Saul-Superman.djvu, Oxford Journals
This paper is focused on issues concerning belief attribution: the meaning of sentences of the form "N believes that P". As we know, there are reasons to suppose that substitution of co-referential expressions should fail in such contexts: It would seem, prima facie, as if
(H) Hammurabi believes that Hesperus is visible in the evening.
could be true even though
(P) Hammurabi believes that Phosphorous is visible in the evening.
was false. As we saw with Marcus, however, one might also simply think that substutition of co-referential expressions ought to be permitted everywhere (excepting quotation).
Such a view is known as a Russellian view of attitude ascriptions. Its main advantages are (i) that it gives a very simple semantics for such sentences and (ii) that it saves us from having to answer difficult questions about what role, exactly, senses are supposed to be playing.
Of course, someone who thinks that (H) and (P) must either both be true or both be false needs to explain why we have an "intuition" to the contrary. And one obvious way to do this is to insist that the contrast between (H) and (P) is not semantic but pragmatic: Even if (P) is true, perhaps uttering it would in some way be misleading. The details of how that account might go will not matter for our purposes.
Saul gives a number of examples, at the beginning of the paper, to illustrate the problem in which she is interested. With one exception, most of these involve superheroes. And one might wonder, as indeed some have, if these are not special cases. Can you think of other sorts of examples? A particularly important question here is whether we can always generate such examples for pairs of names that give rise to Frege cases.
Note that the claim is that there is a felt contrast between these two sentences
(10) He hit Clark Kent once, but he never hit Superman.
(10*) He hit Clark Kent once, but he never hit Clark Kent.
and that it is the same sort of felt contrast as between (H) and (P). And it's important to note that, as in that case, the contrast between (10) and (10*) does not depend upon our being ignorant of the identity of Clark and Superman.
The question is how we should respond to these examples. Saul first considers whether we might simply say that, in fact, (10) can be true even though (10*) cannot be, since "Clark Kent" and "Superman" do not refer to the same thing. She quickly discards a couple very unpromising attempts (pp. 103-4) and then turns to the suggestion that we should think of the names as referring to "temporal phases". The natural application of this idea is to the "Leningrad" vs "St Petersburg" case: The former refers to the "time slice" of a certain city in Russia lasting from 1924-1991; "St Petersburg" refers to the "time slice" lasting from 1703-1924 and then from 1991 to the present. As Saul notes, it's harder to know how to allocate temporal parts to Clark and Superman, but she sets that worry aside, having more serious objections to press.
The first problem is that this view threatens to make
(11) Superman is Clark Kent.
false, since the whole point is that the time slice that consitutes Superman has to be different from the time slice that constitutes Clark. If so, however, then cases like
Lois believes that Clark can fly.
Lois believes that Superman can fly.
aren't actually counterexamples to the substitution of identicals. And we probably do not want to have to say that Superman isn't Clark Kent (though there have been some who have explored that idea).
There are two ways to avoid that consequence: One is to postulate a more complex semantics for proper names, so that "Superman" sometimes refers to a person and somtimes refers to a time slice of a person. An alternative might be to locate the ambiguity in "is", so that, in (11), "is" means something like: are temporal phases of the same temporally unified object. The problem with this view is that it is insufficiently general, as examples like:
(12) Clark Kent can fly, though he conceals this fact.
show. So it looks as if only the ambiguity view will do.
Saul does not say very much about this "ambiguity" view, oter than that it "will be undesirable to many". Does it seem plausible? What pros or cons might it have?
Accepting that (10) can be true looks difficult, then. But we do not have to explain the contrast between (10) and (10*) semantically: We can instead explain it pragmatically.
Saul remarks that the pragmatic strategy works most smoothly when what we need to explain is why we are reluctant to say something like "Clark went into the phone booth, and Clark came out": The utterance would implicate something false. What false might it implicate? She also suggests that it isn't as obvious how to explain why we do say things like (10). Presumably, it ought to be because utterances of (10) can implicate something true, even if they are themselves false. What true might they implicate?
At this point, however, Saul reveals the trap she has been laying for the Fregean.
The proponent of this response...now has a choice. She must decide whether or not to accept a perfectly parallel account of our intuitions about attitude reports.... According to [it], substitution of co-referential names in attitude reports preserves truth conditions but may result in the generation of new, and misleading, pragmatic implicatures. It is these implicatures which result in our (mistaken) tendency to say that [(H)] may betrue while [(P)] is false.... The main argument against [this] theory has been that it requires the violation of our intuitions about substitution. But the current approach to substitution in simple sentences requires what is apparently a perfectly parallel violation of intuitions, accompanied by a perfectly parallel appeal to pragmatics. The advocate of this approach owes us a reason for supposing that one set of intuitions deserves to be taken so much more seriously than the other. (pp. 106-7)
This does not seem a particularly comfortable place for the Fregean to be. And that might make one want to explore again the possibility that (10) can be true. As we'll see next, some have gone that route.
Saul's argument here depends crucially upon the claim that the cases of (H) and (P), on the one hand, and of (10) and (10*), on the other, are "perfectly parallel". Might it be possible to resist that claim?