[hist-analytic] The Two Color Problem, Putnam, and the Synthetic A Priori

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Tue Nov 3 14:26:48 EST 2009

Bruce says, 

"But if two determinate colors are conceded to be 
distinguishable, it _follows logically_ that 
nothing possesses both of them at the same place 
at the same time." (ETK p. 66) 

He adds that this is "very easily proved." (ETK p. 66). The 

reason he gives is: 

If we take 'DC' as 'determinate color', and 
DCxt=A for 'the determinate color of x at t = A' 
then on a proposal by Stephen Schwartz we have: 

(A)(B)(DC(a) & DC(B) & Distinguishable (A,B) -> ~(A=B) 

Bruce says that "the impossibility of DC(xt) = A 
& DC(xt) = B & Distinguishable (A, B) follows 
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY by conditional proof" (ETK p. 66). 

Now the problems I have with this are: 

1. I don't think it can be "very easily proved." If 
it can, then Bruce will simply state the proof in 
the sort of format Danny provided in his clarifying 
remarks. So we need to see exactly how this proof 
is supposed to work. Nothing is obvious, especially 
with so many symbols and definitions. So let's see 
the cards! 

2. I'm not sure there are such things as determinate 
colors; try laying down conditions for partitioning 

the class of red objects. 

Putnam spends a great deal of time and introduces 
numerous postulates in arriving at an understanding 
of what a determinate shade is. He knew this was 
crucial. It is. So what IS a determinate shade? 

3. Even if the proof goes through, it misses the point. 
We all agree that a thing can't be red and green all 
over at the same time. That is not the issue. The 
issue is whether this is synthetic a priori, relying 
on the structure of intuitions or some such thing, 
or whether it is analytic. Why should I believe that 
'(A)(B)(DC(a) & DC(B) & Distinguishable (A,B) -> ~(A=B)' 
is analytic? And if it is not analytic, why should I 
reject self evidence as the basis for the claim that 

nothing can be red and green all over etc.? Indeed 

why should I believe this premise to be true? Can't 

be self evidential because this is exactly what Bruce 

seems to be denying. 

4. Putnam has a lot of gizmos for stating the meaning 
of one essential relation: 'exactly the same color as'. 
Without this relation, i. e. his "basic idea" (this being the 
idea upon which the proposed proof here is based), there 
is no proving analyticity of the thesis. 

Now these considerations, I think, should at least 
impel us to a further examination of Putnam. I will 
soon show that Putnam's argument is not pursuasive. 
Too many postulates, too many assumptions, too much 
razimataz to be a satisfying solution to the problem. 
But it's not just logical "bulk" that concerns me; 
it is the failure to match the analysis with a solution 
to the problem as posed. 

So give me a day or so to wade through Putnam's argument 
and get back to yuz. 


STeve Bayne 

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