This brilliantly written review has been annoying me since it appeared on NDPR. I am not sure why; maybe it shouldn't. The review opens with a cute argument:
If Kripke did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him. If it were necessary to invent K, it would be possible to invent K. If K could be invented by J, and K innovated I, then J could have innovated I. For most ideas, I, recounted or reappraised in this first-rate collection of original essays on Kripke's philosophical work: only K could have innovated I. Therefore, in case you weren't sure: Kripke exists. Thank God.
It ends with a quote from Mark Richard (not the reviewer): "thanks to Saul Kripke for providing a model of how philosophy can be rigorous and accessible, genuinely significant and still fun."
Gratitude to our intellectual leaders, who do indeed provide us with models to emulate, is an important, under-appreciated virtue in contemporary philosophy. So it is nice to see it made so central to this review, which is usefully critical in other respects. (But why gratitude to God?) Yet, here is an axiom in the logic of assertion: if you need to keep saying that something is "genuinely significant," it necessarily isn't. (Repeat exercise for "still fun," "rigorous," and "accessible.")
The problematic premise in Burgess's little opening argument is, of course, "only K could have innovated I." Maybe this is true in some distant world where K becomes self-same with God/Substance (etc), but it is not true of mere mortals--unless, of course, I is part of an entirely idiosyncratic if not mad game. We can recognize this brute fact while appreciating Kripke's genuine achievements in modal logic and philosophy of language.
Now, sometimes I am not against thinking of some philosophy as a form of madness and I am also not against thinking that some philosophers and their philosophies are idiosyncratic. But with such commitments we are in the realm of Romantic Genius, not professional philosophy. Again, my claims are not an argument against or an attempted refutation of the Romantic Genius approach to philosophy, but reflection has gone on holiday when the Romantic Genius becomes the "model" for the rest of us. (Let's not forget that analytic philosophy is an ongoing revolt against the Romantic Genius model!) Not to mention, of course, that there are no possible worlds where fun is a property of the legacy of Romantic Genius.
So, why the Kvetching? Why can't I enjoy these amusing celebrations of a thinker and his legacy? It's been half a century since Kripke's breakthroughs in modal logic. I recognize I belong to the minority camp that thinks professional philosophy has been producing too many non-durable "results" that come too cheaply from reliance on modal intuitions. [The ease with which God can be proven in S5 should be taken as a reductio of S5 and not a vindication of the ontological argument!] Even so, I doubt my irritation about this review was motivated by this (or related facts about Kripke's philosophy).
Consider the following paragraph:
Berger's anthology has been a long time coming, but it comes at a good time. Last year also saw the release of Kripke's first volume of collected papers, Philosophical Troubles. And if I might be forgiven one nepotistic plug: John Burgess's book on Kripke is due out later this year. It looks like the beginning of an overdue boom, fueled in part by the ongoing efforts of CUNY's Center for Kripkiana to make his voluminous unpublished work more widely available.
I suspect that my irritation may be due to plain jealousy. Here is a guy that need not worry about moronic referees and can hoard his material for a lifetime; he can count on a number of intellectual cronies (that themselves profit from his hoarding and the scarcity enhanced "boom") to associate themselves with his work and do the drudgery of copy-editing and marketing of the material. Yeah, I know life is not fair...