Sunday, January 29, 2006



Good to see Kripke getting a favourable profile in the New York Times yesterday (I saw the article via Leiter). As the article points out, Kripke is of course brilliant, no question. But there were a couple of weird spins on things. We're told that 'his book-length interpretation of Wittgenstein, published two years later, is so thoroughgoing that some scholars now refer to a sort of composite figure known as Kripkenstein' (correcting the obvious spelling mistake). I was pretty sure that scholars refered to a composite figure because they were under the (correct, I hasten to add) impression that Kripke's Wittgenstein couldn't possibly be Wittgenstein. I'm not sure when this practice was first adopted, but Blackburn's 'The Individual Strikes Back' in Synthese in 1984 must be one of the earliest examples (if it's not the earliest). I don't mean to deny the obvious, which is that's Kripke's Wittgenstein has been taken (again correctly, in my humble opinion) as posing one of the most difficult and fascinating challenges in contemporary philosophy of language. But it's a very charitable spin on why philosophers speak of Kripkenstein as if he were a separate figure - unless 'thoroughgoing' is code for utterly historically inaccurate, which I presume it isn't.

It's also never been clear that Kripke improvises his talks in quite the way suggested in the article. I was born over a decade after the first publication of the lectures, so I'm hardly in a position to tell conclusively, but I've heard it plausibly suggested that Kripke's lectures were delievered from memory rather than improvised. Of course, that's a hell of a feat of memory alone if that is indeed, as suggested, the way he delievered the lectures, but it would be interesting to know just how much of a myth the improvisation is. (All that said, I'm still hoping I'll get an opportunity to hear him speak in person at some point soon.)

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I think you're probably right about the alleged improvisation being something of a myth. I saw Kripke at UNILOG 2005, and the manner of presentation seemed to fit the theory that he does it by memory alone. At any rate, some of the other participants mentioned that they had seen him do more or less exactly the same talk at other conferences.
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