Open Access

Kripke Was Right Even If He Was Wrong: Sherlock Holmes and the Unicorns

   | Jul 17, 2021


In the Addenda to Naming and Necessity (1980), Kripke famously argues that it is false that there could have been unicorns, or more properly, that “no counterfactual situation is properly describable as one in which there would have been unicorns.” He adds that he holds similarly that ‘one cannot say of any possible person that he would have been Sherlock Holmes, had he existed.” He notes the “cryptic brevity” of these remarks and refers to a forthcoming work for elaborations—the work being, of course, the John Locke Lectures (2013). Coming as it does at the end of Naming and Necessity, it is natural to read this discussion as drawing out consequences of Kripke’s non-descriptivist picture of proper names and names of natural kinds. In fact, so much is suggested there by Kripke himself. The question thus arises: can the contentious claims quoted from the Addenda be defended independently of Kripke’s rejection of descriptivism? I shall argue that, as appears from the John Locke Lectures, they can be.

English, Portuguese
Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Philosophy, Selected Philosophical Movements, Analytical Philosophy