The following must have been addressed already in the literature, but I'm going to mention it anyway--perhaps a better-informed reader can point me in the direction of the relevant research. W.V.O. Quine offers the following characterization of logical truth
The logical truths are those true sentences which involve only logical words essentially. What this means is that any other words, though they may also occur in a logical truth (as witness 'Brutus,' 'kill,' and 'Caesar' in 'Brutus killed or did not kill Caesar'), can be varied at will without engendering falsity. ("Carnap and Logical Truth," §2)
All I wanted to mention here is that Alfred Tarski had already shown, in 1936's "On the Concept of Logical Consequence," that Quine's characterization is a necessary condition for a sentence to be a logical truth, but not a sufficient one. For example, if one is using an impoverished language that (i) only has proper names for things over five feet tall, and (ii) only has predicates applying only to things over five feet tall, then the sentence 'George W. Bush is over five feet tall' will be a logical truth -- because no matter what name from this impoverished language we substitute for 'George W. Bush' or what predicate we substitute for 'over 5 feet tall' in this sentence, the resulting sentence will be true.
Now some historical questions: did Quine think his condition was sufficient, or just necessary? (I quickly checked "Truth by Convention," and I didn't find any conclusive evidence that he considered it sufficient.) If Quine does
consider this a proper definition of logical truth, how does he/ would he answer Tarski's objection? -- and/or why doesn't Quine simply adopt Tarski's definition of logical truth, viz. 'truth in all models'?
(You might think Tarski's objection shouldn't count for much, since I used a very contrived language to make the point against Quine. In Tarski's defense, however, (a) assuming that every
object has a name in our language also
seems somewhat artificial, and (b) Tarski proved (elsewhere) that a single language cannot contain names for all (sets of) real numbers (See "On Definable Sets of Real Numbers," reprinted in Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics
Labels: history of analytic, logic, Quine, Tarski