I'm trying to understand this paper. Seems to me like it all stems from a rejection of "meaning"... ie: Quine is saying statements don't mean anything. And this is what leads to the rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction. But if meanings do exist, then there's a simple distinction between analytic and synthetic... analytic statements are true in virtue of the meanings of the words... Synthetic statements are not.

So if we don't agree with Quine's rejection of meaning, then we can't accept the rest of the paper. Is that right?

Here's a link to the paper:


  • I have not read the paper (a link would be nice), however from what you stated, I would suggest the following. Meaning is something that we choose to assign to words, symbols and statements. Without that assignment, they are just those things with no meaning. I do not believe it's intent is to self-propagate rejection, however if that is the meaning you give, then that is what it is. If you subtract 'meaning' and look at the letters and statements on the paper for what they are, you will find that communication breaks down, and you will also understand why there is no meaning. – Kraang Prime Mar 26 '16 at 4:09
  • @SanuelJackson, I've included a link. – Ameet Sharma Mar 26 '16 at 4:14
  • @SanuelJackson, I agree with you. Which is why the paper confuses me. – Ameet Sharma Mar 26 '16 at 4:18
  • Reading it now. – Kraang Prime Mar 26 '16 at 5:53
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    I think that's Quine's point, one learns to judge synonymy or analyticity in familiar languages just like one learns to recognize flowers or animals, but if we want a theory of analyticity (flowers, animals) then saying that we will know it when we see it isn't much help. Positivists, against whom Two Dogmas were written, talked of analyticity not in natural languages but in arbitrary formal languages that can potentially be used in science, and relied on the distinction to separate "empirical" from "theoretical". Quine showed that they literally could not explain what they were talking about. – Conifold Mar 27 '16 at 3:04

He is not rejecting meaning; what he says is:

My present suggestion is that it is nonsense, and the root of much 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.

Thus, if we deny that:

the truth of a statement is somehow analyzable into a linguistic component and a factual component.

we have to reject the possibility of identifying a class of statements whose truth relies only on the "linguistic component", i.e. the class of analytic statements.

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    Ok. Then I'm missing something basic. Why can't I say, "a bachelor is an unmarried man." is an analytic statement because 'bachelor' means the same thing as 'unmarried man'. By virtue of meanings the statement is analytic. Why would Quine have a problem with this? Quine talks about how they come to mean the same thing... but I think this is irrelevant... somehow the two labels come to refer to the same meaning, and it is by virtue of this that we get that "a bachelor is an unmarried man." is analytic. That's to me the common-sensical view when one has meanings. – Ameet Sharma Mar 26 '16 at 12:23
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    @AmeetSharma - see The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction: the issue is clearly not conclusively settled... as usual in philosophy. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Mar 26 '16 at 13:11

Quine doesn't hold that statements don't mean anything (that indeed would be quite an extreme form of skepticism), but rather that the meaningfulness of statements should be considered not in isolation but only as a part of a broader theory or language. This is of course of Quine's holism. You can read more here.

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