[hist-analytic] Hume's Fork

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Mon Feb 23 09:05:00 EST 2009

"If you see a fork in the middle of a  road -- take it"
                      Y. Berra.
                              philosophically explained online by a French 
In Reply to Bishop's post.
In a message dated 2/23/2009 8:29:54 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  rbj
@rbjones.com writes:
>>Congratulations on the rewrite of those two  links. It will take some time
>>for me to process them. But thanks for  sharing and inviting criticism.
>Sorry to have given the impression that I  had rewritten them,
>which hasn't happened recently.

Right. I was going by the footnote, "written --. updated ..." It's always  
good to write 'update'. It doesn't mean rewritten; it means 'I still keep a look 
 on these'. 

>I do plan a more extensive presentation, but I intend to  leave
>these alone, 
Yes. Do. 
>and my first desire is to see what objections
>are raised against  them (with which I remain in substantial
>agreement, the only change I am  inclined to in the mathematical
>model would be to properly adopt the  course in the prose version
>in which analyticity is explicitly defined in  terms of necessity).

Good, and it _is_ good to use symbols; many indeed say that mathematics is  
like a big 'shorthand' -- where indeed symbols should not inhibit us at all; as 
 you write in your notes. Also, as you say, it's set theory which as you 
yourself  say, is not necessarily part of mathematics, but of general ontology as 
I'd  prefer.
For example, Vanderveken & Searle attempt that in "Foundations of  
illocutionary logic". My tutor liked that book. And he told me he talked to  Searle 
about it. Having Searle reply, "Well, I never wrote that book; it was the  
French-Canadian Vanderveken". Knowing them both, and loving them both, I think  
Searle was hyperbolizing, typically. 

>My present inclination is to make the proposed monograph  symbol-free,
>but until I get much further I won't really know how  cumbersome
>that would be.
Exactly. I think it's very good to use a few symbols. Notably you use
And then you sometimes quantify over worlds
Then you do need some assignment of universe of discourse to prove that the  
Fork succeeds; i.e. that the class of analytically true sentences is 
extensively  identical to the class of necessary, a priori propositions. I tend to 
remember  that you don't claim to treat 'a priori' there, though.
I am fascinated by the 'fork' in that I think Ayers was mistaken, and  
mistakes others in the history of philosophy. One google hit for "Hume's fork"  
read, with indignation:

"No, of course Hume's fork did _Not_ spawn  empiricism; Empiricism goes back 
to Aristotle!"
As Bishop has edited the Locke Essay, one indeed may think that the fork  
Hume borrowed from Locke but never returned. There was a reference to the Hume  
Fork in a Locke bibliography, online -- by an author with a German surname. So  
possibly Ayers (who wrote on Locke) is aware that much of this is Locke's  
Borges wrote, "The garden of forking paths". In that story, from what I  
recall, a fork does not need to be 'double', i.e. two extremes. The Latin  'furka' 
was indeed a _rake_ and I still to see a two-extreme furca; they all  seem to 
be sort of tridents.
Your triple dichotomy I see more like a double entry thing -- but I don't  
know what the technical term for such kind of display is. As you note, each  
dichotomy (or dieresis, using Platonic terminology) rests on a different  
criteria. But this does not mean that the result classes could not be  
co-extensional, as you proceed to prove.
I should check with Blackburn's entry, "Hume's Fork" in the Dictionary of  
Philosophy. I hope he does credit Ayers and gives the locus classicus in Ayers.  
Then we can see if we can criticise that.
I know Bishop is into ideas, not labels -- no-one more than Bishop would  
disagree with Hobbes's cite -- mentioned in my previous post, that forks are  
merely 'verbal'. 
When I did the fork as an undergraduate, my tutor was a Kripkean; so for  
him, the fork did not apply at all. Since each criteria for each dichotomy (or  
dieresis) explicitly indicate that we are talking along _different_ tracks. 
In a document I was reading recently (Barbara Partee, Reflections on a  
formal semanticist as of 2005) she amusingly recalls a conversation with Kaplan.  
Partee was discussing modal logic ('necessary propositions vs. contingent  
propositions') with him, and she expressed a curiosity as to why Quine is so  
against them (this was 1970-1971). He said, "Well, back in the day, Quine _was_  
justified; modal logic was _very_ vague; but now that it isn't it's just his  
lingering prejudice"). 
What fascinates me about the necessary/contingent (the 'justificatory' a  
priori/a posteriori is problematic on its own -- cfr. Danny Frederick's  
_anti-justificationism_ spawning from Popper) is:
* The variety of native speaker intuitions on the matter. The thesis cited  
by Sampson in "Making Sense" still makes a lot of sense for me. Speakers do  
disagree as to how necessary is "Spring follows Winter". 
* What I call Burton-Roberts's paradox. He is, if anyone is, a  
neo-Strawsonian (unlike Grice, it's a rarer species). And he discusses modality  in terms 
of the square of opposition. What we cannot deny is that a 'necessary  
proposition' IS a contingent one (and more). So the dichotomy _has_ to be  explained 
formally to avoid the odious implicature, "It _is_ necessarily so"  (echoing 
Porgy and Bess) therefore, "it is _not_ contingently so".

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