[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.  

B. A.: 

"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?

B. A.:  

"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'. 

B. A.: 

"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_!

B.  A.:

"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")?

B. A.:

"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 
completeness  proof.”

I'm glad to hear from B. A. Quine's less generous views on the  phylogenesis 
of language!

“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'. 

B. A.:  

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 
excluded middle.   
----- 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 
distinction are: 
"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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