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Boghossian, Paul - Analyticity Reconsidered

Boghossian, Paul - Analyticity Reconsidered

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Boghossian on analytic/synthetic statements.
Boghossian on analytic/synthetic statements.

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Analyticity Reconsidered
STOR
Paul Artin Boghossian
Noûs,
Vol. 30, No.3. (Sep., 1996), pp. 360-391.
Stable URL:http:/ links.j stor.org/sici ?sici=0029-4624%28199609%2930%3A3 %3C360%3AAR %3E2.0.C0%3B2-P
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NODS 30:3 (1996) 360-391
Analyticity Reconsidered
1
PAUL
ARTIN
BoGHOSSIAN
New York University
I
This
is
what many philosophers believe today about the analytic/syntheticdistinction: In his classic early writings
on
analyticity-
in particular, in"Truth by Convention," "Two Dogmas
of
Empiricism,"
and
"Carnap andLogical
Truth"-
Quine showed that there can be
no
distinction betweensentences that are true purely by virtue
of
their meaning and those that arenot. In so doing, Quine devastated the philosophical programs that dependupon a notion
of analyticity-
specifically, the linguistic theory
of
necessarytruth, and the analytic theory of a priori knowledge.Quine himself, so the story continues, went on
to
espouse far moreradical views about meaning, including such theses as meaningindeterminacy and meaning-skepticism. However, it
is
not
necessary, andcertainly
not
appealing, to follow him on this trajectory. As realists aboutmeaning, we may treat Quine's self-contained discussion in the early papers as the basis for a profound
insight
into the nature of meaning facts,rather than any sort
of
rejection of them.
We
may discard the notions ofthe analytic and the a priori without thereby buying in
on
any sort ofunpalatable skepticism about meaning.
Now,
I
don't
know precisely how many philosophers believe all of theabove,
but
I think it would be fair to say
that
it
is
the prevailing
view.
Philosophers with radically differing
commitments-
including radically differing commitments about the nature
of
meaning
itself-
subscribe to it:whatever precisely the correct construal
of
meaning, so they seem to think,Quine has shown that it will
not
sustain a distinction between the analyticand the synthetic. Listen, for example,
to
Bill Lycan:
It
has been nearly forty years since the publication
of
"Two Dogmas of Empiricism." Despite some vigorous rebuttals during that period, Quine's rejection
©
1996 Blackwell Publishers Inc., 238 Main Street, Cambridge,
MA
02142,
USA,
and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 lJF, UK.360
 
ANALYTICITY
RECONSIDERED
361
of
analyticity still
prevails-
in
that
philosophers en masse have either joinedQuine in repudiating the "analytic/synthetic" distinction or remained (howevermutinously) silent and made no claims of analyticity.This comprehensive capitulation
is
somewhat surprising, in light
of
theradical nature of Quine's views
on
linguistic meaning generally. In particular, Idoubt that many philosophers accept his doctrine of the indeterminacy oftranslation
...
Lycan goes
on
to promise that in his paper, he
is
going
to
make a Quinean case against analyticity, without relying
on
the indeterminacy doctrine. For I join the majority in denying both analyticity and indeter-
. 2
mmacy
....
Now,
my disagreement with the prevailing view
is
not
total. There
is
a
notion of
'truth
by virtue of
meaning'-
what I shall call the metaphysical
notion-
that
is
undermined by a set
of
indeterminacy-independent considerations. Since this notion
is
presupposed by the linguistic theory
of
necessity, that project fails and must be abandoned.However, I disagree with the prevailing view's assumption that thosevery same considerations also undermine the analytic explanation
of
the
apriori.
For
it seems to me that an entirely distinct notion
of
analyticityunderlies that explanation, a notion that
is
epistemic in character.
And
incontrast with the metaphysical notion, the epistemic notion can be defended, I think, provided that even a minimal realism about meaning
is
true.
I'm
inclined to hold, therefore, that there can be no effective Quineancritique
of
the a priori
that
does
not
ultimately depend
on
Quine's radicalthesis of the indeterminacy
of
meaning, a thesis that, as I've stressed, manyphilosophers continue to reject.All of this
is
what I propose to argue in this paper. I should emphasizeright
at
the outset, however, that I am
not
a historian and my interest here
is
not
historical. Think of me rather as asking,
on
behalf of all those whocontinue to reject Quine's later skepticism about meaning: Can somethinglike the analytic explanation
of
the a priori be salvaged from the wreckageof the linguistic theory
of
necessity?
Belief, Apriority and Indeterminacy
We
need to begin with some
understanding-
however brief and
informal
of what it
is
to believe something and
of
what it
is
for a belief to count as apriori knowledge.Let's work with a picture of belief that
is
as hospitable as possible toQuine's basic outlook. According
to
this 'linguistic' picture, the objects
of
belief are
not
propositions,
but
rather interpreted sentences: for a person T

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