14 February 2008

"In Defense of a Dogma" -- first impressions

I've just finished "In Defense of a Dogma"; I've not yet read N.N.'s post. It seemed worthwhile to write up my marginal notes "fresh", so to speak. The organization is not my finest -- I have basically just gone through each note and expanded on it, and then moved to the next note when I was finished. I'd polish it up a bit more, but I leave town in the morning (visiting my sister for the weekend), and I'd like to get something tossed up before I head out. A quick glance leads me to believe this is also my longest post so far. You've been warned. The Batman panel is a jump.



First, something else. From The Journal of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 23, No. 1. (Mar., 1958), a review of "In Defense of a Dogma" by Alan Ross Anderson:

But 'means the same as,' though not peculiar to philosophers, is found by Quine equally obscure, which suggests that if Quine were asked whether 'Der Schnee ist weiss' is a correct translation of (or means the same as) 'Snow is white.' he would give some such reply as "Well, if one is true the other is, though I haven't the faintest idea whether they 'mean the same,' whatever that may mean."

I think this nicely captures a way not to read Quine: As rejecting "meaning" in the broadest sense of the term. (It is commonly noted that, ironically, Davidson takes up Quine's rejection of "meanings" while making "theory of meaning" central to philosophy.)

For we know perfectly well what Quine says to such questions: If you abstract as much as this author does, there's not an answer to the question of whether or not that's a good translation for "snow is white". If you don't tell us anything about what we're translating into (or from), then every contender for the title of "a good translation" is on all fours with the others. And just saying "I meant translating into German" doesn't entirely anull this -- there are still multiple fine ways to translate a sentence into another language. For which of the various translations we use (in Quine's terms, which of the various rival translation manuals we use to interpret utterances by the speaker we are aiming to understand) makes no difference to our practice. But the various translation manuals are rivals -- they give different translations for the interpretand's utterances, and this can extend to differing on which of the interpretand's sentencess are true and which are false, in some cases. (Imagine cases where the interpretand's utterance may be takes as either trivially false or trivially true without it mattering which; or highly abstract theoretical matters which have a minimal attachment to anything the interpretand says or does.) But if truth-values can shift, then so can "meanings" (Sinne). So to know the meaning of an utterance, one doesn't need to know which "meaning" it is related to -- that picture of "meanings" is a confused one.

From an interview with Davidson, reprinted in "Problems of Rationality", p. 257:
I started out as many people did in those days, reading Ogden and Richard's The Meaning of Meaning and Charles Morris. Now what looked like the central problem to them was to define the concept of meaning: x means y where x is a word or a phrase or a sentence and God knows what y was supposed to be -- and you wanted: iff what? That is how a lot of people were thinking about philosophy of language. Really smart people sought analyses of particular locutions, but never said anything about how you could tell whether you had come up with a correct solution or on what grounds you criticize these things apart from ad hoc arguments. So I think perhaps I felt more frustrated by this situation that I found the subject to be in than I think other people did. On the one hand, so many issues seemed rather sharp: What is meaning? How do you even think about it? Where do you start? And somewhere along the line I discovered Tarski, and I thought: you don't even want to ask the question what is meaning. It's the wrong question. It was a huge shift of perspective to get away from worrying about what it is to talk about the meaning of a predicate. Reading Tarski made me realize that there's a way to get around all that -- and somwhere along there Quine showed up...


And now to the topic of the post: In Defense of a Dogma.

Graham Priest, Two Dogmas of Quineanism, The Philosophical Quarterly Vol 29, No. 117, Oct. 1979.
I n "Two Dogmas of Empiricism"1 Quine presents essentially a two-pronged argument against the existence of analytic truths. The prongs are:
(i) There is no non-circular definition of 'analytic'.
(ii) Under the pressure of recalcitrant experience there are no beliefs that cannot be held on to, and conversely, no belief that may not be revised.
The first point is not a condemnation of the notion of analyticity. Many important concepts are definable only in circular terms. The importance of (i) is that, if any point in the circle of definitions is attacked, it is no use trying to defend it by appealing to some other notion in the circle since that is itself just as much under attack. For example, in the reply to Quine by Grice and Strawson, "In Defense of a Dogma", analytic sentences are characterized as those whose truth value cannot be revised without a change of meaning. But this will not do. For synonymy, and its converse, difference of meaning (which is obviously required to make sense of the notion of meaning change), are parts of the very circle all of which is under attack. This is the function of (i).
It is (ii) that provides the direct attack on the notion of analyticity. For it seems to undercut the whole point of drawing the analytic/synthetic distinction. If any belief can be held on to come what may, then we can conventionally refuse to let experience speak for or against any sentence we wish. The notion of analyticity is therefore vacuous.
Even if, as Strawson and Grice claim, we can sort sentences into analytic and synthetic by using paradigm examples of each, there is no point in this activity. For no important theoretical difference underpins this division. Similarly we could use observational criteria to sort substances into those containing phlogiston and those not containing phlogiston (as Priestley did), but once the theoretical underpinning of this distinction disappears, this becomes pointless.

In addition to being a nice summary of Quine's article, I think that Priest nicely handles the first section of S&G's paper, which consists of trying to make it seem that of course there must be some sense to the analytic/synthetic distinction, because there is widespread agreeement on what is and is not analytic in many cases. I think this line of argument just doesn't work. I think Priest also nicely handles S&G's closing argument -- the sense of "sense" and of "concept or set of concepts" (p. 157) they presuppose is tied in with the concepts Quine is suggesting we can do without.

For instance, take this claim from the close of S&G's article:
If we can make sense of the idea that the same form of words, taken in one way (or bearing one sense), may express something true, and taken in another way (or bearing another sense) may express something false, then we can make sense of the idea of conceptual revision. And if we can make sense of this idea, then we can perfectly well preserve the distinction between the analytic and the synthetic, while conceding to Quine the revisability-in-principle of everything we say.

The first part seems clear enough: "Snow is white" is true in the sense that this is its usual color, but false in the sense in which "Snow is frozen water" is true. And we can speak of this, if we like, by saying that "different concepts" are involved in the two cases of "snow is white", or that "is" means different things in the two cases, or that the two sentences have different "senses". This is just the banal fact that there are homonyms -- that an utterance can constitute different sentences in different contexts. But this by itself is not sufficient to make sense of the notion that there are sentences which are true due to their meaning alone; more argument is needed if we are to "perfectly well preserve" the notion of analyticity. Here is S&G's argument for the second part: "Where such a shift in the sense of words is a necessary condition of the change in truth-value, then the adherent of the [analytic-synthetic] distinction will hold that the form of words in question changes from expressing an analytic statement to a synthetic statement." -- Yes, if we could make sense of the notion that only changing the meaning of a sentence could make it false, then we would have analytic sentences! This is clearly question-begging. And the same goes for trying to use "the distinction between that kind of giving up which consists in merely admitting falsity, and that kind of giving up which involves changing or dropping a concept or set of concepts." For the shift from this distinction to the analytic-synthetic distinction only comes via the (undefended, and Quine thinks false) notion that there might be sentences which can only be given up the latter way.

In general, S&G seem transfixed by the idea that for a word or sentence to "have a meaning" is for there to exist some thing, a meaning, which stands in some relation to that word or sentence, and which might be related to other words and sentences as well. And rejection of this picture is confused with rejection of meaningfulness generally.

A fair bit of S&G's article is devoted to attributing to Quine a thesis that they admit he does not claim, but which they think he must be committed to, and then attacking the thesis: An explanation of any term in a "family-circle" of terms which are interrelated (as analyticity, synonymy, semantic rule etc. are), it is supposed Quine demands, "must be of the same general character as those rejected explanations which do incorporate members of the family-circle (i.e., it must specify some feature common and peculiar to all cases to which, for example, the word "analytic" is to be applied; it must have the same general form as an explanation beginning "a statement is analytic if and only if...")." The only reason given for attributing to Quine this suspect doctrine is that "he does not even consider the question whether any other kind of explanation might be relevant." I think the explanation for this is simple enough: No other sort of explanation for the distinction had been offered; it was always just assumed that the cluster of related notions which Quine wants to jettison were a cluster we could make good sense of at least some members of, or which we couldn't help but employ. Quine doesn't have to consider any other sort of argument because none was on the market. So S&G seem to have been too quick to attribute to Quine the suspicious doctrine.

It is worth noting that S&G fall into the same confusion that the reviewer I quoted at the beginning does (p. 146): "Is all talk of correct or incorrect translation of sentences of one language into sentences of another meaningless? It is hard to believe that it is." Indeed it is. Nobody would last a week in a foreign-language course if they held otherwise. But understanding sentences of another language need not be conceived of as a matter of figuring out which sentences of the target language "fit" the various senses I am acquainted with, and so need not stand or fall with the suspect notion of synonymy; elsewhere in the article, S&G admit that terms like "means the same as", "is self-contradictory", and "is inconsistent" do not, in their ordinary use, qualify for membership in the "family-circle" which Quine is attacking, but this does not keep them from making silly arguments like this one.

Now to S&G's examples.

To explain the distinction between "logical impossibility" and some other kind (they say "natural (or causal) impossibility", but this strikes me as a poor name for it), they consider two possible exchanges.
One:
X: My neighbor's three-year-old understands Russell's Theory of Types.
Y: You mean the child is a particularly bright lad.
X: No, I mean what I say -- he really does understand it.
Y: I don't believe you -- the thing's impossible.

At which point X is supposed to present the child, whom Y can then quiz etc., and it might so happen that Y can see that what X said is true. In this case X's initial claim is just supposed to have been taken to be "naturally impossible", such that an extremely odd child might be presented who would verify it.
Two:
X: My neighbor's three-year-old is an adult.
Y: You mean he's uncommonly sensible or very advanced for his age.
X: No, I mean what I say -- he really is an adult.
Y: Perhaps you mean that he won't grow anymore, or that he's a sort of freak, that he's already fully-developed.
X: No, he's not a freak, he's just an adult.

At which point Y is supposed to give up the notion that Y understands what X is talking about. For "whatever kind of creature is ultimately produced for our inspection, it will not lead us to say that what Y said was literally true, but at most to say that we now see what he meant." My initial reaction to this was "It should not be a logical truth that Freaky Friday is a work of fiction." It is not particularly difficult to come up with science-fiction scenarios in which a person is simultaneously a child and an adult. And a character from any of those being presented to Y would seem to show that what X said was simply true. (It is no argument that the science-fiction scenarios are all in fact fictional, since the same charge would take down S&G's first example, too -- I am confident that there never has been, nor never will be, a three-year-old who reads Russell with comprehension. Or, I am at least as confident of this as I am that no three-year-old will simultaneously be an adult.)

To summarize the difference that S&G claim to be illustrating, they claim that, upon X's incessant claims that he is speaking the literal truth, the "appropriate" response would be, in the first case, to say we did not believe him; in the second case, to say we did not understand him. As far as I can tell, there's no argument at all for this. And I have no intuition that this is in fact the proper way to talk, if that is supposed to be the support for the claim. If someone wanted to maintain that they didn't believe that a three-year-old was an adult, and that they didn't understand what could be meant by a three-year-old understanding the "Theory of Types", I don't have the slighest idea why anyone would object that they'd gotten the two backwards. I would personally be inclined to ask to see the kid, and if I don't see what I was promised to then dismiss X as crazy, in both cases.

(I think S&G might be rigging the deck on the second one with the final line: "He's not a freak, he's just an adult." This is ambiguous: Either X is denying that the three-year-old is just fully-developed, or X is now saying his neighbor's three-year-old is both an adult and not a freak. Which seems even weirder, and so might be coloring intuitions. But the response can be the same: One merely needs to imagine that not only is some three-year-old simultaneously an adult, but also that this is as common as morning dew. But why this should be supposed to be "logically impossible", rather than merely false, I don't know.)

S&G conclude their use of these examples with the claim that "If, like Pascal, we thought it prudent to prepare against very long chances, we should in the first case know what to prepare for; in the second, we have no idea." But this does not tell us anything interesting about the two cases. For the fact that I cannot imagine something does not make it impossible. Consider a third scenario:
X: My neighbor's three-year-old understands the Voynich manuscript.
Y: Now you are just making stuff up.
X: No, I mean what I say -- he really does understand it.

In this situation, I should have no idea what to expect. I can imagine what having the Voynich manuscript explained would be like in the sense that I can explain what reading a proof that there is a largest prime would be like, or looking at a picture of an invisible green sheep. (Parts of the manuscript would be pointed at, and ways to translate the apparently meaningless text would be given; various arguments would be given that anything larger than such-and-such would be a multiple of numbers other than one and itself; I would look at something and it would appear to be both invisible and green.) Now, this final comment is not central to S&G's claims, but it seems dumb enough to draw attention to.

On to the next example I found disagreeable: The green point. In "Two Dogmas" Quine writes
I do not know whether the statement "Everything green is extended" is analytic. Now does my indecision over this example really betray an incomplete understanding, an incomplete grasp, of the "meanings" of "green" and "extended"? I think not. The trouble is not with "green" or "extended", but with "analytic".

S&G claim that the falsity of this claim can be shown by replacing "analytic" with "true". But surely this is false: It is true that anything green is extended. S&G suppose that our hesitation is due to the fact that "the boundaries of application of words are not determined in all directions" -- we might not be sure whether or not to count a "green point of light" as extended or not; it seems to me obvious to respond that while there may be green dots, there are not green points in the mathematical sense. An unextended object is an invisible object. To suppose that there might be unextended green objects would then be to suppose that there might be invisible green objects. That there are no such objects does not strike me as controversial; at the least, I doubt Strawson or Grice would disagree with it. So Quine's example is one in which "we should hesitate between 'analytic' and synthetic, and have few qualms about 'true'."

S&G claim that in these sorts of examples, "no more than in the sample case does the hesitancy necessarily imply any obscurity in the notion of analyticity; since the hesitation would be sufficiently accounted for by the same or a similar kind of indeterminancy in the relations between the words occuring within the statement about which the question, whether it is analytic or not, is raised." This seems to just be false. I am fully confident that anything which is green is extended. But this is just to say that the extension of "green" is a subset of the extension of "extended". S&G would have me believe that there is some further problem troubling me that is preventing me from seeing whether or not "Everything green is extended" is analytic or not. This would be news to me. I'm not aware of any problems with "green" or "extended".

Quine, then, remains in need of an answer: Is "Everything green is extended" analytic or not? (I suspect Kant would count it as part of the synthetic a priori, claiming that the concept of "green" by itself cannot give up the manner in which that concept is applied to intuitions, and so not that it only applies to spatial (extended) ones. Whereas for Kant, analytic judgements don't need intuitions -- those is what is "synthesized" in "synthetic" judgements. "This looks like the synthetic a priori" is not a good sign that we have a clear view of things.)

(As an aside, I do think, as McDowell suggests in his first afterword to Mind and World (the long one on "Davidson in Context", p. 158), that we can make some sense of the analytic/synthetic distinction by taking analytic sentences to be those that express the "necessary structure" of any conceptual scheme (taken in a non-scheme/content sense). But this "necessity" should not mislead us -- our beliefs about what is necessary and what is not are as revisable as any others. (I take this to be part of McDowell's point when he warns that his talk of "necessity" should not be used to give us a "reassurrance" that our thought is on the right track.) To say that some sentence is "necessarily true" is just to refuse the revisions to my web of belief that would be necessary to countenance that sentence's being false (even counterfactually); this may be due to my lack of an ability to imagine what those revisions would encompass, or a simple confidence that many of the needed revisions would be bad ones, or some other reason. And any attempt to say whether or not a sentence is "germane" to revision in light of experience will depend on one's beliefs about what could constitute a possible experience -- and these beliefs, too, are revisable. So in a sense, McDowell's defense of analyticity doesn't do better than S&G's. There doesn't seem to be a point to demarcating true sentences into analytic ones and non-analytic ones by referring to the "necessary structure" of a conceptual scheme -- the distinction between the sentences which are candidates for revision and the sentences which are not is neither fixed, nor firm, but is a matter of degree and is open to debate (supposing someone can make a compelling case for it, which we can't rule out in advance -- who knows what the future holds?). So this reinterpretation of what is going on in the distinction between analytic and synthetic distinction does not rehabilitate the distinction, but merely makes it easier to see why it seems a compelling distinction: It's tied in with the fact that some of our commitments are very strongly held, others are not so strongly. But this is all sketchy and dashed-off; the defense of analyticity/necessity is a minor point in a generally excellent Afterword.)

14 comments:

J said...

Nichtski. Quine reduces logic (if not mathematics) to semantics (and lexicography), when it's something else.

The analytical a priori holds, and that needn't imply some "ghost in the machine" (just as the pythagorean theorem [identity, if you want] holds anywhere in the world, and one doesn't need to look for any facts to prove it, or update it). The notation could be altered, but the mathematical relationship is necessary. In other words, Carnap was mostly right (and closer to Frege). Moreover, even if some snooty Steinferd metaphysician thinks he could disprove analyticity (or the LONC), it still holds on pragmatic grounds.

"Brevity is the soul of wit"

N. N. said...

For we know perfectly well what Quine says to such questions....

But the Quinean response that you outline was formulated years later in Word and Object. And Quine's maneuvers in W&O are commonly seen as a response to G&S. For example, Hacker writes, "Quine invoked radical translation as a heuristic device to demonstrate that, pace Grice and Strawson, there are no respectably observational ways of establishing synonymy. His investigation led to the conclusion of indeterminacy of translation and inscrutability of reference, and to the desired view that radical translation does not begin at the fringes of the jungle, but at home — hence synonymy is no more available in our own mother tongue than in translation from alien languages. All understanding is translating, and is subject to the same constraints" (Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth-Century Analytic Philosophy, p. 269) I've read a similar account by Alex Orenstein (though I can't seem to recall where). We can discuss radical translation in turn, but I think Grice and Strawson's argument should be measured against its target.

Priest's reply to Grice and Strawson appears to be circular. According to Priest, Quine's attack on analyticity consists in his claim that any belief can be revised. Grice and Strawson argue that this claim is consistent with analyticity provided some revisions involve a change of meaning. Priest says this won't do because synonymy and its converse are also under attack (i.e., the attack is a joint attack on analyticity and all of its kin). But what attack is that? The same attack consisting in Quine's claim that any belief can be revised? Doesn't this beg the question?

In general, S&G seem transfixed by the idea that for a word or sentence to "have a meaning" is for there to exist some thing, a meaning, which stands in some relation to that word or sentence, and which might be related to other words and sentences as well.

I don't find this view anywhere in their article, and it's definitely contrary to the view of meaning in their other writings. In "On Referring," for example, Strawson writes, "To give the meaning of an expression ... is to give general directions for its use to refer to or mention particular objects or persons; to give the meaning of a sentence is to give general directions for its use in making true or false assertions." (p. 327)

No other sort of explanation for the distinction had been offered; it was always just assumed that the cluster of related notions which Quine wants to jettison were a cluster we could make good sense of at least some members of, or which we couldn't help but employ.

But does the fact that they havn't been 'made good sense of' (i.e., defined in the way Quine requires) show that they're senseless? Is a definition needed to use these expressions?

It is not particularly difficult to come up with science-fiction scenarios in which a person is simultaneously a child and an adult.

I'm not familiar with Freaky Friday, but I'm guessing that you have something in mind like Tom Hanks's character in Big (hereafter THB). But THB is not an adult. He's an 'overgrown' child (the plot depends on this; if the movie were about THB as an adult, the plot would be completely different). You seem to be defining 'child' according to age and 'adult' according to bodily development, so that a sufficiently developed three-year-old is both a child and an adult.

For the fact that I cannot imagine something does not make it impossible.

Cf. a few remarks from Wittgenstein. In the (pre-Tractatus) Notebooks, Wittgenstein says, "What cannot be imagined cannot even be talked about." And in the Philosophical Remarks, "As a matter of fact I have never seen a black patch become gradually lighter and lighter until it is white and then redden until it is red; but I know that this would be possible because I can imagine it; i.e. I operate with my images in colour space and do with them what would be possible with the colours. And my words take their sense from the fact that they more or less completely reflect the operations of the images perhaps in the way in which a score can be used to describe a piece of music that has been played, but for example, does not reproduce the emphasis on each individual note. Grammar gives language the necessary degrees of freedom." Though these remarks are both from a time when Wittgenstein thought that logic or grammar mirrored the form of an independent reality, the basic idea that thought and imagination are constrained by grammar, and grammar says what's possible and impossible, is retained (it seems to me) in the later philosophy. Something that can be imagined or said is possible. Conversely, an impossibility cannot be imagined or said.

N. N. said...

Forgot to check the 'follow-up comments' box.

J said...

The Quine of TDOE's not a dogmatist; au cuntraire, he's upholding his pragmatist-constructivist roots. Definitions of terms are, Quine says in TDOE, part of human knowledge (based on observation and a posteriori) and subject to change and alteration: thus synonymy can at least theoretically "not work" at some point. Ye olde evolutionary view of knowledge (and Plato if not Frege probably puked apres-TDOE, somewhere).

When does "mother/madre/mutter, etc." not equal "human female who has given birth," however, Herr Doktor WVOQ? Maybe after the neo-behaviorists succeed in like eliminating the indo-european language altogether. (Not sure what mother is in arabic, tho': something like "cow").


But anyone who thinks WVOQ somehow disproved identity as a whole needs a bit more analytical "reinforcement." tangent = sine/cos, regardless of what constructive logicians say.

Duck said...

1. I dunno; Joker looks like he's well into the Dialectic – and you have to admit, the Antinomies are a hoot.

2. That's a great Davidson quote. I should read that interview again. I also like the autobiographical essay in the Schilpp volume.

3. If that Clark guy doesn't post something soon, he needs to back on the Guys Who Never Update, Ever list. Damn.

Daniel Lindquist said...

On reading S&G's article against its target: As far as passing judgement on the article goes, you make a fair point. That Quine would have responses to what might look like knock-down criticisms isn't something S&G could have known in advance, and it's possible that Quine only developed some of his more notable doctrines because of S&G's article. (I should probably read Quine's autobiography at some point to find these sorts of things out. I do know that "Word and Object" was largely a response to criticisms of "Two Dogmas", but I don't know how central "In Defense of a Dogma" in particular was.) But my target isn't Strawson, Grice, or Quine; it's the analytic-synthetic distinction. I don't read Quine's later stuff as being in tension with "Two Dogmas", so I don't see a problem in appealing to it to defend the doctrines of "Two Dogmas". And if the best arguments against the first dogma of empiricism turn out to be from sources well after "In Defense of a Dogma" -- well, then that's where the discussion should shift to.

"On Referring" is on my to-read list; I do like the bit you've quoted. But I'm not sure why synonymy & pals (in the sense Quine attacks) would seem like something we have a reason to hang onto if there's nothing to say about the "meaning" of a term beyond giving some "general directions" for how to use that term. In particular, it wouldn't occur to me to think that there is any sense in asking if "the meanings" of two terms (thus handled) were identical or not. For some purposes, they might be identical, while for others, not; there's not some definitive set of "general directions" connected to a term, and it might turn out that where you'd previously give some set of instructions, you now want to give different ones. And whether or not you want to give the same instructions or different instructions for two terms might shift, as well. Which allows for a loose sort of "synonymy" (that of claiming that, here & now, the same directions will do for two distinct terms), but not anything which could support analyticity (since that sort of synonymy would require that all "general directions" for the use of the one were "general directions" for the use of the other -- that it can never happen that you want to break up the directions associated with each term). That Strawson & Grice have a "firmer" sense of "meaning" in mind is how I read passages like this one from p. 146: "if it made sense to talk of a sentence having a meaning, or meaning something, then presumably it would make sense to ask "What does it mean?" And if it made sense to ask "What does it mean?" of a sentence, then sentence-synonymy could be roughly defined as follows: Two sentences are synonymous if and only if any true answer to the question "What does it mean?" asked of one of them, is a true answer to the same question, asked of the other. We do not, of course, claim any clarifying power for this definition. We want only to point out that if we are to give up the notion of sentence-synonymy as senseless, we must give up the notion of sentence-significance (of a sentence having meaning) as senseless too." Without a suspect notion of "meaning" this argument looks like a non sequitur as a case against Quine. (Looking at the article again, this passage occurs when S&G are trying to establish a prima facie case that the analytic/synthetic distinction exists. So perhaps all this argument is supposed to be doing is pointing out just how large the "family-circle" Quine attacks is by reminding the reader that synonymy & meaning are connected.)

"Priest's reply to Grice and Strawson appears to be circular. According to Priest, Quine's attack on analyticity consists in his claim that any belief can be revised. Grice and Strawson argue that this claim is consistent with analyticity provided some revisions involve a change of meaning. Priest says this won't do because synonymy and its converse are also under attack (i.e., the attack is a joint attack on analyticity and all of its kin). But what attack is that? The same attack consisting in Quine's claim that any belief can be revised? Doesn't this beg the question?"
No, I do not think so. Quine's attack has two parts: First, showing that analyticity, synonymy, meaning, self-contradiction, truth-due-to-meaning etc. are all part of what S&G call a "family-circle" of interdefinable terms: If it's granted that any of them can be made sense of, then they all can. So if any of them can't be made sense of, then none of them can. And then the second prong attacks one of the notions, and so aims to take them all down, by arguing that any belief can be held true come-what-may (and so there's no particular property such as "truth due to meaning" held by some sentences, since its distinctive mark of unrevisability is trivially held by any and every sentence). S&G claim that if this is held true along with the notion that some revisions necessarily involve "changes in meaning" then analyticity hasn't been taken down. But Priest rightly notes that this is question-begging, since "some revisions necessarily involve changes in meaning" is part of the family-circle that was under attack, and so to insist upon it (as S&G would have the proponent of the analytic-synthetic distinction do) is to beg the question. If some grounds were given for thinking that sense could be made of the idea that some revisions necessarily involved changes in meaning, without employing other terms in the family-circle, then this would constitute a rebuttal of Quine. But S&G do not offer this; the version they present depends on difference in meaning, which is parallel to sameness of meaning, which is part of the family-circle. (It is perhaps useful to note that if beliefs were individuated by meaning, then S&G's suggestion that some beliefs might be revisable only by a change in meaning would be incoherent, since this would be to revise a belief by making it a different belief -- which is not a revision of the original belief, but a shifting of attention from one belief to another.)

"But does the fact that they havn't been 'made good sense of' (i.e., defined in the way Quine requires) show that they're senseless? Is a definition needed to use these expressions?"
I don't think Quine does require a definition; I think S&G are simply wrong to attribute this demand to him. I think that there are sorts of accounts which would satisfy Quine (if they work), without being explicit definitions involving no family-circle terms, or whatever. For instance, an argument that the analytic-synthetic distinction is something the field translator can't understand the target language without. Or the strategy Priest tries, which I'm still not quite ready to pass judgement on.

Secondly: There is a sense in which there is a clear sense to the analytic-synthetic distinction. It is easy to come up with cases which would clearly fall on one side of the line or the other (bachelors are unmarried men; some dogs are in France). But this distinction doesn't track anything interesting -- the seems-analytic sentences are just ones that seem unlikely to be candidates for revision, and the seems-synthetic sentences are just ones that seem plausible candidates for revision in the future. But how these things appear can change with experience, and then so will the sentences one is inclined to call "analytic" or "synthetic". And if I have some reason to want to do this, I can revise one of the sentences that seems analytic. So, rejecting the cluster of notions associated with the first dogma as "senseless" is perhaps too strong. But they can't do what empiricists looked to them to do.

"I'm not familiar with Freaky Friday, but I'm guessing that you have something in mind like Tom Hanks's character in Big (hereafter THB). But THB is not an adult. He's an 'overgrown' child (the plot depends on this; if the movie were about THB as an adult, the plot would be completely different). You seem to be defining 'child' according to age and 'adult' according to bodily development, so that a sufficiently developed three-year-old is both a child and an adult."
"Freaky Friday" is a book (and Disney movie) about a preteen girl who changes bodies with her mother one night, for reasons unknown to either. Tom Hanks' character in "Big" is reasonably characterized as simply "overgrown", since the kid is simply made to grow overnight (by gypsy magic). The preteen girl who wakes up in her mother's body is not someone I would be inclined to call "overgrown" -- her body is still growing at its normal rate, in another room, and she did not "grow" into her adult-body (that is, her mother's body) at all. (And she is an adult, in many ways, just as she is still a preteen in many ways. And the same is true of her mother, who is now in her body. The preteen body goes to school, suffers from hormonal onsets, is not allowed to drive; the adult body goes to work, has a bad back, can drink legally. And they both try to act as they think they are expected to. But the daughter is written as a preteen, and the mother is written as an adult.) In such cases (changing "preteen" to "child") I can very well see wanting to call someone both an adult and a child. I don't see that I have defined either term, in having this inclination. For I can just as well imagine someone holding that the girl is neither an adult nor a child, rather than both. If I had definitions for "adult" and "child" I could check this behavior against, then I could see which of us was speaking incorrectly. (I expect that circumstances would lead to one claim being more useful than the other; or if they don't, then it doesn't matter which we say.) Since S&G's examples were supposed to show that a phrase like "adult child" would be such that I could not have any expectation that I both understood my neighbor and he was truthful, this sort of science-fiction talk seems to defuse their point. For it seems to me that it's just a fact that there are no adult children. It's not a "grammatical" fact, as opposed to some other kind (because I don't think there are any distinctions of this sort to be drawn -- all facts are on all fours with each other, as far as I can see).

On the Notebooks passage: I think it fair to say that Wittgenstein could have changed his views since this period. I also note that "What cannot be imagined" is relative to a particular thinker or group of thinkers; what I cannot imagine might very well be true. (I do not have a terribly active imagination.)

I would also note that refusing to rule something impossible, or at least as refusing to rule it out as conceptually impossible (logically impossible, analytically false), does not put me under any burden to give undue credence to dumb ideas. Holding something impossible is not to hold it as more false than plain ol' "false". And not being able to judge a thing's impossibility does not suffice to warrant much (or any) credence in its possibility.

On the passage from the Grammar: I like the music-score analogy. I'm not sure how it supports what you claim, though; it supports the claim that what I can imagine is possible, but I don't see how it says that what I can't imagine is impossible. And as you note, this is from relatively early still. I don't think that the Investigations supports any such notion as that our grammar limns the possible and impossible. What I can't imagine might be possible nonetheless, and so anything that limns the possible must be something I don't have ready access to. Grammar does not seem a good candidate for this.

As a note on saying/imagining the impossible: I am inclined to think that the impossible must be imaginable, in some sense, since I cannot be positive that my commitments are not inconsistent, and it would seem that anything I hold true I can imagine to be true. If, without knowing all the entailments of the claims I am imagining, I can't tell that I am imagining something (rather than merely seeming to imagine it), then this seems to me to not be imagining that is being talked about anymore. It is something stronger than that. And the same with saying. (Perhaps I imagine something incoherent, and say something inconsistent. But then I imagine and speak.)

I am also inclined to say that it is possible to reason about impossible situations. For instance, a round square would have four edges and also none. It would not be something other than a 2-D plane figure. I see no reason to think that these inferences are nonsense, though they concern an impossible object. (There is a sense in which, though I can reason about it, I cannot imagine a round square. But neither can I imagine daily life in Siberia. I am sure that there are people who live there, but I can say scarcely more about their habits than I can the round square.)

J said...

This sort of stupid quasi-semantic muck (not really even logic--Frege and Russell piss on your face) is why philosophy departments should be down-sized, if not pink-slipped. ASAP.

Quine hardly disproves analyticity (or a denotational account of language). He proves that dictionaries need to be updated ever few centuries. You're either too stupid or too corrupt to figure it out.

N. N. said...

If it's granted that any of them can be made sense of, then they all can. So if any of them can't be made sense of, then none of them can.

I don't think the latter sentence follows from the former (or perhaps I simply disagree with the former). And, again, I don't think 'making sense' of these notions (one or all) is a prerequisite for using them. To see why the latter sentence doesn't follow from the former, consider what Quine says at the beginning of "Two Dogmas":

Statements which are analytic by general philosophical acclaim are not, indeed, far to seek. They fall into two classes. Those of the first class, which may be called logically true, are typified by: (1) No unmarried man is married.
The relevant feature of this example is that it is not merely true as it stands, but remains true under any and all reinterpretations of 'man' and 'married.' If we suppose a prior inventory of logical particles, comprising 'no,' 'un-' 'if,' 'then,' 'and,' etc., then in general a logical truth is a statement which is true and remains true under all reinterpretations of its components other than the logical particles.
But there is also a second class of analytic statements, typified by: (2) No bachelor is married.
The characteristic of such a statement is that it can be turned into a logical truth by putting synonyms for synonyms; thus (2) can be turned into (1) by putting 'unmarried man' for its synonym 'bachelor.' We still lack a proper characterization of this second class of analytic statements, and therewith of analyticity generally, inasmuch as we have had in the above description to lean on a notion of 'synonymy' which is no less in need of clarification than analyticity itself.


So really, the notion of analyticity is that of logical truth. And if sentences of the second 'class' are analytic, it is because they can be made into logical truths by putting synonyms for synonyms. The notion of logical truth is not dependent on the notion of synonymy. Neither is the notion of synonymy dependent on that of logical truth. (If 'bachelor' means the same as 'unmarried man,' then (2) could be turned into (1). However, if the law of non-contradiction is rejected, then (1) is not a logical truth, i.e., not analytic.)

Quine, it seems, is open to the possibility of rejecting the law of non-contradiction:

If this view is right, ... it becomes folly to seek a boundary between synthetic statements, which hold contingently on experience, and analytic statements which hold come what may. Any statement can be held true come what may, if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system. Even a statement very close to the periphery can be held true in the face of recalcitrant experience by pleading hallucination or by amending certain statements of the kind called logical laws. Conversely, by the same token, no statement is immune to revision. Revision even of the logical law of the excluded middle has been proposed as a means of simplifying quantum mechanics; and what difference is there in principle between such a shift and the shift whereby Kepler superseded Ptolemy, or Einstein Newton, or Darwin Aristotle?

Depending on how one understands the law of the excluded middle (that is, depending on how one understands '~p'), revising it would involve revising of the law of non-contradiction. The latter would be absurd. If we revise our commitment to the law of non-contradiction (assuming that's even intelligible), there would be no point in arguing about anything.
If we are going to revise our commitment to statements such as 'No bachelor is an unmarried man,' there are only two ways to do it. We could change the meaning of 'bachelor' or 'married man,' or we could reject the law of non-contradiction. Since the latter is not an option (again, I'm not even sure it's intelligible), the only way to revise such statements is a change in meaning, i.e., such revisions necessarily involve a change in meaning. Is logical necessity an intelligible notion? Is logical possibility? Obviously the latter is intelligible; something is logically possible if it doesn't transgress the rules of logic.

I don't think Quine does require a definition; I think S&G are simply wrong to attribute this demand to him.

Quite writes, "Just what it means to affirm synonymy, just what the interconnections may be which are necessary and sufficient in order that two linguistic forms be properly describable as synonymous, is far from clear." The requirment appears to be necessary and sufficient conditions, i.e., an exact definition.

There is a sense in which there is a clear sense to the analytic-synthetic distinction. It is easy to come up with cases which would clearly fall on one side of the line or the other (bachelors are unmarried men; some dogs are in France). But this distinction doesn't track anything interesting—the seems-analytic sentences are just ones that seem unlikely to be candidates for revision, and the seems-synthetic sentences are just ones that seem plausible candidates for revision in the future. But how these things appear can change with experience, and then so will the sentences one is inclined to call "analytic" or "synthetic".

Why do sentences that called 'analytic' seem unlikely to be candidates for revision? For the same sort of reason that 'The moon is not made of green cheese' seems an unlikely candidate for revision? Can the apparent unrevisability of 'No bachelor is an unmarried man' really change with experience? What experience would do the job?

The preteen girl who wakes up in her mother's body is not someone I would be inclined to call "overgrown"—her body is still growing at its normal rate, in another room, and she did not "grow" into her adult-body (that is, her mother's body) at all. (And she is an adult, in many ways, just as she is still a preteen in many ways. And the same is true of her mother, who is now in her body. The preteen body goes to school, suffers from hormonal onsets, is not allowed to drive; the adult body goes to work, has a bad back, can drink legally. And they both try to act as they think they are expected to. But the daughter is written as a preteen, and the mother is written as an adult.) In such cases (changing "preteen" to "child") I can very well see wanting to call someone both an adult and a child.

Hollywood must love this plotline. I remember a similar movie with Fred Savage, and another with Kirk Cameron. There are a couple of things that bother me about this idea. First, the substance dualism it requires is probably itself incoherent (I'll leave this to one side as it would involve a long discussion of Concept of Mind). Even if we accept dualism as a real possibility, a correct description of this state of affairs would be something like 'One part of her is a child, and another part of her is an adult' or 'She's a child inside an adult's body.' These are not the same as 'A child is an adult.' Finally, instead of making this point with 'adult,' G&S could have made it with 'prime number' (Diamond and Conant have something to say about this, but that's a whole other discussion; they attack conceptual analysis from the other direction).

J said...

Patty cakes!

Quine was playing poker anyway: the real issue, if one wants to put on the constructivist cap, concerns the, as the putos say, the epistemological status of "apriority" (then one might chat about analytic/synthetic truths).

So, like, one could argue quite convincingly there are no good grounds for a priori truths for ANY type of knowledge---logic or mathematics, science, or linguistic. That doesn't imply naive empiricism (it DOES mean that any platonists or logicists would have to justify a priori knowledge). Thus what appear to be analytical a priori statements really hinge on learning certain definitions and so forth, which are at least in theory ostensive (and yet still denotational). Bada bing. Most language uses presume synonmy/substitution (intensional meaning), but that needn't imply some platonic realm: one learns what terms are interchangable, just as one learns what argument forms or equations are. From an evolutionary perspective, that view works: mathematical knowledge developed out of practical problems (ag, building, military, commerce, etc.) and was abstracted and codified (argument forms or "logic" most likely followed that sort of pattern) . It's only much later that philosophizers term it "a priori."

Currence said...

Good discussion so far. I haven't thought about the analytic/synthetic problem for quite some time, but let me see if I can't toss onto the field a new idea:

Is there not something suspect about Quine's conception of what it is to have and to hold a belief? (Where, to have it, one "understands" its meaning [on a non-suspect understanding of "meaning"], and, to hold it, one believes that it is true, that experience confirms it, etc.)

The basic image is this: one has a belief like one has a map in one's back pocket, and one holds that belief when looks at the map, at the surrounding terrain, and sees that the latter "fits" the former.

Now, let us remember a McDowellian point that at first might seem completely unrelated (and perhaps it is, and I'm just confused): we ought to conceive of virtue as a kind of perceptive capacity, such that "we are committed to denying that virtuous person's perception of a situation can be precisely matched in someone who, in that situation, acts otherwise than virtuously." ("Virtue and Reason")

My thought: there are some beliefs the meanings of which are dependent, in the appropriate way, on the virtuous knower's taking them to be true. That is: to even have the kind of peculiar belief I'm envisioning just is to hold it (or rather, just is for the virtuous knower to hold it). In this case, we want to deny this possibility: that one could have the peculiar belief in question, and yet not hold it as true, confirmed, etc.

Thus, I'm conceiving of the ability to appreciate an analytic belief as a semantic capacity. (I just replaced "virtue" with "appreciating an analytic belief" and "perceptual" with "semantic".) Therefore, these peculiar beliefs are individuated NOT merely by their meaning, but by their being held (being held to be true, confirmed, etc.).

So, in this case we needn't deny Daniel's thought, that we don't know what the future may bring, while simultaneously affirming the idea that whatever experience we undergo which would make us assent to "This is both a child and an adult" is also experience which modifies our previous understanding of the meaning of "adult", "child", or both.

We cannot return to our old semantic space -- to return and see how things have changed -- because it was partly constituted by our holding certain things in place (as true, as confirmed, etc.). There's no there there, anymore, to return to. In one sense "everything looks the same", but this is only the superficial sense in which everything "looks" the same to the continent person as to the virtuous person.

The problem here isn't that the circle is very wide (as in the case of the kin terms of "analytic"), rather the circle is too narrow (if circles can be narrow...): to even admit that there could be a barrage of experience such that this belief would be false is just to betray oneself as not holding -- and thus, due to the peculiar nature of this kind of belief, as not having -- the belief that we thought you had, in the first place. It's a kind of primitive practice: to do otherwise than hold these peculiar beliefs isn't to do something different with the same material, it's to do something with different material altogether.


Sorry so long, let me know if there's anything of value in there somewhere.

Daniel Lindquist said...

"If it's granted that any of them can be made sense of, then they all can. So if any of them can't be made sense of, then none of them can.

I don't think the latter sentence follows from the former (or perhaps I simply disagree with the former)."

If any of them can be made sense of, then all of them can be made sense of. By contraposition: Unless all of them can be made sense of, none of them can be made sense of. If any of them can't be made sense of, then it is not the case that all of them can be made sense of. Hence it follows.

I think Quine's conservatism in logic is untenable. Ole at Nothing of Consequence has posted a little bit on this; in general, I don't think Quine's "web of belief" holism is compatible with his foot-stomping about classical logic. So I think the bracketing of analytic "logical truths" as outside his purview at the beginning of Two Dogmas is something Quine has to take back, if he really wants to maintain that a change in logic need be no more threatening than a change from Ptolemy to Kepler or Linnaeus to Darwin. (Which it seems, as an historical matter, he doesn't. He thinks classical logic is obviously The One True Logic and any purported disagreement with this shows you are nuts. But "Empiricism Without the Dogmas" is explicit that revising logic is fine in principle. (again I need to figure out what I want to say about Priest's paper....)

"If we revise our commitment to the law of non-contradiction (assuming that's even intelligible), there would be no point in arguing about anything."
There is a difference between rejecting the "law of noncontradiction" and holding that everything is true. Accepting some contradictions as true does not entail doing the same for all contradictions (and so for their conjuncts), provided one rejects ex falso quodlibet (and so uses a paraconsistent logic). See, for example, Graham Priest's "What's So Bad About Contradictions?", The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 95, No. 8 (Aug., 1998), pp. 410-426.

I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind thoughts like "If we are going to revise our commitment to statements such as 'No bachelor is an unmarried man,' there are only two ways to do it [change in meaning or deny LNC]". That the only ways to revise the relevant commitment is by changing (one of or both of) just those commitments is not at all clear to me. To maintain that the only way to revise that element of a web of belief without changing one's logic is to change one's meaning seems to beg the question against Quine -- it is to say that "No bachelors are unmarried men" can only be false without its current meaning, and so it is true due to its current meaning. And truth due to meaning alone is analyticity. So S&G do not show that the analytic-synthetic distinction must be rejected; they just show that if we want to reject it, we will also reject the idea that there might be sentences which can only be revised by changing their meaning. (It occurs to me that there has been no way given to determine what the meaning of a string is, and so no way to determine whether or not two strings have the same or different meanings. It occurs to me that this point should have been made earlier, more forcefully, and probably in the context of a fuller account of radical interpretation/translation. In the post, I just make a few weak gestures to Davidsonian approaches to theories of meaning, when that is the approach I actually plump for. If the discussion could shift to the indeterminacy of translation, this would probably be a more profitable area to discuss, by way of getting back to Wittgenstein, which is at least where all of this started.)

(But for now I'm just running around like a chicken with its head cut off.)

"Obviously [logical possibility] is intelligible; something is logically possible if it doesn't transgress the rules of logic."
I will grant that logical possibility & impossibility are as intelligible as "the rules of logic." That strikes me as trivially true -- what is possible & not possible is what is and isn't allowed by what's already settled. That the rules of logic are obvious, or unrevisable, or true due to the meanings of the connectives, does not strike me as obvious at all (in fact, they all strike me as false).

"Why do sentences that called 'analytic' seem unlikely to be candidates for revision? For the same sort of reason that 'The moon is not made of green cheese' seems an unlikely candidate for revision?"
The sentences that usually get trotted out as candidates for analyticity are all true sentences. Which is the same reason "The moon is not made of green cheese" seems a poor candidate for revision: the moon ain't made of green cheese, so if we revised that sentence we would be wrong (by our own lights!). So we ain't revising it. In general: If someone wants to revise a sentence that I am inclined to think of as "analytic", they must disagree with me on quite a lot of things to view that sentence as false -- and so I think they're wrong about an awful lot. Whereas if someone wants to revise a sentence I view as "synthetic", I might not disagree with them about all that much. (And dropping & adding beliefs -- reevaluating truth-values of sentences -- is the only sort of change a web of belief can undergo. So there's nothing more to say about sentences that seem analytic or synthetic, in this sense, than that they seem obvious or seem reasonable to doubt.)

"Can the apparent unrevisability of 'No bachelor is an unmarried man' really change with experience? What experience would do the job?"
It is true that no bachelor is a married man, so, no, it doesn't seem plausible that experience is going to say anything against this, anymore than against the moon not being made of cheese. I don't see that it is apparently unrevisable, though; if I feel the urge to call someone a married bachelor, then I will happily revise my belief that there are none. (And if I am convinced I have found a married bachelor, then I will do the same. That I am certain I shall not find a married bachelor is just to say that I don't think there are any.) I don't see that I need anything stronger for sentences like "No bachelors are married men" than for "I am wearing socks right now". If I revise my beliefs about related matters, then I will revise those beliefs. If I don't, I won't. The burden is on the proponent of the analytic-synthetic distinction to show that talk of "webs of belief" is not talk enough -- that to discuss revision of a web, we must also talk about meanings, say.

I'm not sure why you think body-swapping stories presume substance dualism, and it sounds like Ryle wants to rule out as nonsensical a lot of stories that seem coherent (but false) to me; but I am sure that is a boring (long) tangent.

I would like to hear more about Conant & Diamond on prime numbers -- what's the article? I don't have any similarly detailed story to tell there; I haven't had a mathematics course since my freshman year of undergrad. So all I can imagine for what a proof that (say) there is a largest prime number would be like is "There is some math, and it proves that". But it does occur to me that in this case, too, my intuitions don't match what S&G say: If someone told me that they have a proof that there is a largest prime number, then I shouldn't think I don't understand them. I'd think they're wrong -- it's probably another one of those screwbally "proofs" that smarmy teenagers enjoy (such as that 0=1, or 1 does not equal 0.999...). Mathematical "proofs" for impossible results are a dime a dozen. (Impossibility is just falsity with an accent, here. FALSITY is what talk of impossibility amounts to in a great many cases, such as this one.)

Currence: I'll have to read "Virtue and Reason". The quoted bit does not strike me as being true. But perhaps this is just a lingering hostility to virtue-talk; I may be recoiling too far from Macintyre. But it looks like McDowell is denying that one can see what one ought to do, and yet not do it. Which does not strike me as true at all -- it seems to not do justice to the will. (I prefer Augustine to Plato. The Confessions deserve every bit of their renown.)

As far as an attempt to rehabilitate analyticity: Yes, if there are some beliefs that one can't entertain without holding them true, those are plausibly called analytic. It isn't clear to me that there are any beliefs that fit this requirement. It actually seems to me that the reverse is true: For me to hold of any of my beliefs that disagreement would show ignorance of my meaning would be epistemically reckless. For all I know, there might be knock-down arguments for a whole slew of things I took to be obvious; if it seems like there might be a challenge to something I took to be absolutely well-founded, then I can't shirk off this challenge as false a priori -- I have a duty to give due credence where credence is due.

I have been working on this comment for the past four hours. I remember when I used to go online to relax. ;_;

N. N. said...

Accepting some contradictions as true does not entail doing the same for all contradictions.

Wouldn't the accepting of some contradictions and not others have to be arbitrary? What principled way could we decide which to accept and which to reject?

I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind thoughts like "If we are going to revise our commitment to statements such as 'No bachelor is an unmarried man,' there are only two ways to do it [viz., change in meaning or deny LNC]".

What reasons are there for giving up a statement that we hold to be true? (1) Some fact refutes it (e.g., I hold that the Moon is made of green cheese, but this is refuted by the observations of the astronauts, etc.). (2) The meanings of my words change. (3) I revise some other related statement(s), either factual or theoretical (e.g., my accepted physical theory), (4) I revise the rules of logic. Which of these would cause (allow) me to give up as false the statement 'No bachelor is an married man'? It seems that (1) cannot. I'll change my mind if any fact can be thought of that would cause me to believe that some bachelor is married. But what does that even mean! I can't conceive of this possibility. And my inability isn't because of a feeble imagination. (2) would be adequate. If, for example, 'married' came to mean 'lonely.' I don't think (3) will do the trick. Again, what other statements or even theories are so related to 'No bachelor is a married man' that rejecting them would cause me to reject it? I can't think of any candidate. (4) would work, but at what cost? It seems to me that Quine brings up this possibility because he needs it. Other than (2), it's the only one that will cause my to give up my belief about bachelors. But in my opinion, the suggestion is incoherent. That is, (4) is not really an option. (This represents, for me, a new way to approach "Two Dogmas," though I do think it is implicit in G&S).

That the rules of logic are obvious, or unrevisable, or true due to the meanings of the connectives, does not strike me as obvious at all (in fact, they all strike me as false).

This is a big question, and discussing it could lead in a number of different directions. I'll only say that, if it is admitted that any statement is either true or false, then all of classical logic comes with that admission (this is the argument of the Tractatus). Granted, people do not admit this (Strawson, for one), but I think they're confused on this point. At any rate, I'm simply unwillng to give up the LNC. If that's my line in the sand, so be it.

If I feel the urge to call someone a married bachelor, then I will happily revise my belief that there are none.

But what in the wide world could give you such an urge?

Diamond and Conant's position is that category mistakes (a la Ryle) such as 'My three-year-old is an adult' or 'Caesar is a prime number' are impossible (see Diamond's "What Might Nonsense Be?")

I'm ready to move on to W&O if everyone else is.

J said...

For all the supposed Wittgensteinian BS, you haven't quite grasped what ostension means, nor do you understand that Quine is a constructivist (either overtly or not), not a Fregean; nor do you understand that analyticity actually hinges on "a priority" as much as it does on meaning, synonymy, etc.

Moreover, the early positivists did not limit analyticity to synonymy ("bachelors are unmarried males", "bodies are extended") but included logical axioms themselves (such as LONC, and LOEM): either the light is ON, or it is OFF. Oswald shot Kennedy, OR Oswald did not shoot Kennedy. Professor Putallisma cannot physically be in her office, AND not in her office. When are those types of analytical statements falsified? Nunca.

Daniel Lindquist said...

"Wouldn't the accepting of some contradictions and not others have to be arbitrary? What principled way could we decide which to accept and which to reject?"
"Graham Priest is a fried egg" seems false, and does not seem true. (There are pictures of him on the internet; he looks nothing like an egg.) "The secretary of Chihara's "Secretaries Liberation Club" is allowed to join the SLC" seems both true and false (assuming the SLC secretary is the secretary for no other clubs).

(Chihara's Secretaries Liberation Club is a club eligibility for membership in which requires that one be the secretary of a club which one is ineligible to join. Thus a male secretary for an all-female club could join, as could a 20-year-old secretary for a Seniors Only club. It is an empirical version of Russell's paradox, in effect. But it does not appear to be answerable in the way Russell's paradox is answerable, for it seems implausible that "club-membership" is subject to the arcane restrictions that set-membership is bound by. Notice that if this situation actually came up, it would probably happen that an extra rule is simply added to the club's by-laws which settled the matter one way or the other -- the original rule might stand as it was. And if the situation never comes up (such as if the secretary of each branch of the SLC is also the secretary for another club which they were ineligible to join), then the contradiction-inducing rule seems liable to stand in perpetuity. If it be objected that the paradoxical club-rule must be senseless (because paradoxical), then this would just show that "sense" is not needed to be a good club-rule. Because it is a perfectly-serviceable club-rule. This sort of possibility would seem to tarnish the rhetorical force of "sense" more than I am comfortable with.)

There appear to at least be cases where there is no temptation to accept a contradiction, and cases where this seems plausible. So I do not see the reasoning for thinking that any such behavior is arbitrary. If you want a more hard & fast principle, those have also been offered; Priest himself thinks that acceptance of a dialetheia is acceptable IFF it is the only logically possible option, for example.

"[What could cause us to revise a sentence?] (1) Some fact refutes it (e.g., I hold that the Moon is made of green cheese, but this is refuted by the observations of the astronauts, etc.)."
That I must characterize some purported observation in some particular way is not forced on me: The astronauts could be a fraud perpetrated by the Freemasons, etc. And contariwise, I do not see any reason that I should never want to characterize some experience of mine as being that of an unmarried bachelor, in the super-strong sense of "never" that you seem to need. Basically, saying things like this seem to me to be pointless: "I'll change my mind if any fact can be thought of that would cause me to believe that some bachelor is married. But what does that even mean! I can't conceive of this possibility. And my inability isn't because of a feeble imagination." I should think that only one fact could cause you to revise your opinion that there are no married bachelors: You encounter a married bachelor. I don't see that reference to imagination is of any help here; I cannot imagine a refutation of Goldbach's conjecture, but if I was presented with one I expect that (with some effort) I could understand it. And as to what fact could possibly be relevant to my opinion that the Goldberg conjecture is true, I want to say that the only relevant fact would be one that shows there to be an even number >=4 such that it was not the sum of two primes. But I can say that much about married bachelors.

As to what related beliefs might be altered which could render "No bachelors are married" false -- suppose a bachelor was more than one person at once. (This is false now, but I see no reason it has to be so eternally -- perhaps biotechnology shall lead to some radical shifts in how we relate to bodies. Or suppose Thomas Anderson was married, while Neo is not -- his in-Matrix wife was merely a program, and not also a battery/human.)

Now, if it please you, you can very well maintain that "All bachelors are unmarried" is true forevermore, come what may. To decide that there are men with multiple bodies would be to decide that men are no longer men; they have become something post-human, and so are neither married nor unmarried men. (To "change the meaning" of the sentence would be the start talking about a different sentence, one which was merely homonymous with the one previously discussed.) But I do not see that there is anything preventing you from doing this with any sentence whatsoever. (I think this is a point Quine actually relies on -- the positivists want to divide sentences up between the analytic and the synthetic, and if this is the route one takes, then it looks like any sentence can be taken to be analytic (provided some others are revised). And likewise, any sentence can be denied to be confirmed come whatever experience may come, provided the putatively-relevant experiences be redescribed. And so nothing has to be taken as synthetic, in the positive sense -- a sentence can be forever invulnerable to refutation/confirmation by experience. So any empiricism which needs Hume's Fork is built on sand.)

"I'll only say that, if it is admitted that any statement is either true or false, then all of classical logic comes with that admission (this is the argument of the Tractatus)"
Priest would actually grant this -- his preferred logic (or at least the simplest one available to a dialetheist), LP, is three-valued, and assigns to each statement either T, F, or B (True, False, or Both True and False). So every statement is either true or false (and some are both). Truth-conditions for LP can be given via the simplified Tarski schema ("T" is true IFF T, with falsity's condition being "not T", and B being "both T and not T"), and LP gives classical outputs whenever given classical inputs, so it is not obvious that LP does not have the same notions of truth and falsity as presumed obvious by classical logicians. (This response puns on "either", but I am not sure if the pun hurts it. For I don't see that there is a workable argument from "Every statement is either true or false, and not both" to classical logic, either. Logics with strict conditionals are non-classical, for instance, yet this holds of them.)

Tentatively, I want to say that you can get to classical logic the Tractarian way only by not having anything in your logic that works like a conditional, since the material conditional is poorly-suited to do this in many respects. Your logic is also going to be ill-suited for handling vague predicates, ceteris paribus clauses, and many other bits of natural language (not to mention modalities). Non-classical logics will be needed to eloquently model these facets of natural language. So it seems weird to me to claim that classical logic (arrived at via the Tractarian route) might be "the" logic, and so logics whose axioms differ from CL's might be "false logics". And so, paradoxical as it might sound, providing a "grounding" for classical logic in bivalence might leave unanswered the question of the status of the Law of Noncontradiction -- it might just be that one shows that true contradictions can't be "statements" in one's current use of the term -- from the perspective of the logic in play, those sentences are ruled out just as "adwqq3323e23" is as not productively handleable.

FWIW, I am also unwilling to drop LNC. But I am troubled -- I have no satisfactory thing to say about situations like Chihara's SLC. And so I deny that there are true contradictions only on pain of not knowing what the heck to say about certain scenarios. So I'm not at all tempted to claim that "logical axioms" are self-evident, or anything of the sort -- even if I end up persuaded that classical logic is the logic (whatever that means), then I should still be sorely aware that I was conflicted for some time about the issue. (I actually am not troubled by the Liar sentence or its revenge-versions, nor by Yablo's paradox. But some of Priest's more this-worldly examples gnaw at me -- he claims his examples from law are his strongest cases, and I think he's right.)

Finally: After taking some time to reflect on these issues, I think the logic-stuff is largely tangential to the Quine-Davidson issues Duck and I actually are most interested in. (Though I find the sort of logicky stuff Priest writes about pretty darn interesting, I don't think it's relevant to the train of conversation that lead to me reading "In Defense of a Dogma".) If we want to move on to W&O-type stuff (which I would be happy to do), I want to recommend Davidson's "The Inscrutability of Reference" and "Reality Without Reference", both from "Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation", since I suspect both Duck and I would be happier to defend Early Davidson than W&O Quine. (I generally think that the more Davidson you read the more productive these discussions will be, but then I seem to say that about every conversation I get into, no matter who I am talking to. But he really is good times.)

I actually have some rough notes on the Hacker article Duck linked to; now that Duck has (to my mind) satisfactorily addressed most of the article in a hopefully-productive manner, I am happy to post about smaller bits that bugged me while reading it.