remembering takes place to the point at which (1) is asserted. Thus, the occurrence of ‘now’ in (1) is unaffected by the tensed verb in whose scope it occurs, and in this sense it is rigid. Similarly, if I say, ‘I might have been a fisherman’ I invoke a possible situation in which I am a fisherman; so the extension of ‘I’ remains fixed in the shift from the actual situation of my utterance to a possible one in which ‘I am a fisherman’ is true. (Contrast: ‘The first person on Mars might be a woman.’) But of course the extensions of ‘now’ and ‘I’ will vary from speaker to speaker and from one moment to another. Kaplan (1988) develops a semantics which accounts for the combination of rigidity and context sensitivity characteristic of indexicals. The first person indexical ‘I’ gives rise to the following interesting puzzle. My belief that I will get hit if I do not duck differs from your belief to the same effect (that I will get hit if I do not duck)since they issue in different behaviours: ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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