Origin, Matter, Kind – A Kripkean Epistemology of Necessity

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Pinni B building lecture hall 4141



Sanna Mattila (University of Helsinki/Department of Philosophy) talks in the research seminar of philosophy

Saul Kripke (1980) famously suggests that origin, matter and kind are necessary features of an individual. The aim of my paper is to develop an epistemological theory of how we arrive to know that exactly these features are necessary in a Kripkean framework.

Kripke’s epistemology of modality is sometimes called a two-factor model: We need, on the one hand, an a priori premise P → □P, and on the other hand, an a posteriori premise P, in order to conclude that □P. This, however, is not yet enough to tell us when we are allowed to apply the two-factor model to a certain property, and thus the epistemology of necessity is not yet complete until we find a story of how to apply it correctly.

Kripke (1971) also famously shows that the two-factor model applies to identity statements between rigid designators, i.e. he shows that if a=b, then necessarily a=b. This gives us a story of some true instances of the model, but the proof offered here will not help us further to necessity of origin or necessity of matter and kind: Queen Elizabeth, for example, is not identical with her origin. Thus, something else is needed.

In the previous literature, there has been mainly two candidates to fulfill Kripke’s theory: Firstly, there has been a lot of attention to “something like a proof” that Kripke offers in footnote 56 of Naming and Necessity. Secondly, it has been also common to point out that Kripke merely appeals to intuition when claiming that origin, matter and kind are necessary for an individual.

I will offer a third candidate, which takes it starting point in understanding of an identity of an individual: given that Kripke is constantly asking questions about sameness in his examples of Queen Elizabeth and the table, we should start by spelling out what an identity amounts to in Kripkean framework. To do this, I will use his theory of reference and his views on possible worlds and modal thinking.

My strategy will yield interesting results: Firstly, it will offer us an explanation of why necessity of origin, matter and kind are intuitive for Kripke: it is because they rise from his other theoretical commitments. Secondly, it will also show that to certain extend, Kripke is much closer to the Aristotelian essentialism than what is usually assumed, given that knowledge of necessity is posterior to knowledge of identity. Moreover, my account will show that Kripke will not be an eligible target for Fine’s (1994) famous counterexamples.


Fine, Kit (1994). “Essence and Modality”. Philosophical Perspectives 8, pp. 1–16.
Kripke, Saul (1980). Naming and Necessity. Harvard University Press.
Kripke, Saul (1971). “Identity and Necessity”. In Milton K. Munitz (ed.), Identity and
Individuation, pp. 135-64.




University lecturer Jani Hakkarainen, tel. 040 190 4125