The essential distinction we can now make is between synthetic and analytic statements (to opt, essentially, for Kant’s terms). Hume, for one, made the following distinction between
“Matters of fact” are of course matters of the external world. A statement like “Tony Blair is the Prime Minister” will fit the bill nicely. I can't determine the truth of this statement simply by analysing the contents of my own mind (unless, an experience of Tony Blair being the Prime Minister is already part of the content of my own mind).
His first point is that extensions or references (or objects or denotata) can't determine the meaning of a word or phrase. He gives the examples of the term “9” and the phrase “the number of planets”. Both the term and the phrase designate the same abstract entity, namely, the number 9. However, we can't say that the term “9” and the phrase “the number of planets” have the same meaning. There is a possible world where the number of planets isn't nine; whereas in every possible world “9” will designate the number 9.
Quine points out that astronomical observation was required to determine the number of planets in our world; though astronomy isn’t needed to determine the referent of “9”. This means that we need to distinguish the meanings of general terms (rather than particular terms) from their extensions.
Quine gives the examples of “creature with a kidney” and “creature with a heart” as having the same extension. This means the collection of objects that are the extension of the former are also the extension of the latter. But, again, the meanings of these two examples are clearly not the same. So extensions alone don't provide us with the meanings of terms. Saying something has a heart is clearly not the same as saying that something has a kidney.
Essence and Meaning
Quine rejects the whole notion of essence. He says that
“it makes no sense to say of the actual individual, who, is at once a man and a biped, that his rationality is essential and his two-leggedness accidental or vice versa”.
(The class of men and the class of bipeds both include the same extension.)
Quine doesn’t see why this distinction between essential and contingent properties is made. It appears in essence to be entirely arbitrary and seems to serve no real purpose. Why is rationality essential and two-leggedness contingent (or vice versa)? Is an irrational man not, well, a man? And if an elephant were rational, would it be a man? And so on.
“Meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word.”
Quine wants to jettison this traditional view of meanings (as mental entities behind or prior to their expression). All he now wants from meaning is “simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and the analyticity of statements”. This means that when someone asks for the meaning of a statement, we don't refer to abstract mental entities or even mention them; we simply offer a synonym of that statement. A
As for the analyticity of statements: the subject and predicate of an analytic statement are not synonyms because they both contain the same meanings; but because they are both mutually inter-translatable. Meanings “as obscure intermediary entities may well be abandoned”.
His first point is that a relation of synonymy (say, between “bachelor” and “unmarried man”) is stipulated, or created “by fiat”, to use Quine’s term, between the definiendum (“bachelor”) and the definiens (“an unmarried man”). This relation of synonymy, according to Quine, “did not hold before”. That’s why it is stipulated or created “by fiat”. The “definiendum becomes synonymous with the definiens simply because it's been created expressly for the purpose of being synonymous with the definiens”. This seems to be Quine’s way of saying that these synonyms are the result of convention (or human will); rather than the matching up of both terms with pre-existing mental or Platonic entities (i.e., meanings). We decide that “bachelor” and “unmarried man” are synonyms. They aren’t made so by prior meanings. The synonymy “is created by definition”, not by abstract meanings.
can have its terms substituted for
Quine then goes into greater detail about the nature of synonymy. He talks about two forms of synonymy between words or statements.
Firstly, there is psychological synonymy. That is a “complete identity in psychological associations or poetic quality” between words or statements. This kind of synonymy doesn't concern Quine here. The kind of synonymy he's concerned with he calls “cognitive synonymy”. What is cognitive synonymy? This is a synonymy that can be created by turning an analytic statement into a logical truth by putting synonyms for synonyms.
So, again, we turn
“assurance here that the extensional agreement of ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarrieman’ rests on meaning [analyticity] rather than merely on accidental matters of fact”.
“…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.”
What’s Quine’s problem with the analyticity of “Everything green is extended”? He doesn’t have a problem with the meanings of “green” and “extended”. He knows what “green” and “extended” mean. No, the trouble is with that term again – “analytic”. He may accept that everything green is extended; though he doesn’t accept that “Everything green is extended” is an analytic statement. What does analyticity add to the truth of that statement? More precisely, again, what is analyticity? Is there something over and above that statement being true? Where is it and what is it?
Carnap said that you formulate an artificial language. Call it Lo. The semantical rules of Lo tell us which statements of the language are analytic.
After this account of Quine’s position on analyticity, we should be able to guess Quine’s problem with this approach. I wrote earlier that Lo tells us which statements should be taken as analytic. Yes; but we don’t understand the word “analytic” in the first place. So how do the stipulations of Lo solve our problems with analyticity? To use Quine’s own words, we “understand what expressions the rules attribute analyticity to, but we do not understand what the rules attribute to those expressions”. That is, Lo tells us what statements are analytic and perhaps why they're analytic; though it does not tell us what “analytic” means. So we're back to analyticity again. Quine thinks that Carnap would have been forced back to uninterpreted analyticity thus
“Relative to a given set of postulates, it is easy to say what a postulate is: it is a member of the set [the set of postulates].”
“Relative to a given set of semantical rules, it is equally easy to say what a semantical rule is.”
“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 that understanding”.
“in general…the truth of a statement is somehow analyzable into a linguistic component and a factual component”
“…a boundary between analytic and synthetic statements simply has not been drawn.” Such a belief in analytic statements is an “unempirical dogma of empiricists, a metaphysical article of faith”.