[hist-analytic] "The cat is on the mat" -- and other phrastics
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Sun Feb 8 17:10:27 EST 2009
What the phrastic is about
Some comments on S. R. Bayne's excellent recent post on the a/s distinction,
bearing such weighty questions such as "Is a thought part of reality?", "Do
facts exist?", "Does logic have a subject-matter", and more! Surely mandatory
reading (if that's not too bad) for the serious historian of analytic
philosophy, or at least mandatory questions he should feel mandated to provide an
answer for (even "Dunno!").
The cat is on the mat.
!(O, that the cat be on the mat)
What is it that the 'sentence' refers to; why did the Cat On The Mat matter,
to echo Hacking, to philosophy? Or did it not?
In a message dated 2/8/2009 baynesrb at yahoo.com writes: (I'm trying to fit to
a "In-Reply-To" mailer'; meanwhile, I can guess this post will not be viewed
as developing S. R. Baynes's thread -- sorry about that)
S. R. Bayne starts by citing from Aune (post to hist-analytic):
>>Quine thought that, for philosophical purpose[s],
>>a conception of analytic truth as truth by virtue of
>>meaning was too vague to be taken seriously.
>If we reject the idea of truth in virtue of meaning, we might ask:
>"Truth, then, in virtue of what?" Powerful arguments (Davidson)
>have been adduced for being suspicious of facts, but
>if not facts what? Suppose we take a pragmatist view
>a fact is what makes a theory _work_. Few, if any, pragmatists
>would accept this simplistic formulation, but despairing
>of his loss of facts, the philosopher will care to consider
> I ate my breakfast before my dinner.
> I laughed at 6:00am.
>where their contradictories are
>'false.' The pragmatist answer would be what? So truth
>in virtue of meaning is one way of viewing analyticity,
>it is NOT what Kant had in mind, and I think
>Kant understood the role of the a/s distinction better
>than Quine, as evidenced by the use he made of
>synthetic a priori, a category of _propositions_.
A second passage from Aune that Bayne quotes he prefaces:
>Elsewhere Aune has indicated that as for what makes the a/s important we
>can say this:
The passage being one making a reference,
>>[t]o show the error of a wide range of claims by
>I remain skeptical about the a/s distinction.
>Central to the issue is whether there are facts;
>if there are no facts
>then the truths of algebra and the truths of physics
>are truths in the same sense of 'truth' differing only
>in some other property requiring the introduction of
>My, immediate, concern is the place of probability in
>philosophy of science. If we look at the mathematical
>theory of probability, then
>I think we can establish a pretty clean connection between the propositions
>of science and two-valued logic. But if
>there is no way of making this connection,
>"truth," in science may best be regarded outside
>the semantic web the Tarskians have weaved.
>This, I think, was pretty much Reichenbach's view
>and I am inclined to share it.
>What makes an analytic proposition true?
>We don't want to say that it is analytic because
>it has such and such resistance to
>revision, etc. and then go on to say that it
>resists revision because it is analytic.
>If there are no logical 'facts' then
>the truths of logic are expressed as propositions
>which are 'formal' truths lacking factual content.
>This in some quarters is orthodoxy.
I'm reminded 'heterodoxy' is other people's doxies.
>If there is no 'factual'/'formal' divide then
>there is, ultimately, no distinction between
>the truths of science and the truths of mathematics.
>I find this unacceptable, but only because
>I don't regard the distinction as epistemological;
>nor do I believe that
>the most productive consequences of such a
>distinction are of interest to a belief
>that a conceptual framework is linguistic.
>The subject matter of science is the world;
>the subject matter of logic is not;
>logic lacks a subject matter.
>This is by no means obvious or clear.
Especially to students! I was browising the other day Steven Yablo's webpage
(he is at MIT) and I think, as typically other philosophers say this in
their webpages, that they have been involved in teaching logic, which I think
they call "Minor League" or "Lower Divisions" -- versus, say, "metaphysics",
which is, but Danny Frederick who taught _both_ logic and metaphysics will
disagree, is high, higher oh so higher divisions!
I must say I hate that attitude.
I wonder what I would have thought as a mediaeval schooler in the trivium
(grammatica, dialectica, rhetorica). Indeed, a London professor was so intrigued
by this that he wrote a book on Mediaeval Logic called, "Barbara Celarent".
Which I think sums up well what a mediaeval student of logic would remember
from his trivial classes!
With Aristotle is even worse! "Logica" was not really part of the trivium,
since I believe the trivium was a _Latin_ or Roman thing. I don't think I
recall reading a Plato dialogue (and these should epitomise what philosophy for
the Greeks were) that makes the round _around_ a logical notion: it's always
about virtue, or beauty, or the law, or love, or justice, or ... -- but hardly
about Philonian material conditionals!
So I applaud Bayne's comment, "Logic lacks a subject-matter".
>Is a thought a part of the world?
>Does ontology go beyond
>and the void"?
>These unresolved issues figure into all this and
>I don't have an opinion I would "go to the mats" to decide.
Talking of mats, I was amusingly reminded of a lecture I once gave on Mill
and Mentalism (students hated me for that). My example was, of course, "The cat
is on the mat". And I used a photocopy of the _drawing_ that S. E. Toulmin
has in his _The Uses of Arguments_. I loved that drawing because it went, as
it were, 'to the mats', as to what _facts_ are!
Later I learned 'the cat is on the mat' is an anglo thing to learn to _read_
I particularly loved to _symbolise_ "The cat is on the mat" since it makes
use of 'iota' operator, and it makes a reference to a substantial (Cat No. 1,
in Eddington's parlance), a predicate, "to be on the mat", etc.). I recall,
with amusement, how the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English made that
sentence mean, "The prostitute is being punished by the pimp" ('cat', fig.
prostitute; to be 'on the mat', to be punished). Very incorrect.
>When Carnap speaks of the
>"logic of the language of science" in
>_The Logical Syntax of Language_,
>the language of science must be understood as the
>'physical language.' If, as Aune points out,
>Carnap agreed that there is no
>useful a/s distinction in natural language
>we can say, at least, one of two things.
>We can say the a/s distinction has nothing
>to do with language, and that it
>concerns concepts, alone (Kant)
>we can say that the notion of meaning in a
>canonical language is not the same as in natural language.
>What then is the place of meaning in canonical
>languages? It is tied to reference, ala, Tarski.
>Once again the language of science is tied to
>truth in a formalized language,
>and where that language is science,
>and "facts," are no longer at issue, the
>position is untenable. Analyticity becomes
>a matter of decision in the construction
>of a 'viable' canonical language.
If I may, I would bring the wider historical context. From my understanding
of Carnap and his (literal) circle, it seems that Carnap is making a very
strong point (alla "methinks the lady doth protest too much") regarding
_phsyicalism_. From my experience, going through Ayer's excellent compilation on
"Logical Positivism" _phenomenalism_ seems to have been the received 'logical'
reply to what the Circle was looking for.
Some further historical notes may help. Of the 'logical postivists', the
only one that crossed the pond (and reached Dover) was F. Weismann -- and he was
recognised as the mentor of 'texture' in language, etc.
On the other hand, there's America! I was pleased to read online of B.
Aune's personal recollections of H. Feigl's association with the development of
analytic philosophy. And then there was Carnap, and Reichenbach, and I guess a
In _Philosophical Analysis_, I think it is, Urmson suggests that, at least
as far as Oxford was concerned, they (the philosophical intelligentsia) would
not let a bunch of neo-scienticists (no offense!) to _destroy_ the Humanities
like that! And right he was. Logical Positivism became a _fad_, and it was
particularly embraced by philosophers like Isaiah Berlin (in his earliest paper
ever, now repr. in _Concepts and Categories_) or Grice (in his 'Personal
Identity' or an early paper on 'Intention' that S. R. Chapman quotes from*)
(*This paper, Chapman notes, is so _early_ that it still bears the address of
Grice's _parents_, in Holborne, Warwickshire -- amazing that it's now
deposited at UC/Berkeley!)
And if Grice and others embraced 'phenomenalism' ('it seems to me as if the
pillar box is red' +> "It's not!") it was only because it provided Oxonian
philosophy with a root to their past (where Aristotelian scholasticism was the
rule). It took Grice a couple of decades to _go back_ to Aristotle, or as he
>Not unrelated here is that in a three-valued logic
>applied to probabilities, where probability is
>understood on the frequency theory,
>these laws of logic simply do not apply.
>If the world is best described on such a frequency theory
>then this is not a matter of decision or 'interest'.
Exactly. Eddington's quote on the 'principle of indeterminacy' -- he coined
the phrase apparently -- now in the OED shows his puzzlement here:
"It was Heisenberg again who set in motion the new development in the summer
of 1927, and the consequences were further elucidated by Bohr. The outcome
of it is a fundamental general principle which seems to rank in importance
with the principle of relativity. I shall here call it the ‘principle of
indeterminacy’. The gist of it can be stated as follows: a particle may have
position or it may have velocity but it cannot in any exact sense have both."
(1928, p. 220).
Recall too that the main problem for logical positivists was to get from
'observational' to 'theoretical'. Eddington (and it's good to quote him here,
since he _was_ in the lab!) has a couple of quotes here, too:
"It is never the task of the experimenter to
devise the observational procedure which is the ultimate test of a
Philosophy of the Physical Sciences, 1939, p. 23
While there's no quote from Eddington on 'theoretical' -- but he must have
known of Ramsey's Ramsifications? -- there's two more quotes on related
concepts to 'observation'. Under 'observer', a reference to
"the observer and his measuring-appliances"
Space, Time & Gravitation (1920), p. 69
and the adverb, 'observationally':
"The effect on the apparent angular motion..remains always on the verge of
what is detectable observationally."
Rotation of Gallaxy, 1930, p. 13.
I remember when I was studying philosophy of science -- with G. Ranea --
that I was embarrassed to ask if 'observation', for philosophers means just
"see"? Not for Grice ('Remarks about the senses'). If not, the philosophical
correct term would be _sensing_, rather than _observing_. The dichotomy is usual
('theoretical' vs. 'observational') but it can be otiose. The best way I found
to understand it is via what Grice calls Ramsification in "Method in
philosophical psychology". He is wanting to say that "... thinks ..." is _not_
observational predicate; it is _theoretical_. And the only way he found at that
stage (1975) to deal with this is in terms of 'sensory input' and 'behavioural
output' of a Turing machine:
input --> (( black box )) --> output
"... thinks ..."
>a logic is employed is determined in large measure by
>the way the world is, not "meaning."
>It would be interesting to know what Quine/Carnap
>would have regarded as a "philosophically useful distinction".
It would seem that 'philosophically', there is not, what Austin would refer
to as 'the word wearing the trousers' (Grice's 'trouser-word') in any case! It
feels as if for Carnap and Quine, if a distinction is useful it's _not_
'philosophical' (or at least 'not' metaphysical!).
>I think, for example, that Kant's treatment of
>the synthetic a priori marvelously relates
>ethics and mathematics! But I don't
>think either would be inclined to consider this
>application a "philosophically
>useful distinction." A look at their ethical theory may explain why.
Is theree one?! (Just joking!)
The title of this post may be obscure but it's meant as a tribute to R. M.
Hare's first subatomic particle of logic: the phrastic (he went on to identify
the neustic, the tropic, and the clistic -- outdoing Grice in nice
distinctions there!). The phrastic is the _content_ simpliciter of what I say, provided
I do say something. "What is it about" wants to direct the attention not so
much as to what the phrastic _is_ but as to what it is about! (Grice,
similarly, spends quite a few pages in "Valedictory Essay" (or 'retrospective
essay') in WOW on what he calls 'dictiveness' versus 'formality' -- but he is more
into the distinction, "Hey, the big heads are boiling" versus "There is a
meeting at the moment at the Department of Philosophy -- they are deciding
issues about the curriculum": one is informal; the other, the secretary's formal
J. L. Speranza
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