From a phono-logical point of view: Neutralizing Quine's argument against analyticity

Synthese 150 (1):15 - 39 (2006)
Though largely unnoticed, in “Two Dogmas” Quine (1951, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, Philosophical Review 60, 20–43. Reprinted in From a Logical Point of View, 20–46) himself invokes a distinction: a distinction between logical and analytic truths. Unlike analytic statements equating ‘bachelor’ with ‘unmarried man’, strictly logical tautologies relating two word-tokens of the same word-type, e.g., ‘bachelor’ and ‘bachelor’ are true merely in virtue of basic phonological form, putatively an exclusively non-semantic function of perceptual categorization or brute stimulus behavior. Yet natural language phonemic categorization is not entirely free of interpretive semantic considerations. “Phonemic reductionism” in both its linguistic (Bloch 1953, Contrast, Language 29, 59–61) and behavioral (Quine 1990, The Phoneme’s Long Shadow, Emics and Etics: The Insider/Outsider Debate, T. Headland, K. Pike and M. <span class='Hi'>Harris</span>, (eds.), Newbury Park, CA, Sage Publications, 164–167) guise is false. The semantic basis of phonological equivalence, however, has repercussions vis-à-vis Quine’s critique of analyticity. A consistent rejection of meaning-based equivalencies eliminates not only analyticity, but imposes a form of phonological eliminativism too. Phonological eliminativism is the reductio result of applying Quinean meaning skepticism to the phonological typing of natural language. But unlike analyticity, phonology is presumably not subject to philosophical dismissal. The semantic basis of natural language phonology serves to neutralize Quine’s argument against analyticity: without the semantics of meaning, more than just synonymy is lost; basic phonology must also be forfeited. Let’s begin with the fact that even Quine has to admit that it is possible for two tokens of the same orthographic type to be synonymous, for that much is presupposed by his own account of logical truth. Paul Boghossian (1999, 343).
Keywords Philosophy   Philosophy   Epistemology   Logic   Metaphysics   Philosophy of Language
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