This week in the Quine and Carnap class we’re talking about the analyticity debate. I’ve read most of the Carnap pieces for it and wanted to write a short note on them. It is a rough note. One thing that surprised me in Carnap’s response to Quine’s “Carnap on Logical Truth” was how little weight he seems to place on analyticity. Carnap says that if there is a change of meaning of a term along the lines that Quine discusses, then the analytic truths change as well. They change because we have changed languages, from Ln to Ln+1. I had thought that there would be more stability in languages and analytic truths. Rather than switching the whole language and with it the analytic truths, one would just change part of the language, leaving the analytic truths as is.

I’m not sure if I think this is a good response. It trades a difference in meanings for a difference in languages. it makes it hard to see what the the distinction is between speaking a language in which the meanings change and switching between speaking different languages. This seems reasonable enough. I’m not sure what sort of pragmatic ground one could supply for opting for the one rather than the other. I had thought that analytic truth supported the former but Carnap seems to say no.

The relativization to a language prompted the question, legitimately or not: What is the difference between the predicates ‘analytic sentence’, ‘true’ and ‘logically true’? In a way they are similar; they are relativized to a language. Truth doesn’t have a lot of weight put on it by Quine. (I might be wrong here. I’m going to talk to someone about that tomorrow.) He mentions the use of it to generalize about linguistic items. Analytic sentences are a genus of the species of truth, as Quine says, as are logical truths. Logical truths are true in virtue of logical form though. Analytic truths are true in virtue of meaning, which surely means that they are true in virtue of the meanings in that structural configuration. Not all sentences with those meanings are true nor are all sentences with that structure true.

What extra do we signify when calling a sentence analytic? It isn’t a greater commitment to its truth. That can be abandoned readily. Carnap says the analytic sentences aren’t ones that must be held come what may. If there is recalcitrant experience we can always switch our language to a similar one in which certain sentences are no longer analytic. A change in analytic sentences is a change in meaning though, so it doesn’t seem like much can be made of truth in virtue of those meanings; they are too fluid.

At this point I’m a little confused about what Carnap is maintaining in opposition to Quine. In “Carnap, Quine and Logical Truth,” Isaacson gives an interpretation of the analyticity debate that puts little distance between Quine and Carnap’s ultimate positions. When I read it, this seemed rather surprising. After reading Quine and Carnap’s contributions, it seems pretty close to the truth.

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