Re: [quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity

  • From: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2010 14:07:00 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Neil & Martin:
Well, here I am advocating analyticity, and the statement "all mammals are 
vertebrates" struck me not as analytic, but rather synthetic, albeit 
universally true on this planet. Maybe mammals are defined within zoology as 
vertebrates whose female individuals possess mammary glands; in that case, I 
agree. But, if the definition of mammal is an animal with mammary glands and 
vertebrates have a spine, then, well, it could be that someone will turn up a 
spineless animal, like an abalone, that nurses its young.
Sometimes informal or prescientific terminology gets converted for use through 
formal definition. Water could be the stuff that Thales thought it was, but 
now, it's two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms in a molecule.

--- On Thu, 9/23/10, Martin N Brampton <martin.lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: Martin N Brampton <martin.lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: [quickphilosophy] Re: Fodor on Concepts IV: Circularity
To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Thursday, September 23, 2010, 1:55 PM


I can see your point, Neil, but am not convinced. What you are talking 
about looks to me to be scientific practice rather than the meaning of 

It is possible for scientists to choose to define words in such a way 
that certain statements (such as your example) appear inescapable. At 
least for a while.

But general usage refuses to be bound by such principles - a prime 
example is the word "cusp" which to me has a very specific meaning, but 
latterly has become every writer's favourite word in apparently 
arbitrary circumstances.

And even scientific usage is liable to slide over time.

Despite my disgust over the misuse of "cusp" lexicographers will no 
doubt alter their definitions to match current usage.

Although in many cases I might deplore changing usage, it is also true 
that it is the seemingly infinite malleability of language that is its 
power and delight.

iro3isdx wrote:

> But within science, "all mammals are
> vertebrates" seems clearly analytic.
> Regards,
> Neil

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