Truth in Virtue of Meaning: A Defence of the Analytic/Synthetic Distinction

Paperback | September 26, 2011

byGillian Russell

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The analytic/synthetic distinction looks simple. It is a distinction between two different kinds of sentence. Synthetic sentences are true in part because of the way the world is, and in part because of what they mean. Analytic sentences - like all bachelors are unmarried and triangles havethree sides--are different. They are true in virtue of meaning, so no matter what the world is like, as long as the sentence means what it does, it will be true. This distinction seems powerful because analytic sentences seem to be knowable in a special way. One can know that all bachelors are unmarried, for example, just by thinking about what it means. But many twentieth-century philosophers, with Quine in the lead, argued that there were no analyticsentences, that the idea of analyticity didn't even make sense, and that the analytic/synthetic distinction was therefore an illusion. Others couldn't see how there could fail to be a distinction, however ingenious the arguments of Quine and his supporters. But since the heyday of the debate, things have changed in the philosophy of language. Tools have been refined, confusions cleared up, and most significantly, many philosophers now accept a view of language - semantic externalism--on which it is possible to see how the distinction could fail. Onemight be tempted to think that ultimately the distinction has fallen for reasons other than those proposed in the original debate. In Truth in Virtue of Meaning, Gillian Russell argues that it hasn't. Using the tools of contemporary philosophy of language, she outlines a view of analytic sentences which is compatible with semantic externalism and defends that view against the old Quinean arguments. She then goes on to draw outthe surprising epistemological consequences of her approach.

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The analytic/synthetic distinction looks simple. It is a distinction between two different kinds of sentence. Synthetic sentences are true in part because of the way the world is, and in part because of what they mean. Analytic sentences - like all bachelors are unmarried and triangles havethree sides--are different. They are true in v...

Gillian Russell is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St Louis.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:250 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.54 inPublished:September 26, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199694737

ISBN - 13:9780199694730

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgementsIntroductionI: The Positive View1. The 'in virtue of' Relation2. Meaning3. Beyond ModalityA. The Formal SystemII: A Defence4. The Spectre of "Two Dogmas"5. Definitions6. More Arguments Against AnalyticityIII: Work for Epistemologists7. Analytic Justification

Editorial Reviews

"Review from previous edition: Russell's book is impressive and richly argued ... she has brought the debate on analyticity to a new level. In her book she presents us with an alternative, well-developed and highly original way of thinking about truth in virtue of meaning, one that cirumventsmany of the difficulties that plague traditional analyticity. This makes the book a must-read by anybody interested in the topic of analyticity, and the nature of meaning generally." --Asa Wikforss, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews