[hist-analytic] RBJ's Proposal on analyticity

Roger Bishop Jones rbj at rbjones.com
Sun Mar 15 15:47:20 EDT 2009


I appreciate that you will not want to be chasing hares,
and I suspect that a blow by blow response to your
last would risk a great deal of hare chasing.

My feeling is that you have offered me neither
constructive advice nor effective criticism,
many of your remarks not appearing to me relevant
to my position.

I propose therefore to first very briefly summarise
my position and to give an indication of what it
would take to budge me, and then to make some
specific responses, while trying to avoid hare's.

My position consists in offering two definitions
and a further proposal. A definition of necessity
in terms of possible worlds, a definition of
analyticity in terms of necessity, and a proposal
for what should be counted as justification for
propositions in the two categories.
The definition of analyticity was followed by
a short argument to the effect that it is consistent
with the usual modern definition "true in virtue of

A primary merit of these definitions is that they
transparently entail the identification of the
three dichotomies, in one case analytically and
necessarily, and in the other as a matter of
pragmatic choice. The definitions therefore
show clearly that a philosopher who disagrees
with the stance of the logical positivists must
be disagreeing with them explicitly or covertly
on the meanings of the terms involved, and cannot
be held to be refuting views held by them. 

This applies of course, most conspicuously, to
the philosophy of Kripke.

Given that I have offered proposals rather than
claims, an appropriate response is not a refutation
or a casting of doubt, but considerations suggesting
that the proposal is ill-advised.
Given that I regard it as a merit that the consequences
of the proposal are to marginalise important parts
of the philosophy of Kripke, pointing out Kripke's
contrary conclusions will not in my mind count
against the proposal.

It is my belief that there is in the region in question
only one division of propositions which is of fundamental
importance, and that the three dichotomies are different
ways of talking about the same thing
(in the hands of some philosophers).
To persuade me to change my proposal, it would be necessary
to persuade me that there is more than one important
division in propositions in this region.
This could not be done by citing Kripke's conclusions,
for these flow from rather than lead to or justify
an alternative conception (of analyticity), and that
alternative conception marks a division in propositions
which is much less important (in my opinion) than that
found in the single division which my proposal hangs around.

On Sunday 08 March 2009 17:58:52 Bruce Aune wrote:

>I don’t think any
>informed, reasonable philosopher con responsibly contend that the
>coextensiveness of analyticity and necessity is “obvious.” 

This is an argument ad hominem.

>In view of
>the plethora of arguments to the contrary, I think it can be defended
>only by a pain-staking argument, the sort I attempted in my recent book.

I point out to you, first that I did not rest on a
claim of obviousness.  Though we are entitled to say
something is obvious when we believe it to be so,
this will not progress matters in discussion with
someone who thinks otherwise.
I offered arguments which you have passed over in silence.

On your own part, there are crucial places in which you
have claimed to be obvious denials that certain necessary
truths are analytic.  In a conversation with someone
who holds (as I do) that these two term have, or should
be given, the same meaning, this is not an intelligible
step.  These claims about what is obvious on your part
have been accompanied by no shred of argument.

>  I am aware of no fallacies in Kripke’s arguments for the truth of a
>posteriori necessities (as we may call them) or even for the truth of
>contingent a priori truths.

You will find no discussion of these matter in the message
to which you are responding.
I was discussing the possibility that there might be
propositions which are necessary but not analytic.
In relation to these, it is so transparent from
my conceptions of these words (and that of other prominent
philosophers) that there can be none, and it follows
trivially either that:

    1. Kripke is using one or other of these terms
             differently to myself.
    2. Kripke has made an error in his reasoning.

I am inclined to think that it is the former, but
that in either case I am equally averse to Kripke's

I am in fact no better inclined to Kripke's view
on the a priori, but it is more plain there that his
usage is widely at variance with my preferred usage,
so we disagree more conspicuously on usage.
However, I believe that Kripke's usage is also
at variance with that of the philosophers which
he imagines himself to be refuting (e.g. the
Logical Positivists) and that any supposed refutation
of Logical Positivism flowing from his discussions
of the a priori arises by equivocation (or misunderding).

>As for the former, Kripke never said, “an
>identity between rigid designators must be necessary.” What he did say
>was that a statement containing rigid designators would, if true, be

Well actually that's what I meant, and omission of "true"
is surely acceptable in this context?
However, since you raise it, don't the designators have
to be "strongly rigid"?

>The formula “(x)(y)(x = y à N(x = y)” is
>a theorem of quantified standard first-order
>modal logic, and its proof in no way depends on a doctrine of rigid
>quantification.*  (You can verify this by looking at any standard text
>on modal logic, e.g. the one by Hughes and Cresswell.) The relevance
>of the modal theorem to your thesis can be illustrated by standard

Not unless you first establish that the modal logic
is a good model for the modal aspects of the language
under consideration.
You would surely not offer me material implication
as a model for "implies" in ordinary language?

>One is this:  If water = H2O, then it is necessary that
>water = H2O.  The assertion “water = H2O” is not (most people will
>agree) true by virtue of meaning, and neither is “N(water = H2O).” The
>truth-value of the first can be decided only by empirical
>investigation, and the second can be inferred from the first by means
>of the modal theorem.  If the previous example troubles you, here is
>another: “The inventor of bifocals is Benjamin Franklin,” where “the
>inventor of bifocals” is used to pick out a certain man--the man who,
>as it happened, invented bifocals.”

My difficulties here are:

    1. I am not sure whether it is true that water = H2O
    2. Ditto necessary
    3. I have no inclination to accept the application
       of modal logic which you propose (in default
       of further justification).

However, these hares are not worth chasing.

>  You say,” The only relevant part of the meaning of a sentence for
>determination of either analyticity or necessity is the truth
>conditions.  We know that a statement is analytic when those
>conditions tell us that the under all conditions the sentence is
>true.”  I can almost agree with this,

good, ...

>but I think “truth conditions
>for an arbitrary sentence” is far more problematic than you suppose.

You seem here to be saying that there may be a difficulty in
defining or discovering the truth conditions, which I accept.

How does this affect my point?

Both concepts are subject to the same difficulties (as they
would be if they meant the same, but I have argued that they
mean the same even by the standard definitions and you have
not answered my argument).

> Not all analytic truths express necessities.

I haven't seen any proposed counterexamples along
these lines, but clearly if the two words have the
same meaning as I proposed, then this is false.

>  As I said before, one of the classic questions of epistemology is
>whether there are synthetic a priori truths.  To move from the vague
>idea of true by virtue of meaning to analytically true simply begs the
>question against a host of traditional arguments, which have to be
>considered critically and fairly.

I am flummoxed here!

"Analytic" is most often defined as "true in virtue of meaning",
how can moving from the one to the other be called an evasion?

>Your counterexample to the no color-overlap principle overlooked a
>crucial feature of that principle.  This is that a thing or region of
>a thing can have no more than one determinate color.

This is news to me.
I think you must be using the term "determinate" in a manner
with which I am not acquainted.

As I said, we do not have the same understanding of the sentence
in question.

>If a blue object
>is azure, its determinate blueness is not different from its
>azureness: it is the same thing.
>There is no problem with a thing
>having two generic colors, or a generic color and a determinate one
>belonging to that color-genus.

You have invented a terminology of your own here,
(or at the least, one with which I am not acquainted)
which does not help.
To progress we would need an example of which we had
a common understanding.
But how can any example suffice for someone who has
proposed that analyticity and necessity should mean
the same thing?
How could I possibly agree with a supposed
counterexample without first deciding to adopt
some other usage?

>I stand by all the claims I made in my memo: I think your approach to
>analyticity is not promising as it stands.  My ideas about the subject
>are developed at length in my chapters and 3, and I can only suggest
>that you have a look at them.

But I don't see any discussion of the pros and cons
of different definitions of analyticity and necessity,
so what is there in your Chapter 3 which would persuade
me to abandon my proposal and follow your scheme?

We should be debating the merits of various different
ways of definining the dichotomies rather than pretending
to be debating matters of fact in the context of estalbished

Roger Jones

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