[hist-analytic] When Pigs Can Fly: Kripke on the contingent a priori

Jlsperanza at aol.com Jlsperanza at aol.com
Tue Nov 24 14:06:57 EST 2009


It strikes me that speakers are pretty subtle with counterfactives. The  
other day I heard someone explaining a vernacular idiom to an English speaker, 
 and the item related, in my view, to
 
   "when pigs can fly"
 
--- This is used, I claim, NOT as a statement of the analytically false,  
but as the synthetically contingent a posteriori. Perhaps Kripke would claim  
it's a priori. The point:
 
   A: When are we going to be able to have that world  cruise, dad?
   B: When pigs can fly.
 
Literally, B is NOT denying the analytic falsehood of anything -- he is  
stating that a natural kind, 'pig', may still be deemed the same natural kind, 
 'flying pig'. In which case, it may well be in the near future (if not 
_now_:  "Surely pigs can fly if we travel with them in planes, no, dad?").
 
I'm not sure if there are other types of these clauses:
 
   "If I'm a Dutchman"
 
---- seems to work better. Surely if "I" rigidly designates a non-Dutch,  
speaker, "If I am a Dutchman" would involve a breach of Kripke's revered 
Leibniz  Law, for "I" would cease to be "I" if I (who am not Dutchman) becomes 
one. But  with European Union conventions, it may be claimed that I (J. L. 
Speranza) am  already a Dutchperson of sorts -- I can enter Amsterdam and 
leave Amsterdam as  I, qua Dutchperson, wish.
 
Grice was into something serious when asking the playmates of his children, 
 Karen, and Timothy,
 
    Can a surface be two colours all over?
 
--- He was into the PCA (Paradigm Case Argument). I was surprised when  
reading G. Sampson ("Making Sense", Clarendon) that he reports a MA 
dissertation  (Lancaster Univ, England) to the effect of an experimental testing of 
what  issues were regarded as analytic by informants:
 
    Spring follows Winter
 
for example. Analytic.
 
     Pigs can't fly.
     Thatcher is a Dutchman
 
seem to be subtler, if sillier, cases.
 
Cheers,
 
JL Speranza
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