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!


Against "Carnap and Logical Truth" again

In "Carnap and Logical Truth," Quine makes the following argument (expanded by Harman in his 1967 article "Quine on Meaning and Existence: I" in Review of Metaphysics):

"Consider... the logical truth 'Everything is self-identical'... We can say that it depends for its truth on traits of the language (specifically on the usage of '='), and not on the traits of its subject matter; but we can also say, alternatively, that it depends on an obvious trait, viz. self-identity, of its subject matter, viz. everything. The tendency of our present reflections is that there is no difference."
(Carnap Library of Living Philosophers volume, p.390)

I think, contra Quine, that there might be a clear difference. To say that one thing (e.g. the truth-value of a sentence) depends on another (e.g., the traits of a language, or the traits of its subject matter) usually means that changing the second can change the first; the first is sensitive to changes in the second. E.g. thermometer readings depend on ambient temperature: as the ambient temperature changes, the readings change. This is not to say that 'X depends on Y' means that every change in Y will have a corresponding change in X (that would be perfect correlation), but it does require that there must be some change in Y that results in a change in X. If X stays the same no matter what values Y takes, then X does not depend on Y.

Now think about Quine's (English) sentence 'Everything is self-identical.' If we were to vary the traits of the language in which this is written, e.g. by letting 'self-identical' mean not self-identical but red, then the sentence would be false. This shows that (as Quine happily admits elsewhere) the truth-value of a sentence does depend on the traits of the language in which it is expressed.

But now think about varying the traits of the subject-matter of this sentence, 'viz., everything,' or the world, or however you want to think about it. Assuming we hold the meanings of the words fixed, there is no possible way the world can be that would change the truth-value of this sentence. That is, there is NO change in the way the world is that would change the truth-value of this sentence. (In logic-ese, the sentence is true in all models.) Thus, if the above characterization of dependence is right, then the truth-value of 'Everything is self-identical' does not depend on the traits of its subject matter, viz. everything.


Analytic truth and the Daily Show

Many philosophers have suggested that the sentence 'I am here' is an analytic truth. The view goes back to Kaplan, and it has recently been vigorously defended by Gillian Russell in her recent book Truth in Virtue of Meaning (which I'm currently reading).

On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently (May 11th), there was an exchange that made me wonder whether 'I am here' really is analytically true. On the Daily Show, the correspondents are often presented as 'on location' in Washington DC or Kabul etc., but are actually in the studio standing in front of a backdrop of DC or Kabul. On this show, there was a particularly unconvincing backdrop of DC behind correspondent John Oliver. There was then the following exchange (cleaned up transcript -- the full video is available online; start at about 5:00):

Stewart: "For more on this story, we go to John Oliver, who joins us live from Washington. [Audience laughs] Washington."
Oliver: "That's right, I'm here. [Audience laughs] I'm here."

Oliver seems to be saying that he is in DC. But he's clearly not; he's in New York. So we appear to have an utterance of 'I am here' that is false (which is why the audience laughs), and thus it seems that 'I am here' cannot be analytic.

What to do? Here's one suggestion for how to save at least the truth (if not necessarily the analyticity) of 'I am here': say that 'I am here' is true both literally and in the pretense/fiction, but that what 'I' and 'here' refer to in the fiction differs from what they refer to literally. Literally, 'I' refers to John Oliver, and 'here' to the Daily Show studios in New York. In the pretense, 'I' refers to the journalist character (who happens to be named 'John Oliver'), and 'here' refers to DC. Then, 'I am here' is both true in the pretense and true literally. (The statement 'That's right' is true in the pretense but false literally.)

However, this maneuver does not get us all the way to 'I am here' being analytically true in the pretense -- more details about the meanings of indexicals in fiction would have to be spelled out to get there, and this post is long enough already. (Plus, I haven't thought the matter through.)

Does anyone have other thoughts about this instance of 'I am here'?