[hist-analytic] In Defense of an Underdog
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sun Feb 1 20:05:29 EST 2009
"I started as under-dog and came out top-dog."
"There is an indefinable expression in his face and figure of having been
of having succumbed, of having been ‘under-dog’ as the saying is.
Daily Tel. 30 Apr. 3 1887.
underdog: the dog in a fight beaten by the top-dog.
top dog, lit. the dog uppermost or ‘on top’ in a fight. Oddly, 'top-dog'
would seem linguistically a retronym. The quote OED registers post-dates
The most popular argument in favour of the war is that it will make the
individual Briton top dog in South Africa.
Speaker, 28 Apr. 1900
(cf. 1906 P. WHITE Eight Guests (Tauchn.) I. 66
Marcus had never had a tussle yet without coming out ‘top dog!’
1906 Daily Chron. 26 Mar. 6/4, I recall..many in which I started as
under-dog and came out top-dog.
In a message dated 2/1/2009 5:54:56 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
rpsevero at gmail.com writes in "Re: Quine's 'two dogmas':
not rejecting the distinction, but the idea that there is a
distinction which can do the job Carnap assigned to it (namely:
explaining the justification of a priori sentences by saying they are
true in virtue of meaning).
---- This is good.
And sometimes we tend to forget, "of empiricism". Two dogmas OF EMPIRICISM.
Grice/Strawson, "We'll only be concerned with _one_ dogma [of empiricism]".
I'm not too familiar with Carnap's views but Coffa was, and that may help.
I will revise Grice's ideas in "Life and Opinions", pp. 54ff, but it seems
that the focus EMPIRICISM may be the key. Obviously, when G/S replied to
Quine, they were not really concerned with what _Quine_ was replying to.
Philosophy is like that. You can take someone's rejecting a distinction out of context
somehow. I wouldn't call G/S 'empiricists' for one. Who would?
I mean who would I call 'empiricist'? J. S. Mill and _he_ apparently denied
the distinction too in that he would claim that _all_ notions are
'empirical', or, shall we say, 'synthetical'. Unfortunately, while Mill was mandatory
reading in Oxford (I was browing at some old catalogues...) his position was
never mainstream! And then you have Ayer in his Gollancz book _talking_ of the
analytic-synthetic distinction which _became_ kind of the 'dogma' for the
'analytic' movement at least as far as Oxford was concerned (They loved to hate
From an online essay by A. Sullivan:
"There do not exist two distinct types of reality in the world which
require two distinct modes of expression. This leads Quine to conclude that the
analytic-synthetic distinction is a purely logical convention that is
ontologically unnecessary and empirically superfluous. In this respect, Quine agrees
with the radical empiricism of Mill, with its claim that there is no a priori
knowledge. The fact that something is the case, or even the fact that
something seems to be necessarily the case, does not imply the reality of a priori
truths. Quine goes so far a to refer to the notion of a priori knowledge as a
"metaphysical article of faith."
By 1956, Millian radical empiricism had become a bit of an underdogma (to
use R. Grandy's pun) for Grice (and Strawson) to feel they could be trusted to
run to its defense.
What surprised me about G/S, is -- how much is G's, how much is S's? I for
one would not think it was Sir Peter's idea to necessarily defend the underdog.
In fact, one of the most hateful passages in philosophy comes from his
otherwise delightful "Autobiographical Essay" in "The library of living
philosophers". He was I think in Hungary. Someone in the audience says, "But you look
like a perfect petit-burgeoise". "Well," he replied, calmly, that's what I am".
When he was in Argentina (brought by Rabossi) many met him. I didn't but my
teacher would say, "If you want to have an idea of how P. F. Strawson looks
like, think of the actor playing the older detective in "The professionals"".
Of course he was wrong. Sir Peter could be handsomER than that.
author of "Let sleeping topdogs sleep"
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