Tag Archives: definition

Analyticity and Quine’s Rejection of the Dogma

16 Nov

I have succumbed somewhat to the understanding that there really is no meaning in anything. I used to think everything had meaning, but after studying W.V. Quine, I understand better why meaning cannot really exist.  If one reads and understands Quine’s On What There Is and Two Dogmas of Empiricism that one person must come up with some big evidence to actually prove that one truth statement can mean another or do any other function that meaning has said to have. This comes from Quine because of the two dogmas: 1) analyticity, and 2) reductionism. My concern here is analyticity and to help myself and the reader of this writing to understand why analyticity can be shown false and can also show ‘meaning’ to be a false hope.

If you have read Kant or other philosophers analytic statements are easy to understand. I understand them as things I can come to understand without having to go through a logical process of factual evaluation. If I hold a red pen up, I can see it and know “this is a red pen” without any logical process of fact evaluation. I know it like the snap of two fingers. Synthetic is just the opposite where factual and logical processes of evaluation must be executed to understand it. Quine defines the analytic in a somewhat different fashion which I can fathom clearly:

“Kant conceived of an analytic statement as one that attributes to its subject no more than is already conceptually contained in the subject. This formulation has two shortcomings: it limits itself to statements to subject-predicate form, and it appeals to a notion of containment which is left at a metaphorical level. But Kant’s intent, evident more from the use he makes of the notion of analyticity than from his definition of it, can be restated thus: a statement is analytic when it is true by virtue of meanings and independently of fact” (Quine).

So ultimately what I want you to get from that quote is that the analytic is statements that are true ‘by virtue of meaning’ and ‘independently of fact.’ Most important is that analytic statements are said to be true by virtue of their meanings. This has so much importance because Quine attacks the use of the word meaning because it is loosely and not well understood or defined.  In Two Dogmas of Empiricism he ultimately concludes that there is no meaning at all. He rejects not only reductionism but also analyticity. He rejects analyticity by rejecting meaning. He rejects meaning by talking about why certain logical truths and synonymies are not meaning and can not be meaning.

Beginning with logical truths he discusses reference and extension to not be meaning. Logical truths are exemplified by Quine with Morning Star and Evening Star. They both are sightings of the planet Venus, and they both are names for Venus, and both refer to Venus. Morning Star does not mean Evening Star or Venus.  This is just naming or reference. These things like certain logical truths and synonymy have been posed as clarification and understanding for what meaning is, and Quine simply paints these as failures to define and understand meaning. Reference and naming are both of singular terms. Extension is a logical truth that is of predicates. Extension is often thought to be meaning. An example of extension would be creating 2 truths about a certain entity as Quine puts it, but he paints this as another failure to understand meaning. If I am talking about a man, 2 logical truths about it would be ‘a creature with a brain’ and ‘a creature with a stomach’. Both statements extend to the same ‘entity’ but just because this is so does not mean that they mean man. These are obvious logical truths that Quine says is not meaning.

Besides logical truths, Quine says that synonymy and definition are also not meaning. He talks about definition and then interchangeability with synonymy. Synonymy is obviously understood because things like bachelor and unmarried man are synonymous, but the question is does synonymy entail meaning. Quine states definition to not be meaning because of what the lexicographer (dictionary writer) does. A definition for a word is just a section of a long chain of synonymies:

” In formal and informal work alike, thus, we find that definition – except in the extreme case of the explicitly conventional introduction of new notations – hinges on prior relationships of synonymy. Recognizing then that the notion of definition does not hold the key to synonymy and analyticity” (Quine).

S0 definition is not at all meaning because of how definition continues from word to word and phrase to phrase and being referred to those because of the synonymies that create the huge chain. Definition is just related to more synonymies and does not have meaning and cannot hold analyticity in any defined word or phrase. Definition and its relation to prior relationships of synonymy are more easily understood when it is understood why most synonymies are not meaning.

Definition not being meaning, Quine goes on to specific synonymies. Interchangeability is a certain kind of synonymy that Quine proves to not be meaning. He goes as specific to talk about interchangeability salva veritatae or interchangeability preserving truth. He declares the synonymy in interchangeability salva veritatae, but no meaning at all. For example, ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried man’ are interchangeable salva veritate and synonymous of course, but they are not meaning because what if bachelor is referring to ‘bachelor of arts’, ‘bachelor of science’, or ‘bachelors buttons’ as Quine puts it. In those cases bachelor would not mean unmarried man, so synonymy in the case of interchangeability salva veritatae is not meaning. He also includes that interchangeability salva necesitatae or interchangeability preserving necessity is synonymy yet not meaning because necessity is confusing as to its meaning and causes problems. The issue here is that interchangeability is synonymy yet its not meaning because some words can be synonymous and interchangeable yet not really mean the same thing. He declares this to make difficult the understanding of what meaning is.

Quine continues with his discussion about meaning and synonymy and his rejection of analyticity. I could talk for a long time about it, but I simply want to discuss the basics to understand why he rejects analyticity. In the end of the essay he uses his premises to say that the boundary between analytic and synthetic has never really been drawn. There have been attempts at defining the two in making the boundary, but clarifications have not been given to really make that dreaded distinction. If you read Two Dogmas of Empiricism by Quine and get nothing else out of it, if you get out of it that there is no meaning, then that is good enough.

I think that there is analyticity. If a person understands philosophy that person has their own understanding of the analytic/synthetic distinction that is difficult to put into words good enough to convey understanding of it from one person to another. I really think that there is analytic while at the same time it can be proven that there is not. I have my understanding of analytic and can understand why there is no analytic. Analyticity is a complicated subject because understandings of it are not the same between people.

Coming to an opinion about whether one thinks analytic exists is a difficult one especially because deciding whether one thinks there is meaning is an equally hard thing. Meaning is a hard thing to define or understand because of issues of logical truths and synonymies exemplified by Quine. My opinion is that there is no meaning and that it is all synonymy or logical truths of one form or another. Meaning is like analytic in that it can be understood by a person but not well put into words. I feel like I can understand meaning, but then I can logically reject it at the same time.

What do you think? Do you think there is analytically true statements? or meaning in general?  I am stuck and do not know what my stance on the issue is because I read Quine’s great rationalization on why analyticity, meaning and reductionism are not in existence and then at the same time I can think as if they do.  I am just not sure and need further contemplation.

Please say what you think on Twitter or in comment section. Thanks for the support.


Russell’s Logic as the Essence of Philosophy

14 Sep

Logic as Essence  of Philosophy is a lecture/essay by Bertrand Russell  that breaks all of the principles down to their bare minimums.  Russell does a lot for epistemology when he brings everything down to philosophy only mattering to logic and sense data. In this lecture he makes logic the bare essence of philosophy.

Logic is our rules for making judgments and thoughts and without it, we would not be able to get anything out of what we philosophize. We have observations, and we have a desire to make something out of them. Logicians like Frege establish formally these rules for philosophizing and the boundaries to maintain. Things we do not know about, we aim to define (I will get to what defining is later).

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that aims to help us understand the being around us, and what all this actually is. As I have said,  epistemologists and skeptic philosophers discredit and often eliminate metaphysics from existence. This is so for many reasons like we cannot perceive what metaphysics says, or we cannot test for what metaphysics says, or like here, reducing metaphysics to its logical components reduces the logical sentence to mere gibberish.

Russell calls logic the essence of philosophy, because whether it is metaphysics or not, any philosophical relation can be reduced to pure logical sentences. Metaphysics is just discredited among them because before it is reduced, it means even less than the other philosophies.  If I said ‘Socrates is a sycophant’  , I would be saying the same thing logically if I said  ‘ rooter is a beezer’. This is basically what Russell talks about in this essay of his, because anything can mean the same thing logically when it is stripped of all its meaning.

I bring Russell’s essay up for discussion just to lay some foundation in what metaphysics and epistemology do in fact have in common. My aim in my progressing writings is  to shoot down empiricism and positivism in their elimination of metaphysics, and defend metaphysics to its stronghold. Metaphysics and epistemology have this quality in common. A rooter could be either metaphysical or epistemological, but regardless of what a rooter or a beezer means, the logical sentence works. I feel little further need to explain this relation, in that I feel that my readers have a strong understanding and feel for logic without my need to explain it.  I just wanted to state that in regardless of what the sentence talks about,  if it confirms logically, both are the same regardless of what the words’ meanings are.

If theres pink shoes , then theres  fogoters. There are pink shoes, so there must be fogoters. This is a perfectly logical statement, yet we cannot know for sure if this true because we cannot know what fogoters are.  I push this concept so hard because I want to clarify that empiricists and positivists do not discredit metaphysics because of its logic, but because of its definitions. If the definitions known or not work well in the relation with one or more other things, it works great, but a metaphysician could assign a property with the name fogoter and have just created a frivolous philosphy, according to empiricists, Noumena is one thing that works well with logic, but the empiricists and positivists thought noumena was the worst metaphysical concept and means nothing even though it works well when related to other things with logic. I used Russell’s lecture to base my discussion off of, and to lay some foundation for some writings that will be here in the future.

This thought brings me to address the actual defining of  A, B, C, D, fogoters, rooters, and beezers.  It is not until here where metaphysics begins to be discredited and eliminated by the positivists and empiricists.  We can assign a letter like A to the first spot to mean anything, but when we define it, metaphysicians use relations with these undefineds and make properties out of them. For example, Kant defined a principle  X as noumena giving it its proper definition (which if you do not know it, it doesn’t matter for the moment) and noumena defines other things, and the things defined refer to other things as well. Heidegger uses Dasein to define his undefined, with the same thing happening too X as soon as it is defined.  It all works out agreeably until the variables are assigned definitions, and at that point, disputes are had and philosophy divides itself.

One of the bigger problems of metaphysics is that a newly defined term is often needed to be set forth to say what a metaphysician means. Empiricists and positivists dislike this action. After stating what i have said before this point, I want to portray metaphysics as a plethora of definitions that are scattered about, and then I want to further organize that beyond this writing to arrange all of the conflicting metaphysics together like Carnap began to organize the analytic and synthetic definitions.  I want to arrange metaphysics this way because of what a definition of any term causes.

The taking upon the action of defining a term is something that puts you in an infinite  regress of referrals. Lets define the word ‘braggadocio’ to help understand how defining something puts us in an infinite regression. Braggadocio:  empty boasting; bragging. If someone does not know what  bragging means we must define bragging. Bragging: to use boastful language. Now that we know that boasting and bragging are somewhat the same, what is language? Language: a body of words and the systems for their use common to apeople who are of the same community or nation, the same  geographical area, or the same cultural tradition. Okay, so what if we don’t know what words or common means. Then we would define those, and so on, and so forth.

I state that defining things puts us in an infinite regression because this sets the stage for a metaphysical buildup to have a stronghold instead of speculative things based on faith. I want to create a metaphysical buildup just like Carnap did so in an epistemological way. Faith is a great thing to have, but when people ask you your reasoning and you tell them faith, you will be laughed at. I want to find another way of reasoning metaphysical properties. Just like Kant said concerning noumena: “….for we are not entitled to maintain that sensibility is the only possible mode of intuition….”

This was only a preconcerning discussion about my intentions and thoughts. I did however want to root some things in this essay by Russell (even if most of this writing goes beyond what the his lecture actually adresses).

Thanks for the support, and do not get mad if more than half of this lecture was not actually about Bertrand Russell’s philosophy.