In this essay Iwill be outlining and critically assessing Kripke’s ‘Humphrey’ objection toCounterpart Theory. To first understand the ‘Humphrey’ objection, it is crucialto understand the Counterpart Theory. This theory has the core belief ofindividuals only existing in a specific world, however they have similarcounterparts in other possible worlds.
Kripke’s ‘Humphrey’ objection is inlight of the Counterpart Theory. Stephen Yablo’s Aboutness helps illustrate issues which arise in the notion oftransworld identities. These transworld identities have been seen as highlycontroversial and as a pseudo-problem. Humphreys objection concludes modalrealism and counterpart theory together fail to capture our ordinary attitudesabout modal statements.
It does not explain how we can feel regret and sadnessabout how our lives did not turn out differently. The CounterpartTheory states that individuals only exist in one specific world. This theorysupposes that there is a possible world, which we can call A. In this specificworld there is an individual who is not ‘B’ alone, but instead a distinctindividual ‘B’ who is different, yet similar to the original ‘B’.
For example,If I say that in some other world according to the Counterpart Theory that I ama professional football player, I do not believe my own individual is existentthere, but actually my counterpart. The Counterpart Theory can be used todescribe different ways a world could or might be. This theory is an’alternative to the standard possible-world semantics for interpretingquantified modal logic’ (Wikipedia, 2017). Aphilosopher with an objection to the Counterpart Theory was Saul Kripke. Thisobjection was called the ‘Humphrey Objection.’ In 1968, Hubert Humphrey lostthe presidential election to Richard Nixon.
In this election there was apossibility that Humphrey could have won, in some concrete world. Lewis,another famous philosopher believed Humphreys counterpart won the election, In Naming and Necessity it states ‘Humphreymight have won the election, we are not talking about something that might havehappened to Humphrey but to someone else, a counterpart’ (Kripke, p.45). A modal realist (the view that all worlds arejust as real as the actual world) such as Lewis, would agree that if we are tosay that Humphrey could have won the election, then we are talking aboutHumphrey himself. It states in Naming andNecessity that this view does seem bizarre, and I agree with this view. Ido not believe it matters if he could have won the election in some possibleworld, because the counterpart is not his actual self, so why would it matterif his counterpart won the presidential election. ‘Kripke says that theproperty ascribed to Humphrey’s counterpart is the modal property of being an xsuch that x would have won, but the relevant property should obviously be the non-modalproperty of having won’ (De, p. 2).
I also agree that this is relevant becauseit is the truth, not a counterpart. The property ascribed to Humphreyscounterpart exist in our mind, however not actual, therefore is less relevant. Lewisresponds to Kripke and states that because of the counterpart being victorious,Humphrey himself then has the ‘requisite modal property: we can truly say thathe might have won’ (De, p.3). I believe though that if we are talking in termsof Humphrey, if we were to say that Humphrey could potentially win the election,then we are discussing something that could potentially happen to Humphreyhimself, not what could potentially happen to someone similar to Humphrey. Dueto the fact that someone who is similar to Humphrey has the potential to win,Humphrey himself could have won.
Iresearched a Philosopher by the name Stephen Yablo to help me better understandthe Humphrey objection. In Yablo’s book Aboutnessit states:’TheHumphrey objection has been called unconvincing on the ground that it isHumphrey himself, not his counterpart, who is a possible president on thecounterpart- theoretic account. But I hear the objection differently. Kripke iscomplaining, not that Humphrey could have won winds up not being about the guyit intuitively does concern (Humphrey), but that it winds up also being about aguy it intuitively doesn’t concern (a guy only resembling Humphrey)’ (Yablo,2014, 17, fn. 17).
There are two problems which can beillustrated in this. The counterpart reading of saying that ‘Humphrey could havewon’ does not include any particular one counterpart of Humphrey. This meanswithout one particular counterpart the possibility of being a “man” resemblingHumphrey is eliminated.
The question which then comes to mind is what anexistentially quantified statement is truly about, which is difficult toconclude about in Yablo’s Aboutness. Secondly,there is a distinction between the defining conditions of ‘Humphrey has awinning counterpart’ is discussing people other than Humphrey or propertiesdifferent than possibly having won. It is another story to state that ‘Humphreycould have won’ is about people or properties which are not relevant.
Thenext topic which is important to understanding in Naming and Necessity by Kripke is transworld identity. ‘The notion oftransworld identity— ‘identity across possible worlds’—is the notion that thesame object exists in more than one possible world (with the actual worldtreated as one of the possible worlds). It therefore has its home in a’possible-worlds’ framework for analysing, or at least paraphrasing, statementsabout what is possible or necessary’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, p.1). Researching this subject seemed tobe highly controversial. Some Philosophers agree there is such a world, whileother Philosophers think it is so bizarre that it is problematic.
A crucial opponentto this view is Lewis’s Counterpart Theory. As stated earlier, the CounterpartTheory is the view that even though an individual exists in one world only, ithas counterparts in different worlds where the counterpart seems to not haveidentity. I agree with Lewis partially in terms of there is a possibility thatit could have happened, in some different concrete world, however it did nothappen therefore the possibility is then eliminated when the conclusion of thespecific event arises. Theissue of transworld identity has been seen as a pseudo-problem, ‘a problemwhich cannot be properly answered, especially because it arises only as theresult of an error of analysis or a mistaken assumption’ (Oxford Dictionary).
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia ofPhilosophy, Kripke seems to have an issue with transworld identity which restson one of the three claims: the epistemological assumption, the security ofreference assumption, and the intelligibility assumption. The epistemologicalassumption says that we have to have specific transworld identity criterion tounderstand that in another world some individual ‘A’ is identical with theactual ‘A.’ The security of reference assumption states we have to havecriterion of transworld identity to know that when we reference someone inanother concrete world that we are talking about who was intended, rather thansome other individual.
Lastly, the intelligibility assumption states we musthave some criteria of transworld identity in order to understand it completely.Kripke believes out of these three assumptions, none of them survive underscrutiny. ‘If these assumptions exhaust the grounds for supposing that there isa problem of transworld identity, the alleged problem may be dismissed as apseudo-problem’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2017: p. 3).It is important tounderstand that even though the possibility a counterpart could have won theelection, the counterpart did not win.
If there is someone or some propertywith the attribute ‘A’ winning the election in some possible world and someonewith this same attribute in the real world, it gives potential but notcertainty. The issue of transworld identities is highly controversial and notreliable. Humphreys objection concludes modal realism and counterpart theorytogether fail to capture our ordinary attitudes about modal statements. It doesnot explain how we can feel regret and sadness about how our lives did not turnout differently.