Katz on Quine

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Katz on Quine

Post  Becker on Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:44 am

Below is a direct quote from Katz's book Sense, Reference, and Philosophy

"Mention of Quine and circularity brings to mind the argument in 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' that many philosophers have taken to show that the attempt to individuate senses in terms of synonymy is circular. But when we look closely at what Quine actually (my emphasis) says about the attempt, we see that he does not say that it is circular. In fact, he denies that it is! In summarizing his criticism of interchangeability in intensional contexts as an explanation of synonymy, Quine says the following: "Our argument is not flatly circular, but something like it. It has the form, figuratively speaking, of a closed curve in space" (1953: 30). I regard this remark as so significant a revelation that I chose it as one of the three epigraphs for this book.

The remark may be puzzling at first. How can Quine deny that the argument is "flatly circular"? Hasn't he just tried to demonstrate that it is? Isn't the argument in question one that tries to explain synonymy in terms of interchangeability, in contexts like 'Necessarily all and only bachelors are bachelors', in which necessity can be supposed to be "so narrowly construed as to be applicable only to analytic statements" (1953: 29)? And hasn't Quine already shown us that necessity so construed does not serve for languages with "extra-logical synonym pairs, such as 'bachelor' and 'unmarried man'" (23-24) unless we have an understanding of synonymy already? What can he mean by describing the argument as "hav[ing] the form, figuratively speaking, of a closed curve in space"? How are the metaphors "closed curve" and "space" to be unpacked? My initial inclination, which I suspect many readers of 'Two Dogmas' shared, was to take the remark as more stylistic than substantive. But I have come to think that nothing could be further from the truth. When we unpack the "closed curve" metaphor, we see that Quine is saying that synonymy and the other concepts of the theory of meaning belong to "a family of closely related notions" that are definable only in terms of one another. Such definition is not "flatly circular" here any more than it is when it is used to express the relations among logical, arithmetic, or geometric notions. The "curve" is "closed" because the concepts in the theory of meaning are not definable or explainable within some theory outside the theory of meaning. Intensional concepts form a system that is irreducible to other systems in the space of theories - in particular, the theory of reference. Ironically, what Quine was saying about the theory of meaning in summarizing his criticism of interchangeability is exactly what I am saying now: the theory is autonomous.

Of course, we do not regard autonomy in the same way. I regard it as putting the theory of meaning on a par with theories in mathematics, logic, and linguistics, and thereby giving the theory a new lease on life. Quine regards it as cutting the theory of meaning off from other theories that might be used to make objective sense of its concepts, and thereby dooming it. I see reduction as transmogrification; Quine sees it as transmutation." (2004 p. 19-20)

In his book, Katz is arguing for a non-Fregeian intensionalism by focusing on his theory of sense, which as alluded to above, is autonomous and not reducible to reference. He describes his definition of sense as being:

Sense is that aspect of the grammatical structure of sentences that is responsible for their sense properties and relations (e.g., meaningfulness, meaninglessness, ambiguity, synonymy, redundancy, and antonymy).

I've only started the book, but as I ran across this portion in the reading, I felt obliged to share it with everyone and propose a re-visiting of the topics addressed by Quine and their interpretations.

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Dr. Katz, Sensual Healer

Post  John on Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:39 pm

I just found the text online at scribd and it looks like an interesting read. I am all for continued discussions on one of my favorite topics. Now, just a few preliminary thoughts:

And hasn't Quine already shown us that necessity so construed does not serve for languages with "extra-logical synonym pairs, such as 'bachelor' and 'unmarried man'" (23-24) unless we have an understanding of synonymy already?
I would agree with this interpretation up to a point, and would argue that Quine makes something like this explicit in the next chapter of From a Logical Point of View, where he discusses difficulties in translation due to synonymity being required before the process can even begin.
Intensional concepts form a system that is irreducible to other systems in the space of theories - in particular, the theory of reference. Ironically, what Quine was saying about the theory of meaning in summarizing his criticism of interchangeability is exactly what I am saying now: the theory is autonomous.
Now, taken as at face value, this seems to be rather innocuous. Does this mean that 'Intensional Concepts,' as irreducible, form a system autonomous from other theories in the sense Quine meant? If so, then this would have followed from Carnap's work without the help of Quine. Within a theory of meaning, in Quine's case, the Logical Positivist theory of meaning, analyticity was circular, but surely circular specific to that theory. I think this is very clear on a close reading as he moves through the arguments. For instance, his definition of intersubstitutivity rests on a specific interpretation of what that term has meant (and meant to the positivists), and might not hold on other interpretations. I have taken this as one of the reasons that modern philosophers often maintain the distinction between analytic/synthetic, since this argument is relevant from a particular, say, 'Logical (Positivist) Point of View.' Of course, Katz makes it clear that he understands this difference, but then it seems odd that he would eve invoke Quine...

Sense is that aspect of the grammatical structure of sentences that is responsible for their sense properties and relations (e.g., meaningfulness, meaninglessness, ambiguity, synonymy, redundancy, and antonymy).
Is that to say that Sense is grammatical in nature? So Sense is what, grammatically, is responsible for meaning and ambiguity? Perhaps Sense just is grammatical meaning and ambiguity? Sounds interesting and I look forward to diving in!

For anyone looking for the book you can find it online here. I'll see if I can download a copy and distribute accordingly. Happy reading and great find Chris!
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