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

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 29 16:00:06 EDT 2009

My dispute was over whether "Carnap was surely quite clear..." Now an argument may be made for this, but Roger was pretty confident about this so I'm hoping no argument is needed; just give me a page number, that's all. Bruce says,

"The legitimate objects of the human understanding are exhausted by relations of ideas and matters of fact and existence."

I think this gets right to the main point. This is the statement of an analytical philosopher, indeed a very good one, but part of the problem though is that the sentence begs the question of what a "legitimate object" is. If we presuppose as true that all there is in this world are ideas or matters of facts then our understanding of 'legitimate object' may be question begging. So let's be clear on legitimacy first, then whether this class is coextensive with ideas, facts or some combination. John's going to the store is not a fact because he didn't go to the store; his going to the store is not an idea, nor is John so John's going to the store is neither a relation of ideas nor a matter of fact; and, of course, the store may not exist. My point here is that while there may be a good Humean answer to the issues raised, there is nothing "quite clear" about how we ought to address them.

When Wittgenstein remarks 'The world divides into facts not things' what is he denying? Certainly not a particular relation among facts, nor ideas, unless things are ideas. Again, we have a problem circumnavigating the conceptual terrain. In addition, there are other problems. E.g. I am obliged to keep my promises. Right? Suppose this is right. Is this a fact; well what then of the is/ought distinction? Again, it may be depend on what we take to be a "fact" but isn't that really part of our dilemma, and one for all Humeans as a well?

Recall that Carnap maintains that all topological properties of space and time can be dealt with using purely non-metrical methods. Suppose this is true. Is it "analytic"? Suppose it is not. Is it then a fact. Well yes, but it is about theories and theories are relations of ideas. So are the classes of fact and ideas (and their relations) such as to have a null overlap? This is another problem. If so is this a matter of fact or a relation of ideas. There are two big problems.

First, there is no argument for believing the class of relations of ideas and matters of fact are exhaustive; if not, then some analyses may not involve relations of ideas etc. Second, if the classes are so broad then there is always, available, the useless "shuffle" of saying "Oh that's a relation of ideas," or "Oh that is a matter of fact.

The question for Carnapians (circa 1939) is this: aren't there analyses of what Carnap calls "cognitively meaningless" ideas which qualify as statement by analytical philosophers? I'm inclined to think so; and Wittgenstein is one such philosopher in the Tractatus! But now we have the "legitimate object" problem. On this I am not as yet "quite clear."

There is another question: are all truths acquired by analysis analytic. Mightn't their be theories that follow upon some analysis that might have been arrived at some other way? Well, what would exclude this. 
The burden of proof that there are not seems to reside with those who affirm that only truths arrived at by analysis are analytic. In fact, I'm not so sure there are analytic sentences, but of course that would take us off track at this juncture, or so it seems.

It may be true that I have an obligation (to return to an earlier example) but my obligation may not be a fact, at least on some theories of what facts are. In addition, there is the problem of 'analysis'. Carnap in addressing the issue I raised above about topological properties and metrical properties makes use of an axiomatic system. But how good, really, is this as a method of analysis in philosophy? Russell didn't use it; Moore didn't use it. But Carnap uses it in making an epistemological point. Until Carnap's notion of analysis is made clear and I get at least a couple of page references, I'm afraid I'm as skeptical as ever that all statments of analytical philosophy are analytic. Of course we may care to deny that there are philosophical statements. Indeed, I can't recall Carnap ever telling us what these are, let alone that all of them are analytic.


--- On Wed, 7/29/09, Bruce Aune <aune at philos.umass.edu> wrote:

From: Bruce Aune <aune at philos.umass.edu>
Subject: Steve's and Roger's recent interchange
To: hist-analytic at simplelists.com
Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 10:27 AM

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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