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In this essay I
will be outlining and critically assessing Kripke’s ‘Humphrey’ objection to
Counterpart Theory. To first understand the ‘Humphrey’ objection, it is crucial
to understand the Counterpart Theory. This theory has the core belief of
individuals only existing in a specific world, however they have similar
counterparts in other possible worlds. Kripke’s ‘Humphrey’ objection is in
light of the Counterpart Theory. Stephen Yablo’s Aboutness helps illustrate issues which arise in the notion of
transworld identities. These transworld identities have been seen as highly
controversial and as a pseudo-problem. Humphreys objection concludes modal
realism and counterpart theory together fail to capture our ordinary attitudes
about modal statements. It does not explain how we can feel regret and sadness
about how our lives did not turn out differently.

The Counterpart
Theory states that individuals only exist in one specific world. This theory
supposes that there is a possible world, which we can call A. In this specific
world there is an individual who is not ‘B’ alone, but instead a distinct
individual ‘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 am
a professional football player, I do not believe my own individual is existent
there, but actually my counterpart. The Counterpart Theory can be used to
describe different ways a world could or might be. This theory is an
‘alternative to the standard possible-world semantics for interpreting
quantified modal logic’ (Wikipedia, 2017).

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philosopher with an objection to the Counterpart Theory was Saul Kripke. This
objection was called the ‘Humphrey Objection.’ In 1968, Hubert Humphrey lost
the presidential election to Richard Nixon. In this election there was a
possibility 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 ‘Humphrey
might have won the election, we are not talking about something that might have
happened to Humphrey but to someone else, a counterpart’ (Kripke, p.45).  A modal realist (the view that all worlds are
just as real as the actual world) such as Lewis, would agree that if we are to
say that Humphrey could have won the election, then we are talking about
Humphrey himself. It states in Naming and
Necessity that this view does seem bizarre, and I agree with this view. I
do not believe it matters if he could have won the election in some possible
world, because the counterpart is not his actual self, so why would it matter
if his counterpart won the presidential election. ‘Kripke says that the
property ascribed to Humphrey’s counterpart is the modal property of being an x
such that x would have won, but the relevant property should obviously be the non-modal
property of having won’ (De, p. 2). I also agree that this is relevant because
it is the truth, not a counterpart. The property ascribed to Humphreys
counterpart exist in our mind, however not actual, therefore is less relevant. Lewis
responds to Kripke and states that because of the counterpart being victorious,
Humphrey himself then has the ‘requisite modal property: we can truly say that
he might have won’ (De, p.3). I believe though that if we are talking in terms
of Humphrey, if we were to say that Humphrey could potentially win the election,
then we are discussing something that could potentially happen to Humphrey
himself, not what could potentially happen to someone similar to Humphrey. Due
to the fact that someone who is similar to Humphrey has the potential to win,
Humphrey himself could have won.

researched a Philosopher by the name Stephen Yablo to help me better understand
the Humphrey objection. In Yablo’s book Aboutness
it states:

Humphrey objection has been called unconvincing on the ground that it is
Humphrey himself, not his counterpart, who is a possible president on the
counterpart- theoretic account. But I hear the objection differently. Kripke is
complaining, not that Humphrey could have won winds up not being about the guy
it intuitively does concern (Humphrey), but that it winds up also being about a
guy it intuitively doesn’t concern (a guy only resembling Humphrey)’ (Yablo,
2014, 17, fn. 17).  

There are two problems which can be
illustrated in this. The counterpart reading of saying that ‘Humphrey could have
won’ does not include any particular one counterpart of Humphrey. This means
without one particular counterpart the possibility of being a “man” resembling
Humphrey is eliminated. The question which then comes to mind is what an
existentially quantified statement is truly about, which is difficult to
conclude about in Yablo’s Aboutness. Secondly,
there is a distinction between the defining conditions of ‘Humphrey has a
winning counterpart’ is discussing people other than Humphrey or properties
different than possibly having won. It is another story to state that ‘Humphrey
could have won’ is about people or properties which are not relevant.

next topic which is important to understanding in Naming and Necessity by Kripke is transworld identity.

‘The notion of
transworld identity— ‘identity across possible worlds’—is the notion that the
same object exists in more than one possible world (with the actual world
treated as one of the possible worlds). It therefore has its home in a
‘possible-worlds’ framework for analysing, or at least paraphrasing, statements
about what is possible or necessary’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, p.

Researching this subject seemed to
be highly controversial. Some Philosophers agree there is such a world, while
other Philosophers think it is so bizarre that it is problematic. A crucial opponent
to this view is Lewis’s Counterpart Theory. As stated earlier, the Counterpart
Theory is the view that even though an individual exists in one world only, it
has counterparts in different worlds where the counterpart seems to not have
identity. I agree with Lewis partially in terms of there is a possibility that
it could have happened, in some different concrete world, however it did not
happen therefore the possibility is then eliminated when the conclusion of the
specific event arises.  

issue of transworld identity has been seen as a pseudo-problem, ‘a problem
which cannot be properly answered, especially because it arises only as the
result of an error of analysis or a mistaken assumption’ (Oxford Dictionary).  According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy, Kripke seems to have an issue with transworld identity which rests
on one of the three claims: the epistemological assumption, the security of
reference assumption, and the intelligibility assumption. The epistemological
assumption says that we have to have specific transworld identity criterion to
understand that in another world some individual ‘A’ is identical with the
actual ‘A.’ The security of reference assumption states we have to have
criterion of transworld identity to know that when we reference someone in
another concrete world that we are talking about who was intended, rather than
some other individual. Lastly, the intelligibility assumption states we must
have some criteria of transworld identity in order to understand it completely.
Kripke believes out of these three assumptions, none of them survive under
scrutiny. ‘If these assumptions exhaust the grounds for supposing that there is
a problem of transworld identity, the alleged problem may be dismissed as a
pseudo-problem’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2017: p. 3).

It is important to
understand that even though the possibility a counterpart could have won the
election, the counterpart did not win. If there is someone or some property
with the attribute ‘A’ winning the election in some possible world and someone
with this same attribute in the real world, it gives potential but not
certainty. The issue of transworld identities is highly controversial and not
reliable. Humphreys objection concludes modal realism and counterpart theory
together fail to capture our ordinary attitudes about modal statements. It does
not explain how we can feel regret and sadness about how our lives did not turn
out differently.

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