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28 JULY, 2017 (MAINS)



Q1. Elucidate Quine’s arguments to show that analyticity is not synonymity. (2015/15)


Please write the answer in comments section

  • Umesh Sachin

    In Quine’s initial arguments against the analytic-synthetic distinction, he seeks to cast doubt on the idea that there is a notion of meaning which is clear enough to use in defining a notion of analyticity. Here too a crucial role is played by holism. One apparently clear conception of meaning is that the meaning of a sentence is given by the experiences which would confirm it; holism, however, implies that the idea of confirmation does not apply to individual sentences, considered in isolation from the theories of which they are parts.
    Quine’s scepticism about the idea of meaning is much criticized. We will mention two criticisms. First, what standards of clarity is he employing, when he says that the notion of analyticity is insufficiently clear? The answer, not explicit in , is that the standards are those indicated by our discussion in the previous section; Quine is asking for an explanation which is acceptable by his naturalistic standards. Such an explanation would proceed in terms of the way in which language is used, behavioural terms. It would not presuppose an idea of meaning, and would use such ideas as definition or convention only in ways which are justified by the most literal sense of those terms. Second, some responses to Quine’s position here argue that it has obviously absurd consequences, such as that meaningful discourse would be impossible or that we could not understand our language.
    But Quine’s scepticism about meanings does not lead to any scepticism about meaningfulness. If we think of meaningfulness as a matter of having a meaning then we may think that our words cannot be meaningful unless there are meanings. But such a way of thinking is, Quine claims, quite misleading. In , he offers a rough and ready behavioural account of meaningfulness; it is clear from the way the account proceeds that the success of something along those lines would be of no help at all in defining synonymy or analyticity.