[Ads-l] innocent

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Oct 28 18:28:14 UTC 2015

There's another sense familiar to philosophers of language (and their linguist friends): (semantic) innocence is the rejection of the view that an expression in an intensional or opaque context can alter its usual meaning.  This is to deal with the fact that, as noted by Frege, we tend to treat (a) and (b) as having different cognitive value and potentially distinct truth conditions.

(a) Lois knows that Clark Kent is Superman
(b) Lois knows that Clark Kent is Clark Kent

(Well, Frege's examples involved the Morning Star and the Evening Star rather than Clark Kent and Superman, but that was only because DC Comics didn't come out in German.)  For Frege, the reference of "Clark Kent" and "Superman" in a that-context shifts from their customary reference (which is identical) to their customary sense (which comes with a difference in "mode of presentation").  So Frege's theory violates semantic innocence, but other philosophers differ with him (and with each other) on what's going on here.   Maybe the philosophers' "innocence" is an instance of OED's sense 3:

3. Freedom from cunning or artifice; guilelessness, artlessness, simplicity

And whatever one thinks of Frege's theory of sense and reference, free from cunning and artlessness it's not.


> On Oct 28, 2015, at 2:03 PM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> This is one of those lit-crit words that hasn't made it yet into OED.
> I've been reading it for. I'd guess, 20 years or more, so naturally I have
> no exx. to hand, but it means something like,
> "(of a written work) of straightforward meaning, undistorted by prejudice,
> mendacity, ulterior motive, etc."
> JL
> -- 
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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