[hist-analytic] From BRUCE AUNE: Quine and "the" a/s distinction
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Jlsperanza at aol.com
Mon Feb 2 19:48:12 EST 2009
Thanks to S. R. Baynes for forwarding the comments by B. Aune, and thanks to
B. Aune for making them! Good to have his commentary in the annals of
Some running comments, for the record:
B. Aune writes:
>As I see it, Quine’s negative attitude toward an analytic/synthetic
>distinction rested on two basis sorts of considerations, (1)
>the inadequacy of known attempts to draw such a distinction,
>and (2) general considerations about meaning and what
>it is reasonable to accept as true.
--- Re: (2), as I mentioned in my exchange with R. B. Jones, and I _have_ to
find this paper, J. F. Bennett ("Linguistic Behaviour") makes a similar
claim. For those who came to the defense of the dogma (like Strawson and Grice)
it was in a way to come to the defense, of, say, a top-dog for them,
'meaning'. Indeed the _reductio_ would be: no analytic, no meaningful. Vice versa:
meaningful, hence analytic. Bennett shows that _that_ is the connection one can
make between Grice's "In defense of a dogma" (1965) and his one-year-later,
"Meaning" (1957). In my essay, I noted this is perhaps historically
inaccurate, since "Meaning" was written already in (1948) and Grice never felt like the
analytic-synthetic distinction was a matter of life or death ('Life and
Opinions', pp. 54ff).
B. Aune continues by noting that one of Quine's targets of attacks could be
"Frege claimed in his Foundations of Arithmetic that his conception
was an attempt to update Kant’s"
--- incidentally, perhaps we should give more of a consideration -- I'm
thinking of R. B. Jones's historical remarks on analytic -- to Kant's
"subject-predicate" view, which is perhaps Leibnizian in nature. The way _I_ think I
learned to teach 'analytic' was in fact in terms of the subject-and-predicate
jargon ("an analytically true sentence is one whose predicate that does not
affirm of the subject anything that was not alrady contained therein"). I'm not
sure Grice would regard this as serious, but Strawson (who was _wedded_ to
the idea of a subject and a predicate) may have.
"and to make an a/s distinction applicable to complex statements having the
logical structures that can be specified by means of his new mathematical
The other point one could perhaps make historical that J. L. Austin had
translated for Blackwell Frege's Arithmetic, so by defending the topdogma went
underdogma in Quine, Grice and Strawson were also coming to the defense, if not
of Frege, of Frege's translator?
"with the exception of poetic quality and psychological associations, their
meaning must be the same. Quine’s criticism of this means of drawing an a/s
distinction is based essentially on what he said about synonymy."
Oddly, I recently heard Timothy Williamson give a talk, if I recall alright,
on _synonymy_ of 'emotional' terms (the semantics of derogation, I think he
calls it). I for one, have never been able to find _one_ synonym. I think it
_is_ a metaphysical ghost, this idea of a synonym. To me, what Frege called
"colour" (farbung), which includes the 'poetic quality' and 'psychological
association', _always_ comes in the way (for me) to even _try_ to get at the
alleged 'cognitively synonymy'.
"The other definition was based on the notion of empirical confirmation,
although Quine related it to the Verification Theory of Meaning: An analytic
statement is one that is “confirmed no matter what.”"
--- This could have been a nod to Ayer, whom Quine possibly met in Vienna
(the two 'anglos', and _only_ two anglos). I'm less sure I understand Ayer's
idea of analytic in "Language, Truth and Logic". It seems that he is taking a
pre-verificationist account, more alla the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus or
early Russell: where 'analytic' means 'does not talk about the world', and is
just plain symbolic vacuity (mathematics being the epitome).
B. A. quotes from Quine's later 'more generous' (or charitable) view on
'analytic' (Although the problem seemed to be with the 'analytic-synthetic'
DISTINCTION, it seems Quine was biased in weighing the _analytic_ side as being
philosophically more problematic):
B. A. quotes from Quine:
"It is intelligible and often useful in discussions to point out that
some disagreement is purely a matter of words rather than of fact.”
("[learned its truth by] “learning the use of one or more of its words.”
Well, that _is_ an article of faith, and back to Quine's play on the idea of
a _dogma_. For _what_ is a dogma, religiously?
I don't think (but then I _am_ a furriner) I've _ever_ learned the truth of
a sentence "by learning the use of one or more of its words"! To start with,
I don't count _sentences_ by words, but by _ideas_!
B. A. continues quoting from Quine:
“Anyone who affirms a conjunction and denies one of its components, is
simply flouting what he learned in learning to use [...] ‘and.’”
If I may, I would confess to having learned to use 'and' from R. M. Harnish!
He notes that
(1) Whitehead and Russell wrote _Principia_
does not _entail_ (it does for me, but I _am_ a furriner)
(2) Russell wrote _Principia_.
So we need to restrict to _some_ uses of 'and', I guess (I'm a total
truth-functionalist when it comes to 'and'; but with Strawson -- and Grice -- and I
refer here to Strawson's 'Introduction' to his "Philosophical Logic"
collection -- Oxford Readings in Philosophy --, the whole point of their venture
(Grice's and Strawson's) was to _challenge_ some of Quine's presuppositions on
what 'the meaning of 'and'' versus 'the use of 'and' _is_!
"He limits this to native speakers, he said, because a foreigner could have
learned our words indirectly by translation."
Or an anglo may have learned English as a foreign language. I think Max
Mueller would be a good case. Etymologically, 'and' means 'against' (as in
andswear, answer), so the conjunctional nature of Latin 'et', or Greek 'kai',
should not necessarily reflect what we mean by the ampersand ("p & q")?
"Given the deductive closure qualification, he concluded that all logical
truths in his sense—“that is, the logic of truth functions, quantification,
and identity—would then perhaps qualify as analytic, in view of Gödel’s
I'm glad to hear from B. A. Quine's less generous views on the phylogenesis
“we don’t in general know how we learned a word, nor what truths were
learned in the process.” (p. 271).
---- Well, it would be good to find a good example of disagreement over
'and' other than the 'implicit conjunction' of the Harnish type. One could be:
(1) The Lone Ranger rode away and jumped on his horse.
(2) The Lone Ranger jumped on his horse and rode away
Given the commutability of 'and', they would be 'cognitively synonymous' but
not, perhaps to one's regular aunt. This involves not the
conjunction-elimination rule mentioned earlier by Quine (':anyone who affirms a conjunction and
denies one of its components, is simply flouting what he learned in learning
to use [...] ‘and") but the standard generalised conversational implicature
of 'and' +> 'and then'.
If the only truths we can reasonably claim to be analytic are [...]
trivialities such as “Bachelors are unmarried males,” then the concept of analytic
truth does not have the importance that empiricists take it to have. This is
Quine’s position, and of course it is right.
--- In this respect R. B. Jones's online copy of the Essay by Locke is
illuminating, as are his historical notes, that remind us that Locke indeed speak
of 'trivialities' here (a memorial on the old 'trivium' which _included_
Re (2). In “Two Dogmas” Quine claimed that empirical considerations might
require us to “give up” any statement, even a supposed logical truth such as
----- It is interesting to acknowledge here Quine's (or one of his) claim to
OED fame: "truth-value gap". Strawson fell in love with it (Grice was more of
a faithful one, as he was already wedded to Aristotle). I tend to regard
Strawson's adultery with truth-value gaps as an affront to the Excluded Middle.
B. A. refers to 'lunatic':
"lunatics as people suffering from lunar madness"
and in this case, I would wonder if rather than a flouting of analyticity,
it's not a flout of 'circularity'; for we are using 'madness' to define
'lunatic'. "people suffering from lunar ill-guided, socially disastrous,
psychologically unrealistic, influences" may be a better paraphrase?
"not because they encountered counter instances"
"but because they became convinced that the term “lunatic” didn’t apply to
--- In a way, I would think a counter-instance _was_ found: someone who is
ill-guided, socially disastrous, psychologically unrealistic' has not been
proved to have received _lunar_ influences.
B. A. concludes:
" I believe that his attitude rested mostly on the idea that the notion of
cognitive meaning was inherently unclear"
--- and so perhaps, in retrospect, J. F. Bennett _is_ right, and that it's
Quine's anti-semanticism that takes the lead (but I'm expressing myself
vaguely and confusedly).
As a final note, and one with which I thoroughly agree, B. A. writes:
"As I see it, the worthwhile questions to discuss in relation to an a/s
"How, in detail, is it to be drawn?" and "Can it be defended?""
But must leave that for a longer day. In a rush,
J. L. Speranza
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