Actuality-dependence, Natural Kind Terms and Reference Failures
This essay investigates Haukioja's (2010) notion of actuality-dependence. This notion is an attempt to explain the rigid behaviour of some kind terms; in particular natural kind terms like “water” and “tiger”. A definition of rigidity for kind terms has to take in account speakers' semantic intentions. This, together with the fact that actuality-dependence can only be applied successfully to a kind term if the members of its extension all share an underlying, non-trivial property, makes the notion of actuality-dependence face the problem of reference failures. A speaker's intention for a certain term to be actuality-dependent might fail, in the sense that the members of the kind picked out by the term in question lack underlying properties of the right sort. Three ways to solve this issue are shown to be unsatisfactory, ultimately leading to the conclusion that actuality-dependence cannot be the semantic feature that single out natural kind terms as semantically special.
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