[hist-analytic] Descriptive Metaphysics and Analyticity

Danny Frederick danny.frederick at btinternet.com
Sat Jan 29 05:20:03 EST 2011

Hi Roger,

<<I don't see that it follows from the possibility of alternatives that the
metaphyscal claims are not analytic>>

If an analytic truth is a necessary one, then any proposition inconsistent
with it will be itself inconsistent. Since revisionary metaphysical schemes
are not inconsistent, descriptive metaphysics cannot be analytic. I suspect
the position is somewhat as JL indicated. Strawson was fond of Kantian-style
transcendental arguments, so he might have thought of descriptive
metaphysics as synthetic a priori, without actually putting it that way.

I think 'Individuals' would be worth a careful read to elicit Strawson's
position, but I do not have the time to do that myself at the moment.
Strawson can be very cagey, though, so it is possible that one could go
through his text with a fine-tooth comb and still not get an answer. (Have
you already done this? Was that why you asked the question?) Strawson's
approach to philosophy, it seems to me, is governed by taboos. There are
some things one must not say, but one never explains why, and there are some
subjects one must not discuss, even though they cry out for discussion given
what is being discussed.

<<The alternatives might be derived from alternative usages which constitute
a change in meaning of the language>>

But they all talk about the same world and imply statements about that world
which contradict each other.

<<In any case, a revisionary metaphysicist probably pays little attention to
descriptive metaphysics and devises a new metaphysic as an improvement on
the efforts of previous metaphysicians and without reference to ordinary

Einstein was a revisionary metaphysicist; but he developed his view in
opposition to the Newtonian metaphysics of space and time (in response to
problems that had developed in Newtonian theory). Einstein's metaphysical
speculations about space and time turned out to be empirically testable. By
the same token, so did Newton's - but only after Einstein's work.

<<It might be useful to compare with Kripke, who I understand as taking the
position that there is a metaphysical notion of necessity which is distinct
both from logical necessity, and from analyticity>>

Please excuse me if I am wrong, but I thought Kripke identified metaphysical
necessity with 'broadly logical necessity.' Others on the list should be
able to confirm or infirm.

<<do we know whether Strawson would place himself and where?>>

Probably not: I suspect that metaphysical necessity was one of Strawson's


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