Semantics and necessary truth
I have recently been reading, with great profit, Jason Stanley's draft manuscript Philosophy of Language in the Twentieth Century, forthcoming in the Routledge Guide to Twentieth Century Philosophy. The paper's synoptic scope matches the ambitious title.
I'm curious about one relatively small claim Jason makes. On MS p.17, he says:
intuitively an instance of Tarski's schema T [GF-A: '...' is a true sentence if and only iff ...] such as (7) is not a necessary truth at all:This certainly has (as Stanley says) an "intuitive" ring. But now I'm not sure it's correct.
(7) "Bill Clinton is smart" is a true sentence if and only if Bill Clinton is smart.
(7) is not a necessary truth, because "Bill Clinton is smart" could have meant something other than it does. For example, "is smart" could have expressed the property of being from Mars, in which case (7) would be false.
Here's my worry: as a preliminary, recall (as Tarski taught us) that semantic vocabulary should always be indexed to a particular language -- e.g., we must say 'is a true sentence of English' or 'x refers to y in Farsi' etc. in the full statement of sentences like (7). But then I am not so sure that such sentences are not true in all possible worlds. Is it really the case that, in English, "is smart" could have expressed the property of being from Mars? We specify a particular language (in part) by specifying the semantic values of the words of that language (at least, if we are not proceeding purely formally/ proof-theoretically). Wouldn't we be speaking another language at that point, that was similar to English, but not the same?
My intuitions lean towards saying that this would not be English, but those intuitions aren't firm. I think the question boils down to: "Is 'English' a rigid designator (i.e., does 'English' refer to the same thing(s) in all possible worlds)?", but I'm not sure about that, either. Which way do your intuitions run?