Thursday, September 14, 2006

Kant's Cleavage

(Lots of fools apparently assess the cascade of craptasticity in "Two Dogmas" and conclude that there is no analytic-synthetic distinction.

That conclusion is unwarranted. But there are lots of features that analytic sentences were traditionally supposed to have and I doubt, for reasons independent of Quine, that they have any of them. So while I think there are analytic sentences, of course, I wonder if there is any philosophical usefulness to the distinction if analytic sentences don't in fact have the features they were traditionally supposed to have. That's my question for you guys.

So here are some of the features:
1. Analytic sentences are necessarily true.
False. With respect to an appropriate context, a usage of 'that student is a student' is intuitively analytic, though it is fobviously contingent (and a posteriori).

2. Analytic sentences encode propositions that are knowable a priori.
False. See (1).

3. Analytic sentences are true in virtue of meaning.
Wtf. 'That table is brown' is true because its meaning, the proposition that that table is brown, is true--that table is brown. Similarly, 'all bachelors are unmarried males' is true because its meaning, the proposition that all bachelors are unmarried males, is true--all bachelors are that way. There is no coherent distinction I know of between truth in virtue of meaning on the one hand and truth in virtue of meaning plus the way the world is on the other. So wtf.

4. Analytic sentences are such that understanding the terms in them and the way they're put together is sufficient for being in a position to know that they're true.
False. Given the panoply of perverse philosophical views on the market, it's not hard to counterexample this. Perverse logicians understand logical truths but are not in a position to know them given the perversity of their views. And so on.

What's left? Again, I don't deny that there's a distinction between analytic and synthetic sentences, but the sorts of metaphysical and epistemological claims made about them seem like crapezoids. Is there some other reason to be interested in this notion?

4 Comments:

Blogger Joshua said...

I am reluctant to accept your claim
that it is not the case that analytic sentences encode propositions that are knowable a priori. Why is it not the case that 'That student is a student' expresses something that is knowable a priori. Or at least something that is justified a priori. In most situations, if someone were to ask me 'is it true that that student is a student?' I would be inclined to answer 'yes' unless I had some evidence to defeat the claim that the referent of 'that student' is a student. This at least indicates that without defeating evidence the claim expressed is a priori justified.

I agree with everying else you said.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Chris Tillman said...

Relevant uses of 'that student is a student' are not a priori
since you've got to do something to become aware of the relevant
features of context that allow you to apprehend the proposition
expressed. This would presumably involve something like looking in
the direction that the speaker has indicated. This seems at odds with
knowing the resultant proposition a priori. The issue is perhaps more
delicate than I've appreciated, however, since as Dan has reminded me,
we typically table whatever it takes to understand something and not
consider those factors when determining whether something is a priori.
For instance, we don't normally count that your knowledge of language
is a posteriori as a relevant factor in determining whether something
expressed in that language is a priori. However, the case of 'that
student is a student' seems relevantly different. Perhaps the speaker
could know the proposition a priori, but a hearer, it seems, could
not. But I might be wrong about this. At any rate, it seems
irrelevant to note how one might react to various utterances of 'that
student is a student'. If you're walking down a hall or something and
you hear such an utterance, you do not get a priori knowledge of the
content of that utterance at any rate if you are not apprised of the
contextually relevant features. You can't grasp the content of the
utterance without knowledge of the contextually relevant features.

7:30 PM  
Blogger rock* said...

Chris,

The word "analytic" is pretty clearly a technical term, not a part of ordinary English. And insofar as I am aware of its history, it was introduced into philosophical discourse via stipulative definition. The two most common definitions (I believe) were the following:

S is analytic=df S is true solely in virtue of its meaning.

S is analytic=df S's predicate is contained in S's subject.

When you use the word "analytic", are you using it in one of these senses? And if not, in what sense are you using it.

[I ask this in part because you seem to deny in point (3) that a sentence is analytic iff it is true in solely in virtue of its meaning. This suggests that you are not using the word in the first sense mentioned above. Are you then using it in the second sense? And if not, can you provide a definition on the model of those above that captures the sense in which you are using it? For if not, I have difficulty in even understanding the claims you are making in your post.]

OLP rules!

Peace,
GF

6:56 AM  
Blogger Chris Tillman said...

I do not understand either definition. And I am not sure what relation is expressed by '=df'. I guess I suspect that analytic sentences are all and only those that are such that one is in a position to know them if one lacks countervailing evidence and one understands them. Or something like that. Not sure exactly what to say about 'that student is a student' though. But even if there are analytic sentences, they do not seem to be philosophically interesting since they do not seem to have the metaphysical and epistemological principles that were traditionally attributed to them.

11:57 AM  

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