Analytic Philosophy: A philosophical movement that seeks the solution of philosophical problems in the analysis of propositions or sentences —called also philosophical analysis. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
The school of analytic philosophy has dominated academic philosophy in various regions, most notably Great Britain and the United States, since the early twentieth century. It originated around the turn of the twentieth century as G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell broke away from what was then the dominant school in the British universities, Absolute Idealism. Many would also include Gottlob Frege as a founder of analytic philosophy in the late 19th century. When Moore and Russell articulated their alternative to Idealism, they used a linguistic idiom, frequently basing their arguments on the “meanings” of terms and propositions. Additionally, Russell believed that the grammar of natural language often is philosophically misleading, and that the way to dispel the illusion is to re-express propositions in the ideal formal language of symbolic logic, thereby revealing their true logical form. Because of this emphasis on language, analytic philosophy was widely, though perhaps mistakenly, taken to involve a turn toward language as the subject matter of philosophy, and it was taken to involve an accompanying methodological turn toward linguistic analysis. Thus, on the traditional view, analytic philosophy was born in this linguistic turn. The linguistic conception of philosophy was rightly seen as novel in the history of philosophy. For this reason analytic philosophy is reputed to have originated in a philosophical revolution on the grand scale—not merely in a revolt against British Idealism, but against traditional philosophy on the whole. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Analytic philosophy (sometimes analytical philosophy) is a style of philosophy that became dominant in English-speaking countries at the beginning of the 20th century. In the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia, the majority of university philosophy departments today identify themselves as "analytic" departments.
The term "analytic philosophy" can refer to one of several things:
*As a philosophical practice, it is characterized by an emphasis on argumentative clarity and precision, often making use of formal logic, conceptual analysis, and to a lesser degree, mathematics and the natural sciences.
*As a historical development, analytical philosophy refers to certain developments in early 20th-century philosophy that were the historical antecedents of the current practice. Central figures in this historical development are Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. E. Moore, Gottlob Frege, and the logical positivists. In this more specific sense, analytic philosophy is identified with specific philosophical traits (many of which are rejected by many contemporary analytic philosophers), such as:
The logical-positivist principle that there are not any specifically philosophical facts and that the object of philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. This may be contrasted with the traditional foundationalism, which considers philosophy to be a special science (i.e. the discipline of knowledge) that investigates the fundamental reasons and principles of everything. Consequently, many analytic philosophers have considered their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences. This is an attitude that begins with John Locke, who described his work as that of an "underlabourer" to the achievements of natural scientists such as Newton. During the twentieth century, the most influential advocate of the continuity of philosophy with science was Willard Van Orman Quine.
The principle that the logical clarification of thoughts can be achieved only by analysis of the logical form of philosophical propositions. The logical form of a proposition is a way of representing it (often using the formal grammar and symbolism of a logical system), to reduce it to simpler components if necessary, and to display its similarity with all other propositions of the same type. However, analytic philosophers disagree widely about the correct logical form of ordinary language.
The neglect of generalized philosophical systems in favour of more restricted inquiries stated rigorously, or ordinary language.
According to a characteristic paragraph by Russell:
Modern analytical empiricism [...] differs from that of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume by its incorporation of mathematics and its development of a powerful logical technique. It is thus able, in regard to certain problems, to achieve definite answers, which have the quality of science rather than of philosophy. It has the advantage, in comparison with the philosophies of the system-builders, of being able to tackle its problems one at a time, instead of having to invent at one stroke a block theory of the whole universe. Its methods, in this respect, resemble those of science. I have no doubt that, in so far as philosophical knowledge is possible, it is by such methods that it must be sought; I have also no doubt that, by these methods, many ancient problems are completely soluble.
Jules Vuillemin introduced analytic philosophy to France.
Analytic philosophy is often understood in contrast to other philosophical traditions, most notably continental philosophies such as existentialism and phenomenology, and also Thomism, Indian philosophy, and Marxism.
Pragmatism and Logical Positivism
Logical Positivism: A 20th century philosophical movement holding that all meaningful statements are either analytic or conclusively verifiable or at least confirmable by observation and experiment and that metaphysical theories are therefore strictly meaningless —called also logical empiricism. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Logical positivism and logical empiricism, which together formed neopositivism, was a movement in Western philosophy that embraced verificationism, an approach that sought to legitimize philosophical discourse by placing it on a basis shared with empirical sciences' best examples, such as Einstein's general theory of relativity. In the verificationist theory of knowledge, only statements verifiable either by deductive logic or direct observation would be cognitively meaningful. Efforts to convert philosophy to this new scientific philosophy were intended to prevent confusion rooted in unclear language and unverifiable claims. The Berlin Circle and the Vienna Circle—groups of philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians in Berlin and in Vienna—propounded logical positivism starting in the late 1920s. (Wikipedia)
Logical positivism, also called logical empiricism, a philosophical movement that arose in Vienna in the 1920s and was characterized by the view that scientific knowledge is the only kind of factual knowledge and that all traditional metaphysical doctrines are to be rejected as meaningless. A brief treatment of logical positivism follows. For full treatment, see positivism: Logical positivism and logical empiricism.
Logical positivism differs from earlier forms of empiricism and positivism (e.g., that of David Hume and Ernst Mach) in holding that the ultimate basis of knowledge rests upon public experimental verification or confirmation rather than upon personal experience. It differs from the philosophies of Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill in holding that metaphysical doctrines are not false but meaningless—that the “great unanswerable questions” about substance, causality, freedom, and God are unanswerable just because they are not genuine questions at all. This last is a thesis about language, not about nature, and is based upon a general account of meaning and of meaninglessness. All genuine philosophy (according to the group that came to be called the Vienna Circle) is a critique of language, and (according to some of its leading members) its result is to show the unity of science—that all genuine knowledge about nature can be expressed in a single language common to all the sciences. (Encyclopædia Britannica)
C.I. Lewis was a contemporary of Rudolph Carnap and actively sought to connect the pragmatist outlook with the logical positivism that was quickly gaining ground in the U.S.
Lewis believes knowledge results from successful application of a priori conceptual schemes to “the given” (Conceptual Pragmatism).
Lewis derived his notion of the given from the undeniable fact that there is “such a thing as experience, the content of which we do not invent and cannot have as we will but merely find” (An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation, p182, C.I. Lewis 1946). Lewis insists that without the given, all knowledge would be wholly without content and arbitrary (Mind and the World Order, p39). Lewis defines the given as “that which remains untouched and unaltered, however it is construed by thought” (p53). No matter what our interests are or how we look at it, the given remains unaffected. At the level of the given, it is the same to all.
Lewis’s approach to the given is phenomenological (in Peirce’s sense of the term). On several occasions, Lewis compares it with the “buzzing, blooming confusion” (the phrase is James’s) on which the infant first opens its eyes. It is the world as it is found before any a priori system has been formed through which it could be interpreted. “The given is in, not before, experience” (Ibid, p55). The given can only be interpreted.
The given should not to be confused with reality. As Lewis puts it, “experience as it comes to us contains not only the real but all the content of illusion, dream, hallucination, and mistake. The given contains both real and unreal, confusingly intermingled”. By applying conceptual systems, we can say that something is real or unreal. Reality, for Lewis, is a conceptual construction created by the human mind to fit its aims within scientific reasoning and its need as a social animal for a “common world”.
The discussion of the given showed that we can have no knowledge of external reality unless we first add something ourselves. To be able to see an object, we must connect what is directly presented to us as given with a certain structure within which what is given can be understood. What we add ourselves, Lewis calls the “a priori”. Lewis sees a sharp divide between the a priori and the given. Whereas the given is wholly unaffected by what we may think, the a priori is wholly a product of thought; the a priori is analytic. (This division between the given and the a priori was later criticized by W.V.O. Quine). Having thus separated the a priori from the given, Lewis next sought to bridge this divide pragmatically through the interpretative act. For him, it is in the interpretative act that the a priori and the given are brought together.
The a priori does not anticipate the given, but our attitude to it. Far from being absolute, the a priori is pragmatically established, which means invariably that there are alternatives to it.
Lewis sees the a priori as distinctly analytic, thereby rejecting the Kantian notion of the synthetic a priori (Mind and the World Order, p231). In contrast to Kant, Lewis holds that a priori knowledge cannot tell us anything about the given; it only gives us the means through which we can give, for ourselves, some order to the given.
Interpretation involves the application of a priori conceptual systems to the given, thereby imposing an order upon it. In Lewis’s view, knowledge, or understanding, commences “when some conceptual pattern of relationships is imposed upon the given by interpretation”. Lewis thereby rejects the copy-theory of knowledge. We do not attain knowledge when we somehow furnish ourselves with a copy of what is presented. Rather, we know something when we can proceed from what is given to something that is not. Again, the aim of knowledge is not to copy the given, but to cope with it.
Charles W. Morris
Charles W. Morris, a student of Mead at Chicago who, like Lewis, actively sought to connect pragmatism with positivism.
Morris aims to show that pragmatism and logical positivism are “essentially complementary”, and that “much is to be expected from a conscious cross-fertilization of the two” (Logical Positivism, Pragmatism, and Scientific Empiricism, p23, Morris, Charles W. 1977).
According to Morris, the connection between the two tendencies is strongest where they address the issue of meaning. … Following Peirce’s triadic approach, Morris observes,
Symbols have three types of relation: to a person or persons, to other symbols, and to objects; meaning has three corresponding dimensions or meanings, namely the biological aspect (meaning as expectation), the formalist aspect (meaning as that expressible in a particular speech), and the empirical aspect (meaning as functional substitutability for objects). (Ibid p271)
Here we find the root of the distinction between Pragmatics (the relation of symbols to persons), syntax (the relation of symbols to other symbols), and semantics (the relation of symbols to objects).
The first part, where the meaning of a symbol is related to the expectations of its users, is addressed by the pragmatists; whereas, the second part, where the meaning of the symbol is related to the grammatical structure of a language, is addressed by the logical positivists.
Carnap accepts Morris’s triadic distinction between pragmatics, semantics, and syntax, adding, with an explicit reference to Peirce, that a complete theory of language must address all three. As Carnap explains in his Introduction to Semantics,
In semiotic, the general theory of signs, three fields are distinguished. An investigation of a language belongs to pragmatics if explicit reference to a speaker is made; it belongs to semantics if designata but not speakers are referred to; it belongs to syntax if neither speakers nor designata but only expressions are dealt with.
Rudolf Carnap (1891 – 1970) German-born American philosopher of logical positivism. He made important contributions to logic, the analysis of language, the theory of probability, and the philosophy of science. (Encyclopædia Britannica)
Rudolf Carnap was an influential philosopher who was active in central Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. He was a leading member of the Vienna Circle and probably the most important advocate for logical positivism and the program of the Vienna Circle, at least in the United States. Carnap wrote an enormous amount, and he (and Carl Hempel) did more to work out the details of the logical positivist program and thereby promote that program in America and elsewhere than anyone else.
Carnap's work and method were strongly characterized by an emphasis on clarity, and a conviction that clarity is achieved through expressing things in symbolic form. He himself wrote that from an early age:
"I began to apply symbolic notation, now more frequently in the Principia form than in Frege's, in my own thinking about philosophical problems or in the formulation of axiom systems. When I considered a concept or a proposition occurring in a scientific or philosophical discussion, I thought I understood it clearly only if I felt that I could express it, if I wanted to, in symbolic language." (Qtd. in Schilpp 1984, 11)
(New World Encyclopedia)
"The function of logical analysis is to analyse all knowledge, all assertions of science and of everyday life, in order to make clear the sense of each such assertion and the connections between them. One of the principal tasks of the logical analysis of a given proposition is to find out the method of verification for that proposition." — Carnap's Philosophy and Logical Syntax, pp 9-10.
In 1934 he wrote Logical Syntax of Language that was to make him the most famous logical positivist and member of the Vienna Circle. In this work, Carnap advanced his Principle of Tolerance, according to which there is not any such thing as a "true" or "correct" logic or language. One is free to adopt whatever form of language is useful for one's purposes.
Philosophy is to be replaced by the logic of science – that is to say, by the logical analysis of the concepts and sentences of the sciences, for the logic of science is nothing other than the logical syntax of the language of science. — Carnap's Logical Syntax of Language, Foreword.
According to this view, the sentences of metaphysics are pseudo-sentences which on logical analysis are proved to be either empty phrases or phrases which violate the rules of syntax. Of the so-called philosophical problems, the only questions which have any meaning are those of the logic of science. To share this view is to substitute logical syntax for philosophy. — Carnap's Logical Syntax of Language, p 8.
Since his Vienna years, Carnap had been much concerned also with problems in logic and in the philosophy of language. He held that philosophical perplexities often arise from a misunderstanding or misuse of language and that the way to resolve them is by “logical analysis of language.” On this point, he agreed with the “ordinary language” school of analytic philosophy, which had its origins in England. He differed from it, however, in insisting that more technical issues—e.g., those in the philosophy of science or of mathematics—cannot be adequately dealt with by considerations of ordinary linguistic usage but require clarification by reference to artificially constructed languages that are formulated in logical symbolism and that have their structure and interpretation precisely specified by so-called syntactic and semantic rules. Carnap developed these ideas and the theoretical apparatus for their implementation in a series of works, including Logische Syntax der Sprache (1934; The Logical Syntax of Language) and Meaning and Necessity (1947). Carnap’s interest in artificial languages included advocacy of international auxiliary languages such as Esperanto and Interlingua to facilitate scholarly communication and to further international understanding.
From about 1945 onward, Carnap turned his efforts increasingly to problems of inductive reasoning and of rational belief and decision. His principal aim was to construct a formal system of inductive logic; its central concept, corresponding to that of deductive implication, would be that of probabilistic implication—or, more precisely, a concept representing the degree of rational credibility or of probability that a given body of evidence may be said to confer upon a proposed hypothesis. Carnap presented a rigorous theory of this kind in his Logical Foundations of Probability (1950).
Analytic Philosophy and Pragmatism
Like pragmatism, logical positivism, or logical empiricism, falls within the empiricist tradition, The logical positivists subscribed to the central thesis of the empiricists that only statements about sensory phenomena are genuine, and took this as their guide when discussing meaning, truth, and inquiry. For the logical positivists, meaningful empirical statements come only in two flavors: (1) statements that are cast directly in observational language; and (2) statements that can be reduced to, or translated into, statements that are cast directly in observational language. The translation, or reduction, must abide by the formation and transformation rules of first order predicate logic (what counts as a well-formed sentence, how to derive one sentence from another while preserving truth, etc.)
Carnap’s 1928 Der logische Aufbau der Welt is the most ambitious product of this approach. The aim of the book is to reduce all claims about reality to claims about the given. For Carnap, this means showing how each meaningful statement is in effect a logical construction of so-called observation sentences, which are sentences that capture raw, unanalyzed perceptual data, purportedly without any conceptual pollution.
In light of this, the logical positivists’ answer to the search for meaning is relatively straightforward. The meaning of any statement, words, etc., is the observation statement into which they can be translated, while giving particular attention to the relations between those observation statements.
Modern logic, they think, gives us a perfect and transparent medium by which those relations could be expressed precisely and unambiguously. For the logical positivists, knowledge is a matter of grasping those relations. It is not concerned with the content of our experience – which is private and non-communicated. It is the logical structure that renders concepts inter-subjective. Thus it is not someone’s unique and private experience that constitutes knowledge, but how this experience fits within a larger structure that is communicable.
For the linguistically oriented logical positivists, this comes down to the question of how to relate experience to a language (the medium in which we express and communicate our thought), where “language” is to be interpreted broadly as “a set of symbols which are to be combined in accordance with a definite logical syntax” with the purpose “to mirror or express facts”. For the logical positivists a statement expresses a fact, not by eliciting certain sensations, but through its with the fact. A statement is true if its components correctly reflect the components of the fact it expresses; it is false if they don’t.
This idea of knowledge as a mirror of realty is radically rejected by the pragmatists. It is explicitly criticized by Dewey and later becomes the focal point of Richard Rorty’s criticism of contemporary philosophy in .
Carnap’s Principle of Tolerance
Carnap holds that the role of philosophy is to analyze and clarify the language of science, and to formulate and recommend alternative languages. He holds that there are languages which differ in expressive power, not merely as notational variants. (The difference between intuitionistic logic and classical logic is an important example here, as is the difference between the language of Newtonian mechanics and the language of relativistic mechanics.) He also holds that there is no one correct language. Different languages may be useful for different purposes; it is no part of the philosopher’s job to prescribe this or that language, merely to analyze, to clarify, and to suggest alternatives. This idea has become known as the Principle of Tolerance; from the 1930s on, it is fundamental to Carnap’s view of what philosophy is and how it differs from science. (That there is such a difference is a point which Carnap never questions.)
The Principle of Tolerance requires that, for any language, there be a clear difference between the analytic sentences of the language and its synthetic sentences. The former are (roughly) those which are constitutive of the language: if we change our mind about the truth of such a sentence we have, in effect, adopted a new language. Carnap speaks of a change of this sort as external, since it involves a change of language. A change of mind about an ordinary synthetic sentence is, by contrast, internal, since it takes place within a given language. External changes are a matter for tolerance, whereas internal changes are correct or incorrect, not matters to which we should apply the Principle of Tolerance. For the principle to make sense, each sentence of the language must fall clearly into the one category or the other.
At least as Quine sees the matter, the use of the Principle of Tolerance also requires that analytic sentences be on an entirely different epistemological footing from synthetic sentences. Synthetic sentences are answerable to evidence; analytic sentences are a matter of the choice of language, which does not require theoretical justification.
Verification Principle of Meaning
The logical positivists saw an intimate connection between meaning and verification that went much further than the classic observation that before you can verify a statement you must first know what it means. They maintained the much more radical thesis that questions of meaning and of verification come down to the same. As Carnap puts it in “Testability and Meaning”, to know the meaning of a sentence is to know what it would be for that sentence to be found true. This view entails that “if for two sentences the conditions under which we would have to take them as true are the same, then they have the same meaning” (Testability and Meaning, p420). In brief, for the logical positivists, the meaning of a proposition is its method of verification. This view is known as verificationism, and the logical positivists’ criterion of meaning is called the verification principle. This principle plays a role not unlike that of the pragmatic maxim in pragmatism.
The logical positivists first maintained a strong version of the principle on which a statement is meaningful if and only if it can be conclusively shown true or false by relating it to sensory experiences. To know the meaning of a statement is knowing how to translate it into observation sentences. For example, “This teacup is fragile” would mean “If this teacup is dropped on the floor, it will break”.
This version of the verification principle quickly proved too restrictive. For one thing, it called all statements about the past and about the future meaningless because such statements cannot be conclusively verified. … Later versions of the verification principle relaxed the requirement that for a statement to be meaningful we must be able to conclusively show it to be true or false. It is to this more moderate version of the principle that Carnap subscribed. As Carnap puts it in Testability and Meaning, “If by verification is meant a definitive and final establishment of truth, then no (synthetic) sentence is ever verifiable” (p420). According to Carnap we can only confirm a sentence more and more, thereby increasing our confidence that the sentence is true. For Carnap, a sentence is confirmable if we know what conditions would confirm the sentence. Besides confirmability, Carnap also introduced the stronger notion of testability. A sentence is testable if we can produce experiments at will that would lead to its confirmation or dis confirmation. The notion of confirmability is wider, as not all sentences that are confirmable are also testable. Carnap distinguishes four types of empiricism depending on whether we require that every synthetic sentence is testable, completely testable, confirmable, or completely confirmable. Carnap himself favors the third and most liberal type.
The basic thesis of empiricism, in a familiar but quite vague formulation, is that all concepts and beliefs concerning the world ultimately derive from immediate experience. In some of his most important writings, Carnap sought, in effect, to give this idea a clear and precise interpretation. Setting aside, as a psychological rather than a philosophical problem, the question of how human beings arrive at their ideas about the world, he proceeded to construe empiricism as a systematic-logical thesis about the evidential grounding of empirical knowledge. To this end, he gave the issue a characteristically linguistic turn by asking how the terms and sentences that, in scientific or in everyday language, serve to express assertions about the world are related to those terms and sentences by which the data of immediate experience can be described. The empiricist thesis, as construed and defended by Carnap, then asserts that the terms and sentences of the first kind are “reducible” to those of the second kind in a clearly specifiable sense. Carnap’s conception of the relevant sense of reducibility, which he always stated in precise logical terms, was initially rather narrow but gradually became more liberal.
In his first great work, Der logische Aufbau der Welt (1928; The Logical Structure of the World), Carnap developed, with unprecedented rigour, a version of the empiricist reducibility thesis according to which all terms suited to describe actual or possible empirical facts are fully definable by terms referring exclusively to aspects of immediate experience, so that all empirical statements are fully translatable into statements about immediate experiences.
Prompted by discussions with his associates in Vienna, Carnap soon began to develop a more liberal version of empiricism, which he elaborated while he was professor of natural philosophy at the German University in Prague (1931–35); he eventually presented it in full detail in his essay “Testability and Meaning” (1936–37). Carnap argued that the terms of empirical science are not fully definable in purely experiential terms but can at least be partly defined by means of “reduction sentences,” which are logically much-refined versions of operational definitions, and “observation sentences,” whose truth can be checked by direct observation. Carnap stressed that usually such tests cannot provide strict proof or disproof but only more or less strong “confirmation” for an empirical statement.
Sentences that do not thus yield observational implications and therefore cannot possibly be tested and confirmed by observational findings were said to be empirically meaningless. By reference to this testability criterion of empirical significance, Carnap and other logical empiricists rejected various doctrines of speculative metaphysics and of theology, not as being false but as making no significant assertions at all.
Carnap argued that the observational statements by reference to which empirical statements can be tested may be construed as sentences describing directly and publicly observable aspects of physical objects, such as the needle of a measuring instrument turning to a particular point on the scale or a subject in a psychological test showing a change in pulse rate. All such sentences, he noted, can be formulated in terms that are part of the vocabulary of physics. This was the basic idea of his “physicalism,” according to which all terms and statements of empirical science—from the physical to the social and historical disciplines—can be reduced to terms and statements in the language of physics.
In later writings, Carnap liberalized his conception of reducibility and of empirical significance even further so as to give a more adequate account of the relation between scientific theories and scientific evidence.
The Analytic-Synthetic Distinction
German philosopher Immanuel Kant had made a distinction between analytic and synthetic statements and a priori and a posteriori ones. This made possible a fourfold classification of statements: analytic and synthetic a priori, and analytic and synthetic a posteriori. Everyone agreed that all analytic statements are a priori, so the analytic a posteriori category is empty. But what about synthetic a priori statements—statements that say something new about the world in that the predicate is not merely "contained in" the subject, but are also known before or apart from experience?
Kant claimed that this is not an empty category, and he gave some mathematical and philosophical statements as examples. But the logical empiricists claimed that there are no such statements; that there are only two kinds of statements, the analytic a priori ones and the synthetic a posteriori ones. Much of Carnap's work was based on this conviction and his subsequent attempt to distinguish precisely between analytic and synthetic statements—a conviction and program that was central to all the logical positivists or logical empiricists, but that was rejected in Quine's seminal essay, Two Dogmas of Empiricism (1951).
(New World Encyclopedia)
One idea in logic and the theory of knowledge that occupied much of Carnap’s attention was that of analyticity. In contrast to the 19th-century radical empiricism of John Stuart Mill, Carnap and other logical empiricists held that the statements of logic and mathematics, unlike those of empirical science, are analytic—i.e., true solely by virtue of the meanings of their constituent terms—and that they can therefore be established a priori (without any empirical test). Carnap repeatedly returned to the task of formulating a precise characterization and theory of analyticity. His ideas were met with skepticism by some, however—among them Quine, who argued that the notion of analytic truth is inherently obscure and the attempt to delimit a class of statements that are true a priori should be abandoned as misguided. (Encyclopædia Britannica)
The Analytic-Synthetic Distinction and the Argument Against Logical Empiricism
The philosophers who most influenced Quine were the Logical Empiricists (also known as Logical Positivists), especially Rudolf Carnap. The distinction between analytic truths and synthetic truths plays a crucial role in their philosophy. Analytic truths might be characterized as those true solely in virtue of the meanings of the words they contain; synthetic truths, by contrast, state matters of extra-linguistic fact, and are known by experience. The Logical Empiricists accounted for truths which do not seem to be answerable to experience, most obviously the truths of logic and mathematics, by saying that they are analytic, and this position was very widely held by the 1940s. Quine, however, famously casts doubt on analytic-synthetic distinction, and rejects the use made of it by the Logical Empiricists and other philosophers from the 1930s on. (Notable among the others is C. I. Lewis, first a teacher and then a colleague of Quine; his influence on Quine has perhaps been underestimated.)
The issues here are complex, and the argument takes many twists and turns. The aim of this section is to give an account of Quine’s mature view, and of the strongest arguments that he has for it. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Willard van Orman Quine)
The central disagreement between Carnap and Quine was over analyticity—a term in technical philosophy—and has to do with the problem in epistemology of how we can justify our beliefs. Carnap tried to use the principle of verificationsim, coupled with an anitmetaphysical stance, to avoid reliance on intuition. Instead Carnap proposed that basic beliefs—the things that had been regarded as relying on intuitions—should be regarded as definitions. Reliance on intuitions implies or at least suggests that there is a realm of truths beyond and independent of ourselves to which we somehow gain access through intuition; the problem has always been that we cannot show that these intuitions are accurate. Carnap's proposal was that these basic claims or beliefs are something we make ourselves, so no question can arise about whether they are "true" or "veridical." "One consequence of Carnap's theory is that the basic metaphysical commitments, logical rules, epistemic principles, and so on are language-dependent, that is, that they depend on what definitions are chosen. If you choose differently from me, we do not thereby disagree; we merely speak different languages" (Creath 1990, 7). Languages, of course, are neither true nor false; the only criterion is that some may be more convenient than others.
According to Carnap's view, basic claims and their logical consequences are true because of their meanings, and the basic claims can be known through an analysis of the meanings of the terms in them. Those claims that are true in virtue of their meanings are analytic according to Carnap.
Quine, a younger man than Carnap—but one who possessed at least as strong logical and analytic skills as Carnap—did not object to Carnap's view because he wanted to defend the philosophical systems that Carnap undermined, and he was in favor of Carnap's tie-in between logic and philosophy. Quine's final objection to Carnap's method was based on Quine's conclusion that the idea or analyticity is unintelligible, so the supposed distinction between analytic and synthetic statements cannot be upheld.
Quine offered three arguments for his view. First, no one has succeeded in clarifying the notion of analyticity. Second, constructed languages such as those Carnap produced do not clarify the notion of analyticity. All Carnap did was define analyticity in L, but that does not clarify or define the term 'analytic.' Third, in science and elsewhere, we are able and willing to modify anything, even our basic notions of analytic logic, if there are good (pragmatic) reasons for doing so. Thus the supposed distinction between what is known analytically and what is known synthetically breaks down.
(New World Encyclopedia)
Willard van Orman Quine (W.V. Quine)
Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000) worked in theoretical philosophy and in logic. (In practical philosophy—ethics and political philosophy—his contributions are negligible.) He is perhaps best known for his arguments against Logical Empiricism (in particular, its use of the analytic-synthetic distinction). This argument, however, should be seen as part of a comprehensive world-view which makes no sharp distinction between philosophy and empirical science, and thus requires a wholesale reorientation of the subject. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
W. V. O. Quine (1908-2000) did not conceive of philosophy as an activity separate from the general province of empirical science. His interest in science is not best described as a philosophy of science but as a set of reflections on the nature of science that is pursued with the same empirical spirit that animates scientific inquiry. Quine’s philosophy should then be seen as a systematic attempt to understand science from within the resources of science itself. This project investigates both the epistemological and ontological dimensions of scientific theorizing. Quine’s epistemological concern is to examine our successful acquisition of scientific theories, while his ontological interests focus on the further logical regimentation of that theory. He thus advocates what is more famously known as ‘naturalized epistemology’, which consists of his attempt to provide an improved scientific explanation of how we have developed elaborate scientific theories on the basis of meager sensory input. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Two Dogmas of Empiricism
"Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is a paper by analytic philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine published in 1951. According to City University of New York professor of philosophy Peter Godfrey-Smith, this "paper [is] sometimes regarded as the most important in all of twentieth-century philosophy". The paper is an attack on two central aspects of the logical positivists' philosophy. One is the analytic-synthetic distinction between analytic truths and synthetic truths, explained by Quine as truths grounded only in meanings and independent of facts, and truths grounded in facts. The other is reductionism, the theory that each meaningful statement gets its meaning from some logical construction of terms that refers exclusively to immediate experience.
"Two Dogmas" is divided into six sections. The first four sections are focused on analyticity, the last two sections on reductionism. There, Quine turns the focus to the logical positivists' theory of meaning. He also presents his own holistic theory of meaning. (Wikipedia)
Excerpt and Condensation from Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism
Modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas.
1. The fundamental cleavage between truths which are analytic and truths which are synthetic.
2. Reductionism: the belief that each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience.
Quine argues that both dogmas are ill-founded and one effect of abondoning them is a blurrind of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. Another effect is a shift toward pragmatism.
From the use Kant makes of the notion of analyticity, it can be restated like this: a statement is analytic when it is true by virtue of meanings and independently of fact.
Analytic statements fall into two classes:
1. Those of the first class may be called logically true, are typified by:
No unmarried man is married.
This statement remains true under any and all reinterpretations of ‘man’ and ‘married’.
2. But there is also a second class of analytic statements, typified by:
No bachelor is married.
The characteristic of such a statement is that it can be turned into a logical truth by putting synonyms for synonyms; thus second statement can be turned into the first by putting ‘unmarried man’ for its synonym ‘bachelor’.
According to Quine, a major difficult of the analyticity lies in the second class, which depends on the notion of synonymy.
Quine finds that definition – except in the extreme case of the explicitly conventional introduction of new notation – hinges on prior relations of synonymy. He thus maintains that the notion of definition does not hold the key to synonymy and analyticity.
A natural suggestion is that the synonymy of two linguistic forms consists simply in their interchangeability in all contexts without change of true value.
But it is not quite true that the synonyms ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried man’ are everywhere interchangeable.
Upon close examination, Quine finds that interchangeability is not a sufficient condition of cognitive synonymy in the sense needed for deriving analyticity.
Thus, “Analyticity at first seemed most natural definable by appeal to a realm of meanings. On refinement, the appeal to meanings gave way to an appeal to synonymy or definition. But definition turned out to be a will-o’-the wisp, and synonymy turned out to be best understood only by dint of a prior appeal to analyticity itself. So we are back at the problem of analyticity.”
(4) Semantical rules
It is often hinted that the difficulty in separating analytic statements from synthetic ones in ordinary language is due to the vagueness of ordinary language and that the distinction is clear when we have a precise artificial language with explicit “semantical rules”.
In this section, Quine shows that this is a confusion.
Quine shows that semantical rules determining the analytic statements of an artificial language are of interest only in so far as we already understand the notion of analyticity; they are of no help in gaining this understanding.
“It is obvious that truth in general depends on both language and extralinguistic fact. The statement ‘Brutus killed Caesar’ would be false if the world had been different in certain ways, but it would also be false if the word ‘killed’ happened rather to have the sense of ‘beget’. Thus one is tempted to suppose in general that the truth of a statement is somehow analyzable into a linguistic component and a factual component. Given this supposition, it next seems reasonable that in some statements the factual component should be null; and these are the analytic statements. But, for all its a priori reasonableness, a boundary between analytic and synthetic statements simply has not been drawn. That there is such a distinction to be drawn at all is an unempirical dogma of empiricists, a metaphysical article of faith.”
(5) The verification theory and reductionism
The verification theory of meaning is that the meaning of a statement is the method of empirically confirming of infirming it. Analytic statement is that limiting case which is confirmed no matter what.
What the verification theory says is that statements are synonymous if and only if they are alike in point of method of empirical confirmation or infirmation.
This is an account of cognitive synonymy not of linguistic forms generally, but of statements. However, from the concept of synonymy of statements we could derive the concept of synonymy for other linguistic forms.
So, if the verification theory can be accepted as an adequate account of statement synonymy, the notion of analyticity is saved after all. However, if statement synonymy is said to be likeness of method of empirical confirmation or infirmation, just what are these methods which are to be compared for likeness? What, in other words, is the nature of the relation between a statement and the experiences which contribute to or detract from its confirmation?
Reductionism, in its radical form, is the view that every meaningful statement is held to be translatable into a statement (true or false) about immediate experience.
Carnap embarked on this project in his Aufbau. However, in his later writings he abandoned all notion of the translatability of statements about the physical world into statements about immediate experience. Reductionism in its radical form has long since ceased to figure in Carnap’s philosophy.
But the dogma of reductionism has, in a subtler and more tenuous form, continued to influence the thought of empiricists. The notion lingers that to each synthetic statement, there is associated a unique range of possible sensory events such that the occurrence of any of them would add to the likelihood of truth of the statement, and that there is associated also another unique range of possible sensory events whose occurrence would detract from the likelihood. This notion is of course implicit in the verification theory of meaning.
The dogma of reductionism survives in the supposition that each statement, taken in isolation from its fellows, can admit of confirmation or infirmation at all.
The dogma of reductionism, even in its attenuated form, is intimately connected with the other dogma – that there is a cleavage between the analytic and the synthetic.
The two dogmas are, indeed, at root identical. Upon reflection that in general the truth of statements does obviously depend both upon language and upon extralinguistic fact; and that this obvious circumstance carries in its train, not logically but all too naturally, a feeling that the truth of a statement is somehow analyzable into a linguistic component and a factual component. The factual component must, for empiricists, boil down to a range of confirmatory experience. In the extreme case where the linguistic component is all that matters, a true statement is analytic. However, Quine maintains that the distinction between analytic and synthetic can’t easily be drawn. His suggestion is that it is nonsense to speak of a linguistic component and a factual component in the truth of any individual statement. Taken collectively, science has its double dependence upon language and experience; but this duality is not significantly traceable into the statements of science taken one by one.
The idea of defining a symbol in use was an advance over the impossible term-by-term empiricism of Locke and Hume. The statements, rather than the term, came with Frege to be recognized as the unit accountable to an empiricist critique. But what Quine urges is that even in taking the statement us unit we have drawn our grid too finely. The unit of empirical significance is the whole of science.
(6) Empiricism without the dogmas
The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edge.
If this view is right, it is misleading to speak of the empirical content of an individual statement – especially if it is a statement at all remote from the experiential periphery of the field. Furthermore it becomes folly to seek a boundary between synthetic statements, which hold contingently on experience, and analytic statements, which hold come what may. Any statement can be held true come what may, if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system. Conversely, by the same token, no statement is immune to revision.
As a empiricist Quine continues to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediates – not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits.
Positing does not stop with macroscopic physical objects. Objects at the atomic level are posited to make the laws of macroscopic objects, and ultimately the laws of experience, simpler and more manageable; and we need not expect or demand full definition of atomic and subatomic entities in terms of macroscopic ones, any more than definition of macroscopic things in terms of sense data. Science is a continuation of common sense, and it continues the common-sense expedient of swelling ontology to simplify theory.
Ontological questions, under this view, are on a par with questions of natural science.
Carnap, Lewis, and others take a pragmatic stand on the question of choosing between language forms, scientific frameworks; but their pragmatism leaves off at the imagined boundary between the analytic and the synthetic. In repudiating such a boundary Quine espouses a more thorough pragmatism. Each man is given a scientific heritage plus a continuing barrage of sensory stimulation; and the considerations which guide him in warping his scientific heritage to fit his continuing sensory promptings are, where rational, pragmatic.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism, an Explanaton
Quine’s arguments regarding analyticity go something like this.
Given that the concept of a logical truth – “No unmarried man is married” – is well-defined, we might define analytic statements as those statements that can be turned into logical truths, by substituting synonymous expressions.
Thus, we can turn “No bachelor is unmarried” into “No unmarried man is unmarried,” by substituting the terms ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried man’, which are synonymous.
This, of course, requires that we have some account of synonymy. It is tempting to simply say that two terms are synonymous if they have the same meaning, but this presupposes that we have an appropriate notion of meaning to work with. Indeed, analyticity belongs to a tight-knit family of concepts – analyticity, synonymy, meaning – all of which need explaining, so it does us no good simply to explain one in terms of the other.
The way to define synonymy, Quine says, is by way of substitutability. Two expressions are synonymous if they are substitutable, in and out of sentences, without changing the truth value of those sentences. But this may not be sufficient. After all, in ordinary semantic contexts, substitutability is merely a test for co-referentiality, not synonymy. For example, the word ‘nine’ in the sentence ‘nine is less than ten’ can be substituted with the expression ‘the number of planets in the solar system’, without changing the truth value of the sentence. And while they certainly are co-referential – the two expressions both refer to the number 9 – they are not synonymous.
If, however, we consider semantic contexts beyond the ordinary, such as modal contexts – say a sentence of the form “Necessarily, X is F,” then substitutability does seem to be a test for synonymy. We can see, for example, that we cannot substitute ‘nine’ in the sentence “Necessarily, nine is less than ten,” with ‘the number of planets’, without a change in truth value. After all, while it is true that the number of solar system in our planets is less than ten, it is not a necessary truth. This shows, then, that ‘nine’ and ‘the number of planets in the solar system’, while co-referential, are not synonymous and that only synonymous expressions will be substitutable in and out of a “Necessarily” sentence.
So, perhaps we could define synonymy as “substitutability everywhere, including sentences stating necessary truths and falsehoods.” Having thus defined synonymy, we can then define analyticity, in terms of logical truth.
It is at this point that Quine pulls his last and most clever trick. The account we have just given is circular or at least, effectively circular. For the only necessary truths are the analytic ones, which means that to define synonymy in terms of substitutability and necessary truth is to presuppose that we already have an account of analyticity, which is what we were looking for, in the first place.
In response to the second Empiricist idea – that individual statements have their own verification conditions – Quine introduces what will become the very well-known and much-discussed “Web of Belief”; the idea that the various statements we assent to are, in the immediate sense, dependent upon one another for confirmation, much like the strands of a spider’s web are all connected and mutually-supporting, and only are confirmed by experience as a group, at the web’s boundaries, where it connects to the world. Thus, ultimately, all substantive statements – even the statements of mathematics – are confirmed empirically, although it may take disconfirmation across a wide span of the web to reveal the falsity of such statements, which lie near its center.
This paper, along with his book, Word and Object (1960), set much of the agenda for analytic philosophy, after the Second World War and is one of the most widely cited philosophy papers of the 20th century.
If logic, mathematics, and other putatively a priori parts of our knowledge, are not to be explained by analyticity, how are they to be accounted for? Holism, which is central to Quine’s argument against Carnap, also provides him with an alternative position. Logic and mathematics seem to have a special status because they are independent of experience. They appear to be necessary and not susceptible of refutation by what future experience brings; they appear to be a priori because we know them independent of experience. Carnap sought to explain these appearances by appealing to the idea that accepting an analytic sentence goes with speaking the language, and to the Principle of Tolerance. Since choice of language is not justified by experience, the truth of the analytic sentences of a given language is not answerable to experience.
How is Quine to explain the apparent necessity and a priori status of some truths without appeal to the Principle of Tolerance? To take the second point first: Quine’s holism is the view that almost none of our knowledge is directly answerable to experience. (The exceptions are what he calls ‘observation sentences’) In almost all cases the relation is indirect: a given sentence is only answerable to experience if a significant body of theory is presupposed. (When we say that a given observation confirms or refutes a given theoretical claim, we are tacitly presupposing much theoretical knowledge.) This is most easily seen if we consider a highly theoretical sentence, of theoretical physics, perhaps, but in Quine’s view it holds, of almost all our sentences. The reason to accept a sentence is its contribution to the success of theory as a whole as an efficient and simple method of dealing with and predicting experience; in principle, this means the success of our theory as a whole, the whole body of sentences that we accept, in dealing with experience as a whole.
This statement, in Quine’s view, holds with full generality. In particular, it applies to the sentences of logic and mathematics as much as any other subject. No particular experience confirms ‘2 + 2 = 4’; Quine is not advancing what Frege derided as a ‘gingerbread and pebble’ account of arithmetic, in which the sentence is justified by our observations of cookies or stones. But Quine does hold that the sentence, and the theory of arithmetic of which it is an inseparable part, earns its place in our body of knowledge by contributing to the overall success of that body of knowledge in dealing with experience as a whole.
As for the apparent necessity of some sentences, Quine appeals to holism to explain that too. Some sentences have great systematic import for our knowledge as a whole. (In Quine’s well-known metaphor, they stand near the centre of the ‘web of belief’.) The truths of elementary arithmetic are an example: they play a role in almost every branch of systematic knowledge. For this reason, we cannot imagine abandoning elementary arithmetic. Doing so would mean abandoning our whole system of knowledge, and replacing it with an alternative which we have not even begun to envisage. Nothing in principle rules out the possibility that the course of experience will be such that our present system of knowledge becomes wholly useless, and that in constructing a new one we find that arithmetic is of no use. But this is a purely abstract possibility, certainly not something we can imagine in any detail. So the idea that we might reject arithmetic is likewise unimaginable.
Meaning and Quinean Analyticity
The idea of meaning, and sameness of meaning, occupies a crucial role in the debate over analyticity.
Quine maintains that “no statement is immune to revision”. Carnap agrees. However, he would insist that in the case of analytic sentences, a revision involves a change of language, and thus of the meaning of the words used in the sentence.
In Quine’s 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. According to Carnap’s version of ‘Verification Principle of Meaning’, 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.
*Note: Quine’s scepticism about the idea of meaning is much criticized. But Quine’s scepticism about meanings does not lead to any scepticism about meaningfulness. - (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Holism is the claim that most of our sentences do not have implications for experience when they are taken one-by-one, each in isolation from the others. What has experiential implication is, in most cases, not an individual sentence but a larger chunk of theory. Holism is not a very controversial doctrine. Carnap accepts it, but Quine holds that he does not think through its implications far enough. In particular, Quine claims that holism shows that most of our sentences are not justified by the relation of the individual sentence, considered in isolation, to experience. Almost always, what matters is the relation to experience of some larger chunk of theory (and, in principle, although perhaps never in practice, of the theory as a whole). This means that the correctness of a given claim is almost never settled simply by gathering empirical evidence. Other factors will play a role, in particular the way in which accepting that claim would contribute to the efficacy and simplicity of the theory as a whole. But these are precisely the ‘pragmatic factors’ which Carnap thought played a role in the choice of language. In arguing that such factors play a role throughout our knowledge, Quine accepts ‘a more thorough pragmatism’ which puts Carnap’s external changes on the same epistemological status as his internal changes.
Quine-Dubem Thesis (Dubem-Quine Thesis)
The point that scientific theories are not proved, nor even, strictly speaking, disproved, by the kinds of observation that confirm or disconfirm them is developed by Pierre Duhem in The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory (translated by Philip P. Wiener 1964); and the idea which explains this – that theories are tested in conjunction with a number of related hypotheses and assumptions rather than in isolate - is developed by W.V. Quine. (See Pursuit of Truth by Quine and Philosophy of Natural Science by Carl G. Hempel, 1966).
Quine is important in philosophy of science for his "systematic attempt to understand science from within the resources of science itself" and for his conception of philosophy as continuous with science.
The aim of "Naturalized epistemology" was to answer all substantive questions of knowledge and meaning using the methods and tools of the natural sciences.
"Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science. It studies a natural phenomenon, viz., a physical human subject. This human subject is accorded a certain experimentally controlled input — certain patterns of irradiation in assorted frequencies, for instance — and in the fullness of time the subject delivers as output a description of the three-dimensional external world and its history. The relation between the meager input and the torrential output is a relation that we are prompted to study for somewhat the same reasons that always prompted epistemology: namely, in order to see how evidence relates to theory, and in what ways one's theory of nature transcends any available evidence...But a conspicuous difference between old epistemology and the epistemological enterprise in this new psychological setting is that we can now make free use of empirical psychology." (Quine's Epistemology Naturalized, 1969: 82–3)
Richard Rorty, in his obituary for Quine, put it this way:
"Quine shared the usual Anglophone distaste for Heidegger, and he obviously did not want to bring back the sort of speculative metaphysics that had been produced by, for example, F.H. Bradley and A.N. Whitehead. But he did not offer a metaphilosophical program to replace the one that Russell and Carnap had put forward. Rather, he simply urged philosophers to bring philosophy into contact with empirical science—to stop trying for necessary truths and to instead find perspicuous ways of arranging the materials that natural science provides. He envisaged, for example, a future in which epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge, would be 'naturalized' and, thus, absorbed in what we now call 'cognitive science.' That sort of collaboration with empirical inquiry now seems to many Anglophone philosophers the best way to advance their discipline." (Chronicle of Higher Education obituary for W V Quine - Feb. 2, 2001)
Richard McKay Rorty (1931 – 2007) was an American philosopher. Educated at the University of Chicago and Yale University, he had strong interests and training in both the history of philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy, the latter of which came to comprise the main focus of his work at Princeton University in the 1960s. He subsequently came to reject the tradition of philosophy according to which knowledge involves correct representation (a "mirror of nature") of a world whose existence remains wholly independent of that representation. Rorty had a long and diverse academic career, including positions as Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, Kenan Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia, and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Among his most influential books are Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979), Consequences of Pragmatism (1982), and Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989). (Wikipedia)
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) developed a distinctive and controversial brand of pragmatism that expressed itself along two main axes. One is negative—a critical diagnosis of what Rorty takes to be defining projects of modern philosophy. The other is positive—an attempt to show what intellectual culture might look like, once we free ourselves from the governing metaphors of mind and knowledge in which the traditional problems of epistemology and metaphysics (and indeed, in Rorty's view, the self-conception of modern philosophy) are rooted. The centerpiece of Rorty's critique is the provocative account offered in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). In this book, and in the closely related essays collected in Consequences of Pragmatism (1982), Rorty's principal target is the philosophical idea of knowledge as representation, as a mental mirroring of a mind-external world. Providing a contrasting image of philosophy, Rorty has sought to integrate and apply the milestone achievements of Dewey, Hegel and Darwin in a pragmatist synthesis of historicism and naturalism. Characterizations and illustrations of a post-epistemological intellectual culture, present in both Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (part III) and Consequences of Pragmatism (xxxvii-xliv), are more richly developed in later works, such as Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), in the popular essays and articles collected in Philosophy and Social Hope (1999), and in the four volumes of philosophical papers, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth (1991); Essays on Heidegger and Others (1991); Truth and Progress (1998); and Philosophy as Cultural Politics (2007). In these writings, ranging over an unusually wide intellectual territory, Rorty offers a highly integrated, multifaceted view of thought, culture, and politics, a view that has made him one of the most widely discussed philosophers in our time.(Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Richard Rorty, American pragmatist philosopher and public intellectual noted for his wide-ranging critique of the modern conception of philosophy as a quasi-scientific enterprise aimed at reaching certainty and objective truth. In politics he argued against programs of both the left and the right in favour of what he described as a meliorative and reformist “bourgeois liberalism.”
Rorty’s views are somewhat easier to characterize in negative than in positive terms. In epistemology he opposed foundationalism, the view that all knowledge can be grounded, or justified, in a set of basic statements that do not themselves require justification. According to his “epistemological behaviourism,” Rorty held that no statement is epistemologically more basic than any other, and no statement is ever justified “finally” but only relative to some circumscribed and contextually determined set of additional statements. In the philosophy of language, Rorty rejected the idea that sentences or beliefs are “true” or “false” in any interesting sense other than being useful or successful within a broad social practice. He also opposed representationism, the view that the main function of language is to represent or picture pieces of an objectively existing reality. Finally, in metaphysics he rejected both realism and antirealism, or idealism, as products of mistaken representationalist assumptions about language.
Because Rorty did not believe in certainty or absolute truth, he did not advocate the philosophical pursuit of such things. Instead, he believed that the role of philosophy is to conduct an intellectual “conversation” between contrasting but equally valid forms of intellectual inquiry—including science, literature, politics, religion, and many others—with the aim of achieving mutual understanding and resolving conflicts. This general view is reflected in Rorty’s political works, which consistently defend traditional left-liberalism and criticize newer forms of “cultural leftism” as well as more conservative positions.
Rorty defended himself against charges of relativism and subjectivism by claiming that he rejected the crucial distinctions these doctrines presuppose. Nevertheless, some critics have contended that his views lead ultimately to relativist or subjectivist conclusions, whether or not Rorty wished to characterize them in those terms. Others have challenged Rorty’s interpretation of earlier American pragmatist philosophers and suggested that Rorty’s own philosophy is not a genuine form of pragmatism. (Encyclopædia Britannica)
Richard Rorty was an important American philosopher of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century who blended expertise in philosophy and comparative literature into a perspective called "The New Pragmatism" or “neopragmatism.” Rejecting the Platonist tradition at an early age, Rorty was initially attracted to analytic philosophy. As his views matured he came to believe that this tradition suffered in its own way from representationalism, the fatal flaw he associated with Platonism. Influenced by the writings of Darwin, Gadamer, Hegel and Heidegger, he turned towards Pragmatism. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature is a 1979 book by American philosopher Richard Rorty, in which Rorty attempts to dissolve modern philosophical problems instead of solving them by presenting them as pseudo-problems that only exist in the language-game of epistemological projects culminating in Analytic philosophy. In a pragmatist gesture, Rorty suggests that philosophy must get past these pseudo-problems if it is to be productive.
The work was seen to be somewhat controversial upon its publication. It had its greatest success outside analytic philosophy, despite its reliance on arguments by Willard Van Orman Quine and Wilfrid Sellars, and was widely influential in the humanities. It was criticized extensively by analytic philosophers.
Rorty's central thesis is that philosophy has unduly relied on a representational theory of perception and a correspondence theory of truth, hoping our experience or language might mirror the way reality actually is. In this he continues a certain controversial Anglophone tradition, which builds upon the work of philosophers such as Willard Van Orman Quine, Wilfrid Sellars, and Donald Davidson. Rorty opts out of the traditional objective/subjective dialogue in favor of a communal version of truth. For him, "true" is simply an honorific knowers bestow on claims, asserting them as what "we" want to say about a particular matter.
Rorty spends much of the book explaining how philosophical paradigm shifts and their associated philosophical "problems" can be considered the result of the new metaphors, vocabularies, and mistaken linguistic associations which are necessarily a part of those new paradigms. (Wikipedia)
Rorty’s thinking as a historicist and anti-essentialist found its fullest expression in 1979 in his most noted book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Abandoning all claims to a privileged mental power that allows direct access to things-in-themselves, he offered an alternative narrative which adapts Darwinian evolutionary principles to the philosophy of language. The result was an attempt to establish a thoroughly naturalistic approach to issues of science and objectivity, to the mind-body problem, and to concerns about the nature of truth and meaning. In Rorty’s view, language is to be employed as an adaptive tool used to cope with the natural and social environments to achieve a desired, pragmatic end.
Motivating his entire program is Rorty’s challenge to the notion of a mind-independent, language-independent reality that scientists, philosophers, and theologians appeal to when professing their understanding of the truth. ... He characterizes that future as being free from dogmatically authoritarian assertions about truth and goodness. Thus, Rorty sees his New Pragmatism as the legitimate next step in completing the Enlightenment project of demystifying human life, by ridding humanity of the constricting "ontotheological" metaphors of past traditions, and thereby replacing the power relations of control and subjugation inherent in these metaphors with descriptions of relations based on tolerance and freedom. (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Pragmatism doesn’t derive his central criticism of the mirror metaphor from the classical pragmatists, but from the analytic tradition in which he was trained and which is the main target of his criticism in The Mirror of Nature. Wilfrid Sellars’s attack on the given and Quine’s attack on the necessity caused some serious cracks in the mirror that are beyond repair.
THE MYTH OF THE GIVEN
Traditional philosophy presupposes that within our knowledge we can separate what is given from what is added by the mind. The realization that sense impressions cannot be wrong – they are what they are, that they are purely given – has led many to believe that they can be made a secure foundation for knowledge. Sellars objects to this, arguing that this belief is the result of a confusion of sense impressions with so-called basic propositions. Sellars agrees that sense impressions cannot be wrong, but denies that they can count as knowledge. Propositions about sense impressions can be counted as knowledge, but they can be wrong.
Rorty doesn’t deny that we have sense impressions. We see patches of red, have pain, experience hunger, feel content, etc. What he denies is that sense impressions count as beliefs, or that they can play a role in justifying our beliefs. They are mere stimuli. Those who seek to ground our beliefs in sense impressions, Rorty contends, confuse the formation of a belief with its or its justification. Although the formation of belief may be due to something pre- or non-propositional, its expression (which allows it to be communicated to others or to one’s own future self) and the justification of this expressed belief take place wholly within language. For Sellars, “Science is rational not because it has a foundation, but because it is a self-correcting enterprise which can put any claim in jeopardy, though not all at once” (Science, Perception, and Reality 1963, p 170). Of course, this is precisely Peirce’s scientific method.
REJECTION OF THE ANALYTIC-SYNTHETIC DISTINCTION
A second blow to the mirror metaphor comes from Quine in his rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction. According to Rorty, Quine has shown us that we cannot distinguish between the “necessary”, which is entirely ‘within’ the mind and under its control, and the “contingent”, which is in part a product of what is given.
Rorty draws a radical conclusion from the criticisms of Sellars and Quine, namely, that there is no neutral ground on which to stand, and that there is no other way to assess philosophical views but from a study of existing criticisms and defenses of those views. That is to say, for Rorty, the criteria for evaluating any belief become wholly conversational ones. In the absence of neutral ground – the given or the analytical – “The True and the Right are matters of social practice” (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, p 178). Since the justification of a belief – of all belief – takes place within language, which is a social practice, justification - any justification – is ultimately a matter of social practice as well. When entering a linguistic community, we submit ourselves to its epistemic rules; the rules through which its members frame questions, utter warnings, give orders, express emotions, form justifications, etc. In sum, for Rorty, the justification of belief is always a social affair that is guided by established practice.
Introduction to the Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition of "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" by Michael Williams
It is the single greatest influence on the revival of American Pragmatism, one of the most exciting developments in philosophy today.
Rorty sees philosophy, as it came to be understood in the last century, as an attempt to work through the consequences of a conception of knowledge as accurate representation, a conception rooted in the metaphor of mind as the mirror of nature. From its seventeenth-century origins, principally in the writings of Descartes, this metaphor leads to the emergence of what Rorty calls “philosophy-as-epistemology,” with its canonical list of textbook problems: the mind-body problem, skepticism, the nature of truth, and the rest. According to Rorty, we should not keep trying to solve such problems, which have evolved into forms designed to resist solution. Better to put them behind us.
Rorty takes a different approach. His way out of philosophy-as-epistemology turns on a broadly pragmatic outlook that he calls “epistemological behaviorism.” Epistemological behaviorism is not a commitment to reduce mental activity to overt behavior but a methodological stance. As an epistemological behaviorist, he examines human thought and knowledge from a public, third-person standpoint, treating language as communicative and knowledge as the result of argument and discussion. Differences lacking practical import have no theoretical significance either.
Rorty’s epistemological-behaviorist stance is a paradigm of pragmatism.
According to Macarthur and Price, who acknowledge Rorty’s influence, contemporary pragmatism combines two commitments. The first is to linguistic priority: don’t start by asking about the nature of mind, knowledge, etc.; start by asking what we are doing in deploying mentalistic or epistemological vocabulary. This is very much how Rorty proceeds. The second is to antirepresentationalism, which counsels us to avoid approaching our various vocabularies in ways that make theoretical use of representationalist notions such as truth (as correspondence to fact) or reference (e.g., as some naturalistically explicable word-world relation). Antirepresentationalism -- the rejection of the idea of mind (or language) as the mirror of nature -- is the leitmotif of Rorty’s book.
On Rorty’s antirepresentationalist view, language is better understood as a set of tools rather than as the mirror of nature. Like new tools, new ways of talking do not simply enable us to cope better with existing projects and problems: they give us new things to do. In the light of new problems and projects, old ways of talking may come to seem more trouble than they are worth, in which case problems couched in their terms may reasonably be dropped.
BOOK REVIEWS: "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature"
Rorty strikes a deathblow to modern European philosophy by telling a story about the emergence, development and decline of its primary props: the correspondence theory of truth, the notion of privileged representations and the idea of a self-reflective transcendental subject. Rorty's fascinating tale—his-story —is regulated by three fundamental shifts which he delineates in detail and promotes in principle: the move toward anti-realism or conventionalism in ontology, the move toward the demythologizing of the Myth of the Given or anti-foundationalism in epistemology, and the move toward detranscendentalizing the subject or dismissing the mind as a sphere of inquiry.
The chief importance of Rorty's book is that it brings together in an original and intelligible narrative the major insights of the patriarchs of postmodern American philosophy—W. V. Quine, Wilfred Sellars, and Nelson Goodman— and persuasively presents the radical consequences of their views for contemporary philosophy. Rorty credits Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Dewey for having "brought us into a period of 'revolutionary' philosophy" by undermining the prevailing Cartesian and Kantian paradigms and advancing new conceptions of philosophy. And these monumental figures surely inspire Rorty. Yet, Rorty's philosophical debts—the actual sources of his particular anti-Cartesian and anti-Kantian arguments—are Quine's holism, Sellars' anti-foundationalism, and Goodman's pluralism. In short, despite his adamant attack on analytical philosophy—the last stage of modern European philosophy—Rorty feels most comfortable with the analytical form of philosophical argumentation (shunned by Wittgenstein and Heidegger).
Richard Rorty's Philosophy
THE AIM OF INQUIRY
Rorty’s rejection of representationalism influences his take on inquiry. For the representationalist, inquiry had a clearly defined purpose, which is to discover the truth. We attain the truth when our beliefs accurately represent their objects.
This approach gives us a quite solid criterion on which to judge how well or badly a specific inquiry is conducted. Good inquiry causes our beliefs to adequately represent reality. Epistemic practices that do not lead to this are bad, or unsound, or unscientific.
For Rorty, the aim of inquiry is not to represent reality, but to use reality to get what we want; that is, to bring us what we set out to achieve when we began the inquiry. Having rejected representationalism, Rorty embraces a causal theory of knowledge, arguing that the world “causes us to hold beliefs, and we continue to hold the beliefs which prove to be reliable guides to getting what we want” (Philosophy and Social Hope, p 33). ,br>
What we want, however, is highly multifarious, so that it makes little sense to speak of “the aim of inquiry” as if inquiry has a single, clearly defined goal. Inquiry may have many aims, all with different ramifications, including moral, social, and political ones. For the pragmatist, Rorty explains, “the pattern of all inquiry – scientific as well as moral – is deliberation concerning the relative attractions of various concrete alternatives” (Consequences of Pragmatism, p 164). Because of this, Rorty rejects the idea of a scientific method, if by this is meant a fixed recipe, or algorithm, that allows us to “avoid the need for conversation and deliberation and simply tick off the way things are” (ibid.). It is the conversational aspect of inquiry that plays a pivotal role in Rorty’s nonrepresentational epistemology.
FROM CORRESPONDENCE TO CONVERSATION
For Rorty, the rejection of representationalism radically opens up the playing field, as we are no longer constrained by the requirement that we must adequately mirror reality. Rorty seeks to stretch this playing field as far as it will let him, arguing that the only constraints set upon inquiry are conversational ones, a view he identifies with pragmatism. Referring explicitly to Peirce, Rorty explains that “the only sense in which we are constrained to truth is that, as Peirce suggested, we can make no sense of the notion that the view which can survive all objections might be false” (Consequences of Pragmatism, p 165). Since objections are always cast in language, Rorty interprets this to mean that all constraints upon inquiry are conversational. In The Mirror of Nature, Rorty remarks that justification is a matter of conversation: “Justification is not a matter of a special relation between ideas (or words) and objects, but of conversation, of social practice” (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, p 170). Successful inquiry is inquiry that keeps the conversation going and the search for truth makes way for a search for solidarity. In Consequences of Pragmatism (p 165), Rorty characterizes pragmatism wholly in conversational terms, calling it,
the doctrine that there are no constraints on inquiry save conversational ones – no wholesale constraints derived from the nature of the objects, or of the mind, or of language, but only those retail constraints provided by the remarks of our fellow-inquirers.
Rorty is correct in observing that there is some affinity between this view and that of the classical pragmatists, but it is hard to defend that it is anything more than that. True, Peirce maintains that truth is identical with the final opinion, but what makes this opinion final for Peirce is not that the inquirers agrees, but that they all come to the same conclusion and that all future inquiries will again come to the same conclusion. In Peirce’s view it is not the search for agreement that drives inquiry, but having competent peers agree with you is a sign that what you believe to be true might indeed be so. The agreement that Peirce has in mind, however, is distinctly not a product of mere conversation, but the result of prolonged interaction with a world that is there and that does not budge. This connection with the world is absent, or at best well-disguised, in Rorty’s rendition. In fact, with its sole focus on agreement and conversational constraints, Rorty’s interpretation undercuts Peirce’s crucial distinction between the a prior method and the scientific method in “The Fixation of Belief”.
The notion that something extra-linguistic might influence the formation of our beliefs is again conspicuously absent in the following passage that comes from Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth:
For pragmatists, the desire for objectivity is …. simply the desire for as much intersubjective agreement as possible … . Insofar as pragmatists make a distinction between knowledge and opinion, it is simply the distinction between topics on which such agreement is relatively easy to get and topics on which agreement is relatively hard to get ().
For Rorty, the inquirer does not even aim for anything more than to have others approve of his beliefs, and philosophy comes down to “a study of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the various ways of talking which our race has invented” (Consequences of Pragmatism: x1).
Rorty thus shifts the attention away from a privileged scientific method that prescribes how people should conduct their on matter what the inquiry is about or from which motives it began, toward a study of the vocabularies people use to express their problems, their aims, and their findings. What makes Galileo’s physics superior to aristotle’s, Rorty argues, is not that Galileo make a better use of the so-called “scientific method”, but because “Galileo was using some terminology which helped, and Aristotle wasn’t” ((Consequences of Pragmatism: 193).
The different vocabularies are not made true or false by “the world”, but they are like different tools that have alternative uses. For a change of vocabulary, such as the switch from Aristotle’s way of speaking to Galileo’s, no more arguments are required than for choosing, say, a phillips screwdriver above a flat one. All that matters is that it works better. Rorty denies, however, that the improvements of vocabularies mark an objective course of progress. All we can say is that the new vocabularies work better in giving us what we want.
Rejecting representationalism for a form of instrumentalism, Rorty argues that “one should stop worrying about whether what one believe is well grounded and start worrying about whether one has been imaginative enough to think up interesting alternatives to one’s present beliefs” (Philosophy and Social Hope, p 34). What is needed in science and philosophy is the vision and drive of an entrepreneur, rather than the myopic precision of a forensic accountant. The attitude of the Rortyan scientist and philosopher is not that of submission to an immanent teleology, as with Peirce, but a desire for being astonished and exhilarated (p 28). If scientists and philosophers would become pragmatists, Rorty remarks, “there would be less talk about rigor and more about originality. The image of the great scientist would not be of somebody who got it right but of somebody who made it new” (Richard Rorty's Philosophical Papers 1:44).
Consequences of Pragmatism
1. Platonists, Positivists, and Pragmatists
The fact is that “philosophy,” like “truth” and “goodness,” is ambiguous. Uncapitalised, “truth” and “goodness” name properties of sentences, or of actions and situations. Capitalised, they are the proper names of objects—goals or standards which can be loved with all one’s heart and soul and mind, objects of ultimate concern. Similarly, “Philosophy” can mean simply what Sellars calls “an attempt to see how
things, in the broadest possible sense of the term, hang together, in the broadest possible sense of the term.” Pericles, for example, was using this sense of the term when he praised the Athenians for “philosophising without unmanliness” (philosophein aneu malakias). In this sense, Blake is as much a philosopher as Fichte, Henry Adams more of a philosopher than Frege. No one would be dubious about philosophy, taken in this sense. But the word can also denote something more specialised, and very dubious indeed. In this second sense, it can mean following Plato’s and Kant’s lead, asking questions about the nature of certain normative notions (e.g., “truth,” “rationality,” “goodness”) in the hope of better obeying such norms. The idea is to believe more truths or do more good or be more rational by knowing more about Truth or Goodness or Rationality. I shall capitalise the term “philosophy” when used in this second sense, in order to help make the point that Philosophy, Truth, Goodness, and Rationality are interlocked Platonic notions. Pragmatists are saying that the best hope for philosophy is not to practise Philosophy. They think it will not help to say something true to think about Truth, nor will it help to act well to think about Goodness, nor will it help to be rational to think about Rationality. (Introduction: 2-3)
So far, however, my description of pragmatism has left an important distinction out of account. Within Philosophy, there has been a traditional difference of opinion about the Nature of Truth, a battle between (as Plato put it) the gods and the giants. On the one hand there have been Philosophers like Plato himself who were otherworldly, possessed of a larger hope. They urged that human beings were entitled to self-respect only because they had one foot beyond space and time. On the other hand—especially since Galileo showed how spatio-temporal events could be brought under the sort of elegant mathematical law which Plato suspected might hold only for another world—there have been Philosophers (e.g., Hobbes, Marx) who insisted that space and time make up the only Reality there is,
and that Truth is Correspondence to that Reality. In the nineteenth century, this opposition crystallised into one between “the transcendental philosophy” and “the empirical philosophy,” between the “Platonists” and the “positivists.” Such terms were, even then, hopelessly vague, but every intellectual knew roughly where he stood in relation to the two movements. To be on the transcendental side was to think that natural science was not the last word—that there was more Truth to be found. To be on the empirical side was to think that natural science-facts about how spatio-temporal things worked-was all the Truth there was. To side with Hegel or Green was to think that some normative sentences about rationality and goodness corresponded to something real, but invisible to natural science. To side with Comte or Mach was to think that such sentences either “reduced” to sentences about spatio-temporal events or were not subjects for serious reflection. (Introduction: 3)
It is important to realise that the empirical philosophers—the positivists—were still doing Philosophy. The Platonic presupposition which unites the gods and the giants, Plato with Democritus, Kant with Mill, Husserl with Russell, is that what the vulgar call “truth” the assemblage of true statements-should be thought of as divided into a lower and an upper division, the division between (in Plato’s terms) mere opinion and genuine knowledge. It is the work of the Philosopher to establish an invidious distinction between such statements as “It rained yesterday” and “Men should try to be just in their dealings.” For Plato the former sort of statement was second-rate, mere pistis or doxa. The latter, if perhaps not yet episteme, was at least a plausible candidate. For the positivist tradition which runs from Hobbes to Carnap, the former sentence was a paradigm of what Truth looked like, but the latter was either a prediction about the causal effects of certain events or an “expression of emotion.” What the transcendental philosophers saw as the spiritual, the empirical philosophers saw as the emotional. What the empirical philosophers saw as the achievements of natural science in discovering the nature of Reality, the transcendental philosophers saw as banausic, as true but irrelevant to Truth. (Introduction: 3-4)
Pragmatism cuts across this transcendental/empirical distinction by questioning the common presupposition that there is an invidious distinction to be drawn between kinds of truths. For the pragmatist, true sentences are not true because they correspond to reality, and so there is no need to worry what sort of reality, if any, a given sentence corresponds to—no need to worry about what “makes” it true. (just as there is no need to worry, once one has determined what one should do, whether there is something in Reality which makes that act the Right one to perform.) So the pragmatist sees no need to worry about whether Plato or Kant was right in thinking that something non-spatio-temporal made moral judgments true, nor about whether the absence of such a thing means that such judgments are is merely expressions of emotion” or “merely conventional” or “merely subjective.” (Introduction: 4)
This insouciance brings down the scorn of both kinds of Philosophers upon the pragmatist. The Platonist sees the pragmatist as merely a fuzzy-minded sort of positivist. The positivist sees him as lending aid and
comfort to Platonism by leveling down the distinction between Objective Truth—the sort of true sentence attained by “the scientific method”—and sentences which lack the precious “correspondence to reality” which only that method can induce. Both join in thinking the pragmatist is not really a philosopher, on the ground that he is not a Philosopher. The pragmatist tries to defend himself by saying that one can be a philosopher precisely by being anti-Philosophical, that the best way to make things hang together is to step back from the issues between Platonists and positivists, and thereby give up the presuppositions of Philosophy. (Introduction: 4)
2. Pragmatism and Contemporary Philosophy
I think that analytic philosophy culminates in Quine, the later Wittgenstein, Sellars, and Davidson—which is to say that it transcends and cancels itself. These thinkers successfully, and rightly, blur the positivist distinctions between the semantic and the pragmatic, the analytic and the synthetic, the linguistic and the empirical, theory and observation. Davidson’s attack on the scheme/content distinction, in particular, summarizes and synthesizes Wittgenstein’s mockery of his own Tractatus, Quine’s criticisms of Carnap, and Sellars’s attack on the empiricist “Myth of the Given.” Davidson’s holism and coherentism shows how language looks once we get rid of the central presupposition of Philosophy: that true sentences divide into an upper and a lower division-the sentences which correspond to something and those which are “true” only by courtesy or convention. (Introduction: 6)
This Davidsonian way of looking at language lets us avoid hypostatising Language in the way in which the Cartesian epistemological tradition, and particularly the idealist tradition which built upon Kant, hypostatised Thought. For it lets us see language not as a tertium quid between Subject and Object, nor as a medium in which we try to form pictures of reality, but as part of the behaviour of human beings. On this view, the activity of uttering sentences is one of the things people do in order to cope with their environment. The Deweyan notion of language as tool rather than picture is right as far as it goes. But we must be careful not to phrase this analogy so as to suggest that one can separate the tool, Language, from its users and inquire as to its “adequacy” to achieve our purposes. The latter suggestion presupposes that there is some way of breaking out of language in order to compare it with something else. But there is no way to think about either the world or our purposes except by using our language. One can use language to criticize and enlarge itself, as one can exercise one’s body to develop and strengthen and enlarge it, but one cannot see language-as-a-whole in relation to something else to which it applies, or for which it is a means to an end. The arts and the sciences, and philosophy as their self-reflection and integration, constitute such a process of enlargement and strengthening. But Philosophy, the attempt to say “how language relates to the world” by saying what makes certain
sentences true, or certain actions or attitudes good or rational, is, on this view, impossible. (Introduction: 6-7)
It is the impossible attempt to step outside our skins-the traditions, linguistic and other, within which we do our thinking and self-criticism-and compare ourselves with something absolute. This Platonic urge to escape from the finitude of one’s time and place, the “merely conventional” and contingent aspects of one’s life, is responsible for the original Platonic distinction between two kinds of true sentence. By attacking this latter distinction, the holistic “pragmaticising” strain in analytic philosophy has helped us see how the metaphysical urge—common to fuzzy Whiteheadians and razor-sharp “scientific realists”—works. It has helped us be sceptical about the idea that some particular science (say physics) or some
particular literary genre (say Romantic poetry, or transcendental philosophy) gives us that species of true sentence which is not just a true sentence, but rather a piece of Truth itself. Such sentences may be very useful indeed, but there is not going to be a Philosophical explanation of this utility. That explanation, like the original justification of the assertion of the sentence, will be a parochial matter-a comparison of the sentence with alternative sentences formulated in the same or in other vocabularies. But such comparisons are the business of, for example, the physicist or the poet, or perhaps of the philosopher -not of the Philosopher, the outside expert on the utility, or function, or metaphysical status of Language or of Thought.
The Wittgenstein-Sellars-Quine-Davidson attack on distinctions between classes of sentences is the special contribution of analytic philosophy to the anti-Platonist insistence on the ubiquity of language. This insistence characterises both pragmatism and recent “Continental” philosophising. Here are some examples:
Man makes the word, and the word means nothing which the man has not made it mean, and that only to some other man. But since man can think only by means of words or other external symbols, these might turn around and say: You mean nothing which we have not taught you, and then only so far as you address some word as the interpretant of your thought ... the word or sign which man uses is the man himself Thus my language is the sum-total of myself; for the man is the thought. (PEIRCE)
Peirce goes very far in the direction that I have called the de-construction of the transcendental signified, which, at one time or another, would place a reassuring end to the reference from sign to sign. (DERRIDA)
... psychological nominalism, according to which all awareness of sorts, resemblances, facts, etc., in short all awareness of abstract entities—indeed, all awareness even of particulars—is a linguistic affair. (SELLARS)
It is only in language that one can mean something by something. (Wittgenstein)
Human experience is essentially linguistic. (GADAMER)
... man is in the process of perishing as the being of language continues to shine ever brighter upon our horizon. (Foucault)
Speaking about language turns language almost inevitably into an object ... and then its reality vanishes. (HEIDEGGER) (Introduction: 7=8)
This chorus should not, however, lead us to think that something new and exciting has recently been discovered about Language—e.g., that it is more prevalent than had previously been thought. The authors cited are making only negative points. They are saying that attempts to get back behind language to something which “grounds” it, or which it “expresses,”mor to which it might hope to be “adequate,” have not, worked. The ubiquity of language is a matter of language moving into the vacancies left by the failure of all the various candidates for the position of “natural starting-points” of thought, starting-points which are prior to and independent of the way some culture speaks or spoke. (Candidates for such starting-points include clear and distinct ideas, sense-data, categories of the pure understanding, structures of prelinguistic consciousness, and the like.) Peirce and Sellars and Wittgenstein are saying that the regress of interpretation cannot be cut off by the sort of “intuition” which Cartesian epistemology took for granted. Gadamer and Derrida are saying that our culture has been dominated by the notion of a “transcendental signified” which, by cutting off this regress, would bring us out from contingency and convention and into the Truth. Foucault is saying that we are gradually losing our grip on the “metaphysical comfort” which that Philosophical tradition provided-its picture of Man as having a “double” (the soul, the Noumenal Self) who uses Reality’s own language rather than merely the vocabulary of a time and a place. Finally, Heidegger is cautioning that if we try to make Language into a new topic of Philosophical inquiry we shall simply recreate the hopeless old Philosophical puzzles which we used to raise about Being or Thought. (Introduction: 8=9)
This last point amounts to saying that what Gustav Bergmann called “the linguistic turn” should not be seen as the logical positivists saw it-as enabling us to ask Kantian questions without having to trespass on the psychologists’ turf by talking, with Kant, about “experience” or “consciousness.” That was, indeed, the initial motive for the “turn,”” but (thanks to the holism and pragmatism of the authors I have cited) analytic philosophy of language was able to transcend this Kantian motive and adopt a naturalistic, behaviouristic attitude toward language. This attitude has led it to the same outcome as the “Continental” reaction against the tradition- al Kantian problematic, the reaction found in Nietzsche and Heidegger. This convergence shows that the traditional association of analytic philosophy with tough-minded positivism and of “Continental” philosophy with tender-minded Platonism is completely misleading. The pragmaticisation of analytic philosophy gratified the logical positivists’ hopes, but not in the fashion which they had envisaged. it did not find a way for Philosophy to become “scientific,” but rather found a way of setting Philosophy to one side. This post-positivistic kind of analytic philosophy thus comes to resemble the Nietzsche-Heidegger-Derrida tradition in beginning with criticism of Platonism and ending in criticism of Philosophy as such. Both traditions are now in a period of doubt about their own status.
Both are living between a repudiated past and a dimly seen post-Philosophical future. (Introduction: 9)
3. The Realist Reaction (I): Technical Realism
In recent decade, there has been, on both sides of the Channel, a reaction in favour of “realism” -a term which has come to be synonymous with “anti-pragmatism.”
This reaction has had three distinct motives:
(1) the view that recent, technical developments in the philosophy of language have raised doubt about traditional pragmatist criticisms of the “correspondence theory of truth,” or, at least, have
made it necessary for the pragmatist to answer some hard, technical questions;
(2) the sense that the “depth,” the human significance, of the traditional textbook “problems of philosophy” has been underestimated, that pragmatists have lumped real problems together with pseudo-problems in a feckless orgy of “dissolution”;
(3) the sense that something important would be lost if Philosophy as an autonomous discipline, as a Fach, were to fade from the cultural scene (in the way in which theology has faded). (Introduction: 9-10)
This third motive—the fear of what would happen if there were merely philosophy, but no Philosophy. It is a conviction that a culture without Philosophy would be “irrationalist”—that a precious human capacity would lie unused, or a central human virtue no longer be exemplified. ….. On both continents there is fear of Philosophy’s losing its traditional claim to “scientific” status and of its relegation to “the merely literary.” - I shall talk about this fear in some detail later, in connection with the prospects for a culture in which the science/literature distinction would no longer matter. (Introduction: 10)
The first motive is characteristic of philosophers of language such as Saul Kripke and Michael Dummett.
I shall call those who turn Kripke’s views on reference to the purposes of a realistic epistemology (e.g., Hartry Field, Richard Boyd, and, sometimes, Hilary Putnam) “technical realists.” (Introduction: 10)
Technical realists judge pragmatism wrong not because it leads to superficial dismissals of deep problems, but because it is based on a false, “verificationist” philosophy of language.
The Technical realists dislike “verificationism” not because of its meta-philosophical fruits, but because they see it as a misunderstanding of the relation between language and the world. on their view, Quine and Wittgenstein wrongly followed Frege in thinking that meaning -something determined by the intentions of the user of a word-determines reference, what the word picks out in the world.
On the basis of the “new theory of reference” originated by Saul Kripke, they say, we can now construct a better, non-Fregean picture of word-world relationships.
Whereas Frege, like Kant, thought of our concepts as carving up an undifferentiated manifold in accordance with our interests (a view which leads fairly directly to Sellars’s “psychological nominalism” and a Goodman-like insouciance about ontology), Kripke sees the world as already divided not only into particulars, but into natural kinds of particulars and even into essential and accidental features
of those particulars and kinds. The question “Is ‘X is f’ true?” is thus to be answered by discovering what—as a matter of physical fact, not of anybody’s intentions—‘X’ refers to, and then discovering whether that particular or kind is f only by such a “physicalistic” theory of reference, technical realists say, can the notion of “truth as correspondence to reality” be preserved. By contrast, the pragmatist answers this question by inquiring whether, all things (and especially our purposes in using the terms ‘X’
and ‘f’) considered, ‘X is f’ is a more useful belief to have than its contradictory, or than some belief expressed in different terms altogether. The pragmatist agrees that if one wants to preserve the notion of “correspondence with reality” then a physicalistic theory of reference is necessary — but he sees no point in preserving that notion. The pragmatist has no notion of truth which would enable him to make sense of the claim that if we achieved everything we ever hoped to achieve ‘ by making assertions we might still be making false assertions, failing to “correspond” to something. As Putnam says:
The trouble is that for a strong anti-realist [e.g., a pragmatist] truth makes no sense except as an intra-theoretic notion. The anti-realist can use truth intra-theoretically in the sense of a “redundancy theory” [i.e., a theory according to which “S is true” means exactly, only, what “S” means) but he does not have the notion of truth and reference avail- able extra-theoretically. But extension [reference] is tied to the notion of truth. The extension of a term is just what the term is true of. Rather than try to retain the notion of truth via an awkward operationalism, the anti-realist should reject the notion of extension as he does the notion of truth (in any extra-theoretic sense). Like Dewey, he can fall back on a notion of ‘warranted assertibility’ instead of truth ...
The question which technical realism raises, then, is: are there technical reasons, within the philosophy of language, for retaining or discarding this extra-theoretic notion? Are there non-intuitive ways of deciding whether, as the pragmatist thinks, the question of what ‘X’ refers to is a sociological matter, a question of how best to make sense of a community’s linguistic behaviour, or whether, as Hartry Field says,
one aspect of the sociological role of a term is the role that term has in the psychologies of different members of a linguistic community; another aspect, irreducible to the first, is what physical objects or physical property the term stands for.
It is not clear, however, what these technical, non-intuitive ways might be. For it is not clear what data the philosophy of language must explain. The most frequently cited datum is that science works, succeeds-enables us to cure diseases, blow up cities, and the like. How, realists ask, would this be possible if some scientific statements did not correspond to the way things are in themselves? How, pragmatists rejoin, does that count as an explanation? What further specification of the “correspondence” relation can be given which will enable this explanation to be better than “dormitive power” (Molière’s doctor’s explanation of why opium puts people to sleep)? What, so to speak, corresponds to the microstructure of opium in this case? (Introduction: 12)
What is the microstructure of “corresponding”?
The Tarskian apparatus of truth-conditions and satisfaction-relations does not fill the bill, because that apparatus is equally well adapted to physicalist “building-block” theories of reference like Field’s and to coherentist, holistic, pragmatical theories like Davidson’s. When realists like Field argue that Tarski’s account of truth is merely a place-holder, like Mendel’s account of “gene,” which requires physicalistic “reduction to non-semantical terms,” pragmatists reply (with Stephen Leeds) that “true” (like “good” and unlike “gene”) is not an explanatory notion. (Or that, if it is, the structure of the explanations in which it is used needs to be spelled out.) (Introduction: 12-13)
The search for technical grounds on which to argue the pragmatist-realist issue is sometimes ended artificially by the realist assuming that the pragmatist not only (as Putnam says) follows Dewey in “falling back on a notion of ‘warranted assertibility’ instead of truth “ but uses the latter notion to analyse the meaning of “true.” Putnam is right that no such analysis will work. But the pragmatist, if he is wise, will not succumb to the temptation to fill the blank in
S is true if and only if S is assertible ...
with “at the end of inquiry” or “by the standards of our culture” or with anything else. He will recognise the strength of Putnam’s naturalistic fallacy” argument: Just as nothing can fill the blank in
A is the best thing to do in circumstances C if and only if ...
so, a fortiori, nothing will fill the blank in
Asserting S is the best thing to do in C if and only if ...
If the pragmatist is advised that he must not confuse the advisability of asserting S with the truth of S, he will respond that the advice is question-begging. The question is precisely whether “the true” is more
than what William James defined it as: “the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite, assignable reasons.” On James’s view, “true” resembles “good” or “rational” in being a normative notion, a compliment paid to sentences that seem to be paying their way and that fit in with other sentences which are doing so. To think that Truth is “out there” is, on their view, on all fours with the Platonic view that The Good is “out there.” …… (Introduction: 12-13)
For the pragmatist, the notion of “truth” as something “objective “ is just a confusion between
(I) Most of the world is as it is whatever we think about it (that is, our beliefs have very limited causal efficacy)
(II) There is something out there in addition to the world called “the truth about the world” (what James sarcastically called “this tertium quid intermediate between the facts per se, on the one hand, and all knowledge of them, actual or potential, on the other”).”
The pragmatist wholeheartedly assents to (I)—not as an article of metaphysical faith but simply as a belief that we have never had any reason to doubt—and cannot make sense of (II). When the realist tries to explain (II) with
(III) The truth about the world consists in a relation of “correspondence” between certain sentences (many of which, no doubt, have yet to be formulated) and the world itself the pragmatist can only fall back on saying, once again, that many centuries of attempts to explain what “correspondence” is have failed, especially when it comes to explaining how the final vocabulary of future physics will somehow be Nature’s Own— the one which, at long last, lets us formulate sentences which lock on to
Nature’s own way of thinking of Herself.
For these reasons, the pragmatist does not think that, whatever else philosophy of language may do, it is going to come up with a definition of “true” which gets beyond James. He happily grants that it can do a lot of other things. For example, it can, following Tarski, show what it would be like to define a truth-predicate for a given language. The pragmatist can agree with Davidson that to define such a predicate—to develop a truth-theory for the sentences of English, e.g,—would be a good way, perhaps the only way, to exhibit a natural language as a learnable, recursive structure, and thus to give a systematic theory of meaning for the language. But he agrees with Davidson that such an exhibition is all that Tarski can give us, and all that can be milked out of Philosophical reflection on Truth. (Introduction: 14)
Just as the pragmatist should not succumb to the temptation to capturethe intuitive content of our notion of truth” (including whatever it is in that notion which makes realism tempting), so he should not succumb to the temptation held out by Michael Dummett to take sides on the issue of “bivalence.” (Introduction: 14-15)
Dummett has suggested that a lot of traditional issues in the area of the pragmatist-realist debate can be clarified by the technical apparatus of philosophy of language, along the following lines:
In a variety of different areas there arises a philosophical dispute of the same general character: the dispute for or against. realism concerning statements within a given type of subject-matter, or, better, statements of a certain general type. [Dummett elsewhere lists moral statements, mathematical statements, statements about the past, and modal statements as examples of such types.] Such a dispute consists in an opposition between two points of view concerning the kind of meaning possessed by statements of the kind in question, and hence about the application to them of the notions of truth and falsity.
For the realist, we have assigned a meaning to these statements in such a way that we know, for each statement, what has to be the case for it to be true. ... The condition for the truth of a statement is not, in general, a condition we are capable of recognising as obtaining whenever it obtains, or even one for which we have an effective procedure for determining whether it obtains or not. We have therefore succeeded in ascribing to our statements a meaning of such a kind that their truth or falsity is, in general, independent of whether we know, or have any means of knowing, what truth-value they have ...
Opposed to this realist account of statements in some given class is the anti-realist interpretation. According to this, the meanings of statements of the class in question are given to us, not in terms of the conditions under which these statements are true or false, conceived of as conditions which obtain or do not obtain independently of our knowledge or capacity for knowledge, but in terms of the conditions which we recognise as establishing the truth or falsity of statements of that class. (Introduction: 15)
“Bivalence” is the property of being either true or false, so Dummett thinks of a “realistic” view about a certain area (say, moral values, or possible worlds) as asserting bivalence for statements about such things. His way of formulating the realist vs. anti-realist issue thus suggests that the pragmatist denies bivalence for all statements, the “extreme” realist asserts it for all statements, while the level-headed majority sensibly discriminate between the bivalent statements of, e.g., physics and the non-bivalent statements of, e.g., morals.
According to Dummett, the pragmatist is a quasi-idealist metaphysician who ontologically committed only to ideas or sentences, and does not believe that there is anything “out there” which makes any sort of statement true. But, of course, this is not the pragmatist’s picture of himself. He does not think of himself as any kind of a metaphysician, because he does not understand the notion of “there being ... out there” (except in the literal sense of ‘out there’ in which it means “at a position in space”). He does
not find it helpful to explicate the Platonist’s conviction about The Good or The Numbers by saying that the Platonist believes that “There is truth-or-falsity about ... regardless of the state of our knowledge or the availability of procedures for inquiry.” The “is” in this sentence ‘ seems to him just as obscure as the “is” in “Truth is so.” Confronted with the passage from Dummett cited above, the pragmatist wonders how one goes about telling one “kind of meaning” from another, and what it would be like to have “intuitions” about the bivalence or non-bivalence of kinds of statements. He is a pragmatist just because he doesn’t have such intuitions (or wants to get rid of whatever such intuitions he may have). When he
asks himself, about a given statement S, whether he “knows what has to be the case for it to be true’ ‘ or merely knows “the conditions which we recognise as establishing the truth or falsity of statements of that class,” he feels as helpless as when asked, “Are you really in love, or merely inflamed by passion?” He is inclined to suspect that it is not a very useful question, and that at any rate introspection is not the way to answer it. But in the case of bivalence it is not clear that there is another way. Dummett does not help us see what to count as a good argument for asserting bivalence of, e.g., moral or modal statements; he merely says that there are some people who do assert this and some who don’t, presumably having been born with different metaphysical temperaments. If one is born without metaphysical views—or if, having become pessimistic about the utility of Philosophy, one is self-consciously attempting to eschew such views—then one will feel that Dummett’s reconstruction of the traditional issues explicates the obscure with the equally obscure.
What I have said about Field and about Dummett is intended to cast doubt on the “technical realist’s” view that the pragmatist-realist issue should be fought out on some narrow, dearly demarcated ground within the philosophy of language. There is no such ground. This is not, to be sure, the fault of philosophy of language, but of the pragmatist. He refuses to take a stand to provide an “analysis” of “S is true,” for example, or to either assert or deny bivalence. He refuses to make a move in any of the games in which he is invited to take part. The only point at which “referential semantics” or “bivalence” becomes of interest to him comes when somebody tries to treat these notions as explanatory, as not just expressing intuitions but as doing some work—explaining, for example, “why science is so successful.” At this point the pragmatist hauls out his bag of tried-and-true dialectical gambits.” He proceeds to argue that there is no pragmatic difference, no difference that makes a difference, between “it works because it’s true” and “it’s true because it works” any more than between “it’s pious because the gods love it” and “the gods love it because it’s pious.” Alternatively, he argues that there is no pragmatic difference between the nature of truth and the test of truth, and that the test of truth, of what statements to assert, is (except maybe for a few perceptual statements) not “comparison with reality.” All these gambits will be felt by the realist to be question-begging, since the realist intuits that some differences can be real without making a difference, that sometimes the ordo essendi is different from ordo cognoscendi, sometimes the nature of X is not our
test for the presence of Xness. And so it goes.
What we should conclude, I think, is that technical realism collapses into intuitive realism—that the only debating point which the realist has is his conviction that the raising of the good old metaphysical problems (are there really universals? are there really causally efficacious physical objects, or did we just posit them?) served some good purpose, brought something to light, was important. What the pragmatist wants to debate is just this point. He does not want to discuss necessary and sufficient conditions for a sentence being true, but precisely whether the practice which hopes to find a Philosophical way of isolating the essence of Truth has, in fact, paid off. So the issue between him and the intuitive realist is a matter of what to make of the history of that practice-what to make of the history of Philosophy. The real issue is about the place of Philosophy in Western philosophy, the place within the intellectual history of the West of the particular series of texts which raise the “deep” Philosophical problems which the realist wants to preserve.
4. The Realist Reaction (II): Intuitive Realism
The second motive is with less specialised and more broadly ranging writers like Stanley Cavell and Thomas Nagel. I shall call Cavell, Nagel (and others, such as Thompson Clarke and Barry Stroud) “intuitive realists.” They object that the pragmatists’ dissolutions of traditional problems are “verificationist”: that is, pragmatists think our inability to say what would count as confirming or disconfirming a given solution to a problem is a reason or setting the problem aside. To take this view is, Nagel tells us, to fail to recognise that “unsolvable problems are not for that reason unreal.” Intuitive realists judge verificationism by its fruits, and argue that the pragmatist belief in the ubiquity of language leads to the inability to recognise that philosophical problems arise precisely where language is inadequate to the facts. “My realism about the subjective domain in all its forms,” Nagel says, “implies a belief in the existence of facts beyond the reach of human concepts.” (Introduction: 10-11)
What really needs debate between the pragmatist and the intuitive realist is not whether we have intuitions to the effect that “truth is more than assertibility” or “there is more to pains than brain-states” or “there is a clash between modem physics and our sense of moral responsibility.” Of course we have such intuitions. ... But .. the question between pragmatist and realist .. that we must find a philosophical view which “captures” such intuitions. The pragmatist is urging that we do our best to stop having such intuitions, that we develop a new intellectual tradition. (Introduction: 17-18)
What strikes intuitive realists as offensive about this suggestion is that it seems as dishonest to suppress intuitions as it is to suppress experimental data.
On their conception, philosophy (not merely Philosophy) requires one to do justice to everybody’s intuitions. just as social justice is what would be brought about by institutions whose existence could be justified to every citizen, so intellectual justice would be made possible by finding theses which everyone would, given sufficient time and dialectical ability, accept.
This view of intellectual life presupposes either that, contrary to the prophets of the ubiquity of language, language does not go all the way down, or that, contrary to the appearances, all vocabularies are commensurable.
The first alternative amounts to saying that some intuitions, at least, are not a function of the way one has been brought up to talk, of the texts and people one has encountered.
The second amounts to saying that the intuitions built into the vocabularies of Homeric warriors, Buddhist sages, Enlightenment scientists, and contemporary French literary critics, are not really as different as they seem—that there are common elements in each which Philosophy can isolate and use to formulate theses which it would be rational for all these people to accept, and problems which they all face. (Introduction: 18)
The pragmatist, on the other hand, thinks that the quest for a universal human community will be self-defeating if it tries to preserve the elements of every intellectual tradition, all the “deep” intuitions everybody has ever had. it is not to be achieved by an attempt at commensuration, at a common vocabulary which isolates the common human essence of Achilles and the Buddha, Lavoisier and Derrida. Rather, it is to be reached, if at all, by acts, of making rather than of finding—by poetic— rather than Philosophical achievement. The culture which will transcend, and thus unite, East and West, or the Earthlings and the Galactics, is not likely to be one which does equal justice to each, but one which looks back on both with the amused condescension typical of later generations looking back at their ancestors. So the pragmatist’s quarrel with the intuitive realist should be about the status of intuitions about their right to be respected as opposed to how particular intuitions might be “synthesised” or explained away.” To treat his opponent properly, the pragmatist must begin by admitting that the realistic intuitions in question are as deep and compelling as the realist says they are. But he should then try to change the subject by asking, “And what should we do about such intuitions-extirpate them, or find a vocabulary which does justice to them?” (Introduction: 18-19)
Neopragmatism, sometimes called linguistic pragmatism is a contemporary term for a philosophy which reintroduces many concepts from pragmatism. The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy (2004) defines "Neo-pragmatism" as "A postmodern version of pragmatism developed by the American philosopher Richard Rorty and drawing inspiration from authors such as John Dewey, Martin Heidegger, Wilfrid Sellars, Quine, and Jacques Derrida". It repudiates the notions of universal truth, epistemological foundationalism, representationalism, and epistemic objectivity. While traditional pragmatism focuses on experience, Rorty centers on language. It is a nominalist approach that denies that natural kinds and linguistic entities have substantive ontological implications. In Neopragmatism, language is contingent on use, and meaning is produced by using words in familiar manners. The self is regarded as a "centerless web of beliefs and desires". Rorty denies that the subject-matter of the human sciences can be studied in the same ways as we study the natural sciences. (Bunnin & Yu, 467)
It has been associated with a variety of other thinkers including Hilary Putnam, W.V.O. Quine, Donald Davidson and Stanley Fish though none of these figures have called themselves "neopragmatists".
Analytical, neoclassical, and neopragmatism
Neopragmatism is a broad contemporary category used for various thinkers, some of them radically opposed to one another. The name neopragmatist signifies that the thinkers in question incorporate important insights of, and yet significantly diverge from, the classical pragmatists. This divergence may occur either in their philosophical methodology (many of them are loyal to the analytic tradition) or in conceptual formation (C.I. Lewis was very critical of Dewey; Richard Rorty dislikes Peirce). Important analytical neopragmatists include the aforementioned Lewis, W. V. O. Quine, Donald Davidson, Hilary Putnam, and the early Richard Rorty. Brazilian social thinker Roberto Unger advocates for a "radical pragmatism," one that 'de-naturalizes' society and culture, and thus insists that we can "transform the character of our relation to social and cultural worlds we inhabit rather than just to change, little by little, the content of the arrangements and beliefs that comprise them." Stanley Fish, the later Rorty and Jürgen Habermas are closer to continental thought.
Neoclassical pragmatism denotes those thinkers who consider themselves inheritors of the project of the classical pragmatists. Sidney Hook and Susan Haack (known for the theory of foundherentism) are well-known examples. Many pragmatist ideas (especially those of Peirce) find a natural expression in the decision-theoretic reconstruction of epistemology pursued in the work of Isaac Levi. Nicholas Rescher advocates his version of "methodical pragmatism" based on construing pragmatic efficacy not as a replacement for truths but as a means to its evidentiation.
Not all pragmatists are easily characterized. It is probable, considering the advent of postanalytic philosophy and the diversification of Anglo-American philosophy, that more philosophers will be influenced by pragmatist thought without necessarily publicly committing themselves to that philosophical school. Daniel Dennett, a student of Quine's, falls into this category, as does Stephen Toulmin, who arrived at his philosophical position via Wittgenstein, whom he calls "a pragmatist of a sophisticated kind" (foreword for Dewey 1929 in the 1988 edition, p. xiii). Another example is Mark Johnson whose embodied philosophy (Lakoff and Johnson 1999) shares its psychologism, direct realism and anti-cartesianism with pragmatism. Conceptual pragmatism is a theory of knowledge originating with the work of the philosopher and logician Clarence Irving Lewis. The epistemology of conceptual pragmatism was first formulated in the 1929 book Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge.
'French Pragmatism' is attended with theorists such as Bruno Latour, Michel Crozier, Luc Boltanski, and Laurent Thévenot. It is often seen as opposed to structural problems connected to the French Critical Theory of Pierre Bourdieu.