[hist-analytic] Steve's and Roger's recent interchange

Bruce Aune aune at philos.umass.edu
Wed Jul 29 10:27:59 EDT 2009

The recent interchange on simplelists between Steve and Roger Bishop  
Jones interested me in a number of ways, one being RBJ’s supportive  
remarks about Carnap.  In this note I want to say something about  
Roger’s claim, “Carnap was surely quite clear that the propositions  
of analytic philosophy are analytic.”  Steve disputed this claim,  
citing a remark by Wittgenstein,” but Roger’s claim is very plausible  
if it rephrased in a way that he would probably accept.

  “The propositions of analytic philosophy,” as Roger meant it,  
surely does not apply to every proposition a philosopher qua  
philosopher has asserted.  Heidegger’s “Nothing noths” (or whatever  
it was) is a case in point. Carnap clearly held that many such claims  
(or “propositions”) are meaningless. The propositions Roger no doubt  
had in mind were true propositions of a distinctly philosophical  
kind.  In the course of expounding their philosophical ideas,  
philosophers make many empirical claims, but these claims are  
normally incidental to their official philosophical pronouncements.   
There are debatable exceptions, of course: G.E. Moore’s “I know I  
have hands is perhaps one of them.” But a more distinctly  
philosophical claim that Moore used this latter claim to support  
concerned the relatively acceptability of commonsensical claims about  
hands and philosophical theories (such as Hume’s) that have been  
taken to put those claims in doubt.  A proposition about this  
relative acceptability could be shown to be true, Carnap would have  
said, only by some purely analytic procedure, and the proposition  
itself would then have to be analytic.

This brings me to a topic discussed in this forum some time ago:  
Hume’s fork.  The legitimate objects of the human understanding are  
exhausted by relations of ideas and matters of fact and existence.   
Carnap reconstructed this dichotomy into truths and falsities  
knowable by analysis (they are either analytically true or  
analytically false) and truths and falsities known empirically--by  
observation, memory, and (broadly speaking) inductive inference.  For  
him, there is no other way of knowing anything.  Generally speaking,  
philosophical pronouncements, when true, are not known to be so  
empirically: they are not verifiable in a matter of fact way.  If  
they are knowable at all, it must be by analysis.  So if they are  
true, or false, their truth, or falsity, must be analytic.  For what  
it is worth, I think Carnap was right about this.  Anyone who  
disagrees (Steve perhaps?) should outline the alternative method by  
which such things can be known.  I would be eager to hear what this  
alleged method is.

Bruce Aune

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