5 - Recognition and iconic reference  pp. 89-114

Recognition and iconic reference

By Flint Schier

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter


There is reference and there is iconic reference and it would be a dire mistake to confuse the two. It is in virtue of the reference of a name that we say the sentence ‘Henry's pants are ablaze’ is about Henry and no one else. Likewise, a picture of Henry with his pants ablaze is a picture of Henry and no one else. There is a third form of direct and rigid aboutness which we might call representational. If Henry's enemies set an effigy of him alight it is something which represents or stands for Henry, and no one else, that they have set alight.

All three relations – denotative, pictorial and representational – are instances of what we might call ‘rigid aboutness’. In recent years, Saul Kripke has given us many insights about rigid designation (the denotative form of rigid aboutness). He has argued, persuasively, that P can refer to O with ‘N’ if something like the following story is true: P recognises that ‘N’ is a name and that its semantic role is purely referential; he uses ‘N’ referentially. O was baptised with the name ‘N’ by some group of people. It may be that *N’ is P's nickname for O (perhaps O is the neighbour's cat and Henry has just nicknamed him Grimalkin). The people who baptise O with ‘N’ may or may not have been able to recognise O. It is quite possible that they, and every other user of ‘N’, lack the ability to recognise the thing which ‘N’ designates, at least under the description ‘the thing which “N” designates’.