[hist-analytic] Quine, Aune, Jones: on defining analyticity

Roger Bishop Jones rbj at rbjones.com
Sun Mar 15 11:36:55 EDT 2009

This is a preliminary to a response to Aune's recent
critique of my proposed definition of analyticty.

Aune observes that my arguments are too short,
(faint condemnation indeed) and contrasts them
with the lengthy discussion in Chapter 3 of
his Empiricist Theory of Knowledge.

It is my purpose here to point out how different our
enterprises are, and to attribute at least part of the
difference in size to a difference in topic.

In his "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" Quine notes a difference
between 'definitions' of analyticity as follows:

 "By saying what statements are analytic for L_0
  we explain 'analytic-for-L_0' but not 'analytic'
  or 'analytic for'.  We do not begin to explain
  the idiom 'S is analytic for L' with variable
  'S' and 'L' even if we restrict the range of 'L'
  to the realm of artificial languages".

There is a huge difference in the size of these two
kinds of 'definition', particularly for natural

What Quine is also aware of, is that given a
general definition of analyticity in terms of
meaning or semantics, specific definitions are
not necessary or desirable. One needs for specific
languages, in order to establish the analyticity
of particular sentences, sufficient information
about the semantics of the language in question,
but no further information about
the concept of analyticity.

To reason generally about analyticity a definition
of the concept of analyticity is required, not a
definition which purports to determine the extension
of that concept in relation to some particular language,
Since the former is likely to be short, and the
latter likely to be long, it is to be expected that
arguments in the first case may be concise, but
general arguments in the second case will be difficult.

My own reasoning is confined to generic definitions
of analyticity.  I advocate that there be no other
'definitions' of analyticity, but that definitions
of the semantics of languages are often desirable
(and are normal for formal logical systems).
Particular facts about analyticity are readily
derivable from such definitions (once accepted).

Roger Jones

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