[hist-analytic] Analytic and A Priori

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 17 07:30:59 EDT 2009

I want to comment on a couple of issues raised by Aune and Roger on analyticity. I'm going to have to work up to this a bit, exploring areas I haven't looked at much lately. So I thought I'd begin by just mentioning things I'm thinking about and,not, conclusions I've reached. My point of origin will be Kant. Aside from the ambiguity of some of his remarks, he has integrated the concepts 'analytic' and 'a priori' etc. more completely into a philosophy world view. Later discussions, such as Quine's do not have the scope of Kant's perspective.

There are many reasons for this. Among them is the role of canonical languages in the positivist methodology initiated, largely, by Russell; but, second, there is the influence of axiomatic ways of thinking in the foundations of mathematics and the result that Godel and Tarski had on how to view its limitations. What I want to explore is the use of metalanguages in the treatment of analyticity and what they bring to our understanding, if any, of ideas of necessity. A word on Kant.

Recall that Kant held that 'a posteriori' describes "modes of knowledge," and NOT sentences or propositions. In particular, it describes knowledge dependent on experience. But there is a peculiar side to thinking of 'a posteriori' as 'not a priori'. Recall that the criteria for something's being a priori is universality and necessity. Notice that necessity is included here and so if we identifiy analyticity and necessity then from a Kantian perspective one criterion of being a priori is being analytic; the thesis that all analytic sentences are a priori is threatened with becoming a pointless tautology. Not quite a circle but close. I want to look into this a bit. Also, we need to look at domains of discourse when thinking of analyticity. Existence is a strange thing, otherwise there would be no philosophers.

If existence is contingent, what does this mean, exactly? How does existence enter into analyticity, if at all? A contingently analytic would be as puzzling to Kant as analytic a posteriori. I think we need to look at this. Now there will be a driving force to many of my comments. That driving force is the idea of a semantical metalanguage. Take the following formula:

'p' is true (in L) iff p

We say that this is a statement of the metalanguage in which the ''p'' is a sentence of the object language being "talked about." Notice that ALL the terms of the sentence above are in the metalanguage, even ''p''. Let me just state baldly one thing I have to think about: metalanguages are heirarchical. There is no "connection" in ONE sense between them. I'm thinking about how co-reference of expressions in a sentence compares to reference. In other words, language entry rules (Sellars?) on the one hand and rules of "coindexation" on the other. Intentionality will be wrapped up in rules of designation; but if we never "escape" the language (metalanguage) then how do we "get to" the world? This will figure in our concepts of existence. When Tarski wrote his famous paper on truth, I can't recall rules of designation. This was not a trivial oversight. I will look at this; ruminate on analyticity viewed a certain way and the return to Kant. One other thing.
 In Quine and others we begin with tautologies, ala the Tractatus; we suppose these are paradigms of analytical sentence. But why should we accept this. Hintikka once raised the issue of analytical entailments and inferences; here is where our discourse cannot be purged of talk of domains and quantifiers etc. I'll look at these. Roger's proposal of linking analyticity and necessity will be difficult to sustain, but it will be welcom if we can retain necessity; eliminate analyticity and begin to talk about concepts rather than meaning. We need to divorce meaning and conceptual analysis. The weight of orthodoxy is against "us." But orthodoxy exists to be challenged as Roger notes. Aune's remarks are cogent and informed; they to, particularly, with respect to synthetic a priori must be addressed. This is my ultimate destination.


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