new draft on analytic truth

I've just finished a draft of a short paper (<3000 words) that asks: are there any sentences whose meaning suffices for their truth? Many post-Quineans say no; the paper argues that, for sentences expressing logical truths, the answer is yes.

The paper can be downloaded here. I would really appreciate all comments great and small. Thanks!


At 22/6/09, Anonymous Jonathan Livengood said...

This is a nice piece. I have two questions. First, why do you insist on using the old water-is-H2O schtick? (Is something's being H2O really sufficient for it to be water? What about temperature and pressure? Is ice water? Is steam?) I'd be happier if you had an original, convincing example.

Second, I'm not convinced that claims about sufficiency should not depend on whether or not Excluded Middle is a genuine logical truth. (I'm not convinced that they *should* so depend either, I just don't know what to think, here.) Could you say a bit more about why you think this would be bad?

At 23/6/09, Blogger Greg Frost-Arnold said...

Hi Jonathan --

Thanks a lot for taking a look at this. I hope you're enjoying the summer in Pittsburgh.

re:1. I appealed to the hackneyed water is H2O business simply because it is generally understood/ granted in the philosophy community what that example is supposed to do/ show, and I wanted something uncontentious, that also serves as a sort of abbreviation.

I probably should explicitly say in the paper something like 'If you don't buy this example as a genuine case of a sufficient condition, feel free to substitute your own -- because many people (including me) share your concerns about this particular water/H2O example.

2. I basically agree with you about the point at the very end of the paper; it's the bit in the paper I feel least comfortable about. I guess I just think it 'would be bad' if we had no knowledge of any sufficient conditions, since (1) we take ourselves (I think) to have knowledge of _some_ claims of the form X suffices for Y. On the other hand, perhaps we SHOULD be skeptics about our knowledge of sufficient conditions (and this little argument shows why); I don't have a further argument for why we shouldn't be such skeptics. (2) Also, it strikes me as counterintuitive that sufficient conditions in physics, chemistry, or whatever should depend on the results of debates in the philosophy of logic. Again, maybe they should be so dependent, and I don't have a further argument against that.

But this is just repeating what I wrote in the paper, in slightly different terms. Thanks again for reading this!

At 1/10/09, Blogger Greg Frost-Arnold said...

Note to self: Chapter 3 of Williamson's The Philosophy of Philosophy must be taken into account here. Williamson unreservedly accepts the Boghossian argument, even quoting it, but then says 'Of course, the meaning of an analytic sentence does suffice for its truth.' So I've got some work to do (or perhaps a paper to scrap).


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