Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 11/17/2014

In "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", Quine put forward the idea that so called necessary truths are merely those propositions we would be most reluctant to give up. For Quine, no statement, not even a law of logic, is "immune to revision". Quantum logic, introduced by Garrett Birkhoff and John von Neumann, abandons the law of distributivity from classical logic in order to reconcile some of the apparent inconsistencies of classical Boolean logic with the facts related to measurement and observation in quantum mechanics. Quine makes the case that the empirical study of physics has furnished apparently credible grounds for replacing classical logic by quantum logic, rather as Newtonian physics gave way to Einsteinian physics. The idea that logical laws are not immune to revision in the light of empirical evidence has provoked an intense debate.

Like other Analytic philosophers before him, Quine accepted the definition of "analytic" as "true in virtue of meaning alone". Analytic truth defined as a true statement derivable from a tautology by putting synonyms for synonyms are near Kant's account of analytic truth as a truth whose negation is a contradiction.  Quine begins by making a distinction between two different classes of analytic statements.
  1. The first one is called logically true and has the form: No unmarried man is married A sentence with that form is true independent of the interpretation of "man" and "married", so long as the logical particles "no", "un-" and "is" have their ordinary English meaning.
  2. The statements in the second class have the form: No bachelor is married.A statement with this form can be turned into a statement with form (1) by changing synonyms with synonyms, in this case "bachelor" with "unmarried man". The notion of the second form of analyticity leans on the notion of synonymy, which Quine believes is in as much need of clarification as analyticity.
So for the sentence "All and only all bachelors are unmarried men" to be analytic, the terms 'bachelor' and 'unmarried man' should be synonymous (analyticity is explained by synonymity). And for two words to be cognitively synonymous, they must be interchangeable in every possible instance of these words, and the referents are necessarily identical. (synonymity is explaind by necessaity)

So, from the above example, it can be seen that in order for us to distinguish between analytic and synthetic we must appeal to synonymy; at the same time, we should also understand synonymy with interchangeability. However, such a condition to understand synonymy is not enough so we not only argue that the terms should be interchangeable, but necessarily so. And to explain this logical necessity we must appeal to analyticity once again, which means we have gotten full circle. Given any one term in the family-analyticity, synonymy, necessity-we could define the others. But since we can't explain any of the terms except by using the others, and since Quine thinks that all are equally in need of explanation, he concludes that the analytic/synthetic distinction, along with the necessary/contingent and the apriori/aposteriori distinctions, must be rejected.

But Quine's argument is effective only against positions that accept two of the positivists' fundamental theses:
  1. Tl . All necessary (and all apriori ) truths are analytic.
  2. T2 . Analyticity is needed to explain and legitimate necessity so a prioricity.
It is only when these two theses are accepted that Quine's argument holds. It is not a problem that the notion of necessity is presupposed by the notion of analyticity if necessity can be explained without analyticity. Both theses were accepted by most philosophers when Quine published Two Dogmas. Today however, both statements are to be antiquated.
  1. For T1, although some truths are both necessary and apriori, there are many examples of each that are not examples of the other. As for analyticity, opinions vary; the analytic truths are a subset of the truths that are both necessary and apriori.
  2. For T2, necessity and aprioricity are, respectively, metaphysical and epistemological notions that can stand on their own.
Kripke argued identity is not a relation that holds between names. It is a relation that holds between an object and itself. So when someone accurately claims that two names refer to the same object, the claim is necessarily true, even though it may be known a posteriori (can be known only through empirical investigation). For example, the proposition that water is H2O (if it is true). According to Kripke, this statement is necessarily true (since water and H2O are the same thing, they are identical in every possible world, and truths of identity are logically necessary) and a posteriori (since it is known only through empirical investigation). Also it is analytic because analysis of H20 says that it is water. Kripke's controversial analysis of naming as contingent and a priori would best fit into Kant's epistemological framework by calling it "analytic a posteriori".

Another example is the sentence, "the evening star" (Hesperus) is "the morning star" (Phosphorus). Here is an overview of the argument:
(P1) Hesperus is a proper name that refers to the evening star. Phosphorus is also a proper name and it refers to the morning star. They pick out the same thing in all possible worlds in which the thing exists.
(P2) Hesperus is Phosphorus. They are, in reality, two different names that refer to the same thing: Venus. This is necessarily true.
(P3) The fact that Hesperus is Phosphorus was discovered by empirical observation. So it is a posteriori knowledge.
(P4) Therefore, it is possible for knowledge obtained a posteriori to be necessary.
(P5) It is analytic because the predicate concept is contained in its subject concept.

With the example “Hesperus is Phosphorus”, Kripke seems to have provided a successful counter-example to the Kantian claims:
(a) P is a priori iff P is necessary.
(b) P is a posteriori iff P is contingent.

And also he provided a counter example to Quine's claim that the terms analyticity, synonymy, necessity are circularaly definable, so have to be rejected. Because now A prioricity, analyticity, and necessity have since been more clearly separated from each other. Although some truths are both necessary and apriori, there are many examples of each that are not examples of the other. Thus, the relationship between aprioricity, necessity, and analyticity is not easy to discern. the a priori/a posteriori distinction is epistemological, the analytic/synthetic distinction is linguistic, and the necessary/contingent distinction is metaphysical.

Hilary Putnam comments on the significance of Kripke’s counter-examples, ”Since Kant there has been a big split between philosophers who thought that all necessary truths were analytic and philosophers who thought that some necessary truths were synthetic a priori. But none of these philosophers thought that a (metaphysically) necessary truth could fail to be a priori”.

In Word and Object, Quine’s behaviorist position forces him to conclude that since we learn language by observing the linguistic behavior of others, the only facts relevant to determining linguistic meaning must be publicly observable behavioral facts—in particular, facts about stimulus meaning. So language is viewed as a set of verbal responses to verbal and non-verbal stimuli, so claims about meaning and reference cannot be given the empirical support needed to justify accepting them. If the totality of physical truths leaves it undetermined whether a certain word means such and such, or refers to so and so, then the claim that it does mean such and such, or that it does refer to so and so, is not a genuine truth.

Since there are no significant truths about meaning and reference, the ordinary notions of meaning and reference have no place in scientific descriptions of the world, and so should be replaced with scientifically respectable substitutes. And since only facts that determine meaning could determine translation, then nothing determines translation either (these facts don’t determine which translations of our words are correct). Thus, Quine is able to deduce the indeterminacy of translation from his behaviorism plus the underdetermination of translation by data.

Quine uses a thought experiment to illustrate his view. He places a linguist in an imaginary community with an unknown language called Jungle. It is the linguist's task to make sense of the language by means of radical translation. Radical translation is a term coined by Quine to describe the situation in which a linguist is attempting to translate a completely unknown language, which is unrelated to his own, and is therefore forced to rely solely on the observed behavior of its speakers in relation to their environment. So the linguist must follow a process of observing the natives' utterances in combination with the present situation and environment. If the native utters 'gavagai', and the linguist sees him pointing at a rabbit, he will have a clue to the meaning of the word 'gavagai'.

But why then is translation indeterminate? due to the fact that we are not sure if 'gavagai' refers to a rabbit, rabbit ears, ‘undetached rabbit part’, ‘fusion of all rabbits’, 'temporal stage of a rabbit’, 'the universal ‘rabbithood’ etc. but even more still with the fact that there is no objective criterion or matter to be right or wrong about. Objective valid translation relations between sentences don't exist. The finding, then, that gavagai means rabbit is not really a translation, but merely a common sense interpretation. The problem is not that we cannot translate, but that there is no objectively right translation. Quine's main point is that we must abandon the idea that the translation of two languages into each other can be exact and that there is only one way to do so. It is important to note that indeterminacy not only occur in the course of translating something from a native, unknown language into a familiar one, but among every language. This holds also for languages which are quite similar, like German and Dutch, and even for speakers of the same language. One cannot with certainty say, what exactly his/her conversational partner refers to, when that person is talking about a rabbit.

Indeterminacy of translation - The three indeterminacies are:

  1. Inscrutability of reference: The first refers to indeterminacy in interpreting individual words or sub-sentences, the claim that in trying to find out to which object a certain word (also sentence, sign etc.) of a language refers, there is never only one single possibility, the parts of the sentence will change in what they reference, but they will nonetheless maintain the meaning of the sentence as a whole. The referential relation is inscrutable(impossible to understand), because it is subject to the background language and ontological commitments of the speaker. The inscrutability of reference is also used in the sorites paradox. The classic example for the sorites paradox mentions a heap of wheat grains of which grains are taken away one by one, until at one time there's only a single grain left. This raises the question of where the line is to be drawn. How long does the heap remain a heap, are two grains still a heap? When one is talking about a heap s/he obviously no proper definition of it ready to hand[clarification needed]. The referential object of heap is inscrutable, in the sense that there is no such thing and it is not even necessary for the use of the term heap
  2. Holophrastic indeterminacy: The second refers to indeterminacy in entire sentences or more extensive portions of discourse, the claim that there is more than one correct method of translating sentences where the two translations differ not merely in the meanings attributed to the sub-sentential parts of speech but also in the net import of the whole sentence. Quine considers the methods available to a field linguist attempting to translate a hitherto unknown language he calls Arunta. He suggests that there are always different ways one might break a sentence into words, and different ways to distribute functions among words. Any hypothesis of translation could be defended only by appeal to context, by determining what other sentences a native would utter. But the same indeterminacy appears there: any hypothesis can be defended if one adopts enough compensatory hypotheses about other parts of the language.
  3. The underdetermination of scientific theory: Quine's assessment that evidence alone does not dictate the choice of a scientific theory. For example, if we are proposed a philosophical theory, we can never definitely characterize the ontological commitments of it. The most we can do, is to adapt this theory to our current background philosophy, that is the theory of which we have already accepted the ontological commitments.

In his indeterminacy of translation theory Quine claims that, if one is to translate a language, there are always several alternative translations, of which none is more correct than the other. A radical translation is therefore impossible. 

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