There's no place like "here" and no time like "now"

Albert Atkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Is it possible for me to refer to someone other than myself with the word "I"? Or somewhere other than where I am with the word "here"? Or some time other than the present with the word "now"? David Kaplan, who provides the best worked out semantics for pure-indexical terms like "I," "here," and "now" (1989) suggests, quite intuitively, that I could not. Put simply, "I am here now" looks as though I can never utter it and have it turn out false. But, intuitive as this seems, one need only hear the answering machine message, "Sorry! I am not here now," to see that there may be problems. If! can't fail to refer to where I am and when I'm there with "here" and "now," why is my apparently contradictory assertion so readily comprehensible? Many have been quick to abandon Kaplan's account of pure-indexicals in the face of such problems. The focus of this paper, though, is those who develop sophisticated accounts of how we determine different contexts for applying pure-indexicals. The hope is that this handles problem cases while allowing us to retain most of Kaplan's theory. However, this paper introduces and examines some additional uses of pure-indexicals which pose an interesting problem for the context-determination adaptation of Kaplan's account. It is argued that context-determination theorists cannot explain these cases in the same way that they explain standard problem cases, and that any reason they can offer for denying the relevance of such cases to accounts of pure-indexicals will apply equally well to the cases that motivate their theories, thus rendering context-determination accounts superfluous. In what follows, then, there is a brief summary of Kaplan's account, the problem cases that threaten it, and the context-determination theorist's response to these problem cases. The interesting and problematic uses of pure-indexicals that context-determination accounts cannot explain are then introduced, and an explanation is given of why there is no way for the context-determination theorist to exclude these cases from our accounts of pure-indexicals without also excluding the cases that motivate their own theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-280
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Philosophical Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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