The American philosopher Saul Kripke, one of the most important figures of the 20th century in the field of philosophy of language and logic, author of the causal theory of reference, died at the age of 81 in New York. The announcement of his death, which took place on Thursday 15 September, was given on social media by the Saul Kripke Center, the study center named after him by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he has taught for the past twenty years.
Born in Bay Shore, New York on November 13, 1940, after a double degree in philosophy and mathematics from Harvard University, Kripke began his academic career as a lecturer at Rockefeller University in New York, where he taught from 1968 to the 1976, and then in 1977 he moved to Princeton University, of which he was emeritus professor. Among his writings that have appeared in Italian are “Existence and necessity. Selected essays” (Ponte alle Grazie, 1992), “Name and necessity” (Bollati Boringhieri, 1999) and “Wittgenstein on rules and private language” (Bollati Boringhieri, 2000) .
Accompanied from his early academic debut by an aura of genius, the figure of Saul Kripke is one of the most anecdotal, fascinating and discussed in contemporary analytic philosophy. Starting in the early 1960s, his ideas marked a turning point, bringing new issues and problems to the fore. At the same time, Kripke’s work is often difficult for non-experts because it makes use of subtle and profound targeted arguments, contained in a small number of texts, and unfolds along some technical passages. The philosopher elaborated a formal semantics for intuitionistic and modal logic, subsequently extending the results of the latter to the philosophical analysis of the reference of natural language terms.
Hence the causal theory of reference, according to which the reference of a term ‘t’ is determined by a causal link that connects every possible use of ‘t’ to the object that was associated with it at the time of its introduction into the language . A proper noun is also conceived as a “rigid designator”, that is, a term that designates the same individual in every “possible world” in which it has a referent, and the identity assertions in which it appears are considered “metaphysically necessary”, that is true in every possible world..
Kripke also proposed an original theory of truth that manages to eliminate some drawbacks of the theory of mathematician and logician Alfred Tarski related to paradoxes. The philosopher was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, the Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea, the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Among the numerous awards, honorary degrees from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Haifa, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Nebraska.CopyAMP code