Carnap and Quine on some analytic-synthetic distinctions


I want to analyse the Quine-Carnap discussion on analyticity with regard to logical, mathematical and set-theoretical statements. In recent years, the renewed interest in Carnap’s work has shed a new light on the analytic-synthetic debate. If one fully appreciates Carnap’s conventionalism, one sees that there was not a metaphysical debate on whether there is an analytic-synthetic distinction, but rather a controversy on the expedience of drawing such a distinction. However, on this view, there can be no longer a single analytic-synthetic distinction, because several kinds of statements could be regarded as analytic (L-determinate). L-equivalence between extra-logical linguistic predicates has already been heavily debated. The recent consensus states that Quine’s rejection of this analytic-synthetic is pragmatically grounded in his linguistic behaviorism. However, Carnap’s logical frameworks also contain other kinds of statements, and it is worthwhile to compare both Quine and Carnap’s grounds for considering these statements as analytic or not analytic. First, I will discuss logical statements. I will argue that Quine draws a very sharp distinction between first order logic and set theory, which should be regarded as a (pragmatic) analytic-synthetic distinction (as Quine admits in an interview, see Theoria, 40, 1994, p. 199). In fact, Quine’s major worry is whether identity statements are analytic. Second, I will discuss mathematical statements. In Carnap’s Foundations of Logic and Mathematics, it is clear that mathematical statements are analytic. For Quine, all mathematical statements are reducible to set-theoretical statements. Third, I discuss the analyticity of set-theoretical statements. For Quine, the membership predicate should be regarded as an interpreted extra-logical predicate. Quine’s work in set theory and his later philosophy of set theory naturally lead to the view that set-theoretical statements cannot be analytic. A major complication for the Quine-Carnap comparison is that Carnap has no elaborate reflections on set theory, while the influence of set theory on Quine’s views can hardly be underestimated. I conclude with some lessons for the contemporary debate on analyticity.



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Lieven Decock
VU University Amsterdam

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