[hist-analytic] Kripke on the A priori and A posteriori

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sun Nov 15 12:52:29 EST 2009

It occurred to me that my response to Roger was "ideological," 

involving the integration of issues of "general philosophy" into the 

discussion of propositions and content. This isn't, really, so bad 

but it fails to address Roger's immediate concerns. Since I did 

something similar in response to Danny vis a vis Davidson, allow 

me the small correction in order. 

First, the matter of "context" is a mess; it gets tied up with the notion 

of content; then there is the problem of what to include in context. 

For example, the semantical properties of a sentence are well known 

to be affected by being embedded in various operators, e.g. modal 

operators. So if you think of content epistemically you find yourself 

asking questions like: "Do we index truth to a world, and is the world 

index , part of context?" And what about the idea of epistemological 

equivalence in respect of "content" and this in respect to "context." 

All this needs to be thrashed out. Sometimes embeddings in modal 

context do not affect semantics, for example where the issue is over 

identities where "=" is flanked by rigid designators. I'm inclined to 

argue, along with others, that particularly in the case of identities of 

this sort the modality can be treated de dicto , but this affects how 

we view "content." This ties in with the issue Danny raised on Davidson, 

or so I seem to recall. 

My objection to Davidsonian semantics is mainly that it presupposes 

compositionality . Jerry Katz in one of the two volumes in a collection 

of essays on Davidson makes this point in detail. But I don't think 

natural language can be compositional, and where canonical languages 

have their semantics stipulated, while this may be implied, it guarantees 

minimal sufficiency in dealing with the semantics of natural language. 

In a related respect, when we embed propositions etc. in modal 

operations, there may be semantic "changes" that accrue to this 

embedding. In my own criticisms of Katz this was shown to be the 

case in regard to verb/preposition interaction. Similarly, something 

like this may be going on with respect to the "interaction" of matters 

of modality and embedding. I'm beginning to regain an understanding 

of some of this stuff, which I am moving on. 

Still I'm going to be presenting something on the "two color problem." 

In fact, I'm going to show that not only is the proposition 'Nothing can 

be two colors all over at the same time' is, probably, false; or, can be 

viewed as false, depending on the premises etc. you take in taking 

a "constructivist" approach to the problem. 



----- Original Message ----- 
From: Baynesr @comcast.net 
To: hist-analytic@ simplelists .com 
Sent: Saturday, November 14, 2009 9:22:32 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern 
Subject: Re: Kripke on the A priori and A posteriori 

I'm still immersed in colors and Kripke , so I can offer only 
a very modest response to your suggestion. 

The relevant link to consider, if this is your take on 
propositions, is that between worlds and propositions. One 
widely considered view is that a proposition is a sort of 
mapping from worlds to truth values. This is a good suggestion 
as long as we're doing algebra. But how do we approach the 
question: "What is the relation between an actual thought 
and the proposition which supplies the content of a thought?" 
Propositions don't occur in time, but thoughts do. What, then, 
is the relation of this algebraic device to the actual thoughts 
of a given individual? It has become fashionable to reject 
such questions a "merely" psychological, but this is not a 
good answer. It is a bad way of dodging the real philosophy. 
To be sure there is a role for abstract (timeless) entities 
in semantics, but the place of semantics in understanding the 
nature of the mind is, I think, more fundamental than semantics, 
philosophically speaking. In a world without minds, there is 
no language (beyond "System S" - that sort of thing); in a world 
without language no propositions. Then there is a problem with 
the relation of facts and propositions. Are we going to embrace 
propositions but reject facts?! I find that a dubious proposal, 
but it may not be part of your proposal. It is a popular view, 

We'll get to analyticity and, therefore, the nature of necessity 
and propositions. One big problem is going to be domonstratives . 
But this is the first link between minds, contexts, and propositions 
addressing the issues I would raise. 

By the way, I just got software called "Coffee Cup." I'm finally 

beginning to upgrade the hist-analytic website. So far this is the onl 

software of its kind I've been able to understand with little effort. 

When people bring in context after a hearty breakfast of what is more or 

less set theory, I begin to wonder if maybe something has gone wrong. 

A bunch of subscripts ala Montague is no substitute for an analysis of 




----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Roger Bishop Jones" < rbj @ rbjones .com> 
To: hist-analytic@ simplelists .com 
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2009 5:11:20 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern 
Subject: Re: Kripke on the A priori and A posteriori 

On Wednesday 11 November 2009 16:00:52 Baynesr @comcast.net wrote: 

> ... what do you take a proposition to be? 

I use proposition to mean the meaning of a sentence in some language given 
sufficient context to disambiguate the sentence. 
It doesn't matter for my arguments exactly what a proposition is and I allow 
that to be language specific, but it is essential for the concept of 
analyticity as defined by carnap that propositions fully encompass all that is 
determinate about the truth conditions of the sentence in the relevant 
context.  This includes the domain of the truth conditions, i.e. the relevant 
notion of possible world (which also I allow to be language specific for 
present purposes). 


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