[quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts II: First argument against BCP

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 25 Sep 2010 20:00:09 -0000

Thanks, much, Larry.  I'm looking forward to reading the Rey piece.  & please 
feel free to post whenever you have a chance--even if it's only intermittently. 
 We're happy to take whatever you can spare!  


--- In quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "Larry Tapper" <larry_tapper@...> wrote:
> Hello all,
> I'be been lurking but not posting because I haven't kept up with the 
> Tractatus readings. And whereof one doesn't know nothing, one should remain 
> silent. Or something like that.
> Five weeks ago, Walto wrote:
> W> Nice post, Ron, but I hope Larry stops in to defend Quine on analyticity 
> here...or Budd to defend Fodor.
> I didn't get around to jumping in, but I see that analyticity is still a hot 
> topic. 
> I wouldn't call myself exactly a defender of Quine, beacuse his radical 
> behaviorism strikes me as a kind of weakly motivated ascetic discipline, if 
> not actually a mistake. But I find his work fascinating anyway.
> Ron Allen mentioned a long time ago that he thought Grice and Strawson had 
> effectively refuted Quine. About this I just want to say that there's a stock 
> Quinian answer to that, which is that the strongest arguments advanced by G 
> and S appeal to the notion of "meaning change", which puts us smack dab in 
> the middle of the evil Circle of Synonymy. An appeal to meaning change cuts 
> no ice with someone who thinks that individual word meanings are, as Quine 
> puts it, "creatures of darkness".
> Also there were plenty of philosophers such as Davidson who read Grice and 
> Strwason and still thought Quine had done serious damage to the a/s 
> distinction. So we can't really say G and S refuted Quine in the *historical* 
> sense.  
> I think Georges Rey did a nice job in his Stanford article on 
> analytic/synthetic:
> http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/analytic-synthetic/
> Rey mentions many points on both sides. Here's one I think is very relevant 
> from the point of view of Quine's critics:
> -----------------------Rey in Stanford----------------------------
> Here, once again, Quine invoked his metaphor of the web of belief, claiming 
> that sentences are more or less revisable, depending upon how "peripheral" or 
> "central" their position is in the web. The appearance of sentences being 
> "analytic" is simply due to their being, like the laws of logic and 
> mathematics, comparatively central, and so are given up, if ever, only under 
> extreme pressure from the peripheral forces of experience. But no sentence is 
> absolutely immune from revision; all sentences are thereby empirical, and 
> none is actually analytic.
> There are a number of problems with this explanation. In the first place, 
> centrality and the appearance of analyticity don't seem to be so closely 
> related. As Quine (1960) himself noted, there are are plenty of central, 
> unrevisable beliefs that don't seem analytic (e.g. The earth has existed for 
> more than five years,, Some people have eyes, Mass-energy is conserved), and 
> many standard examples of what seems analytic aren't seriously central: 
> "Bachelors are unmarried" and "Aunts are sisters" are notoriously trivial, 
> and could easily be revised if someone really cared. 
> Secondly, it's not mere unrevisability that seems distinctive of the 
> analytic, but rather a certain sort of unintelligibility: for all the 
> unrevisability of "Some people have eyes," it's perfectly possible to imagine 
> it to be false. What's peculiar about the analytic is that denials of it 
> often seem unintelligible: we can't seriously imagine a married bachelor. 
> Indeed, far from unrevisability explaining analyticity, it would seem to be 
> analyticity that explains unrevisability: the only reason one balks at 
> denying bachelors are unmarried is that that's just what "bachelor" means! 
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> This is one line of criticism I tend to agree with. It's sometimes said that 
> Quine proposed replacing the notion of analyticity with the notion of 
> centrality. That would be an attractively simple proposal,  but it doesn't 
> really seem to work for the reasons Rey gives in the passage quoted above.
> As for the case against analyticity, I couldn't put it better than Rey.
> This may be a kind of hit-and-run post because I am going off on a one-week 
> trip. But I hope it spurs some readers to look at the Rey article, which I 
> think does justice to the complexity of the issues. 
> Best, Larry

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