Should the analytic-synthetic distinction be defended?

The analytic-synthetic distinction should be defended. The analytic-synthetic distinction seems to have a significant role to play in making sense of philosophical puzzles:

There are three famous philosophical puzzles raised by Quine. The puzzles can be explicated as follows:

The puzzle of identity:
(1)     The morning star has the property of rising in the morning.
(2)     Evidence shows that the morning star is the evening star, i.e.
both are Venus.
(3)     But the evening star does not have the property of rising in the morning.

Russell’s example of Scott and the author of Waverly:
(1)     George IV wished to know if Scott was the author of Waverly.
(2)     In fact, Scott is the author of Waverly.
(3)     So, George IV wished to know if Scott was Scott.

The puzzle of modality:
(1)     Necessarily, nine is greater than seven.
(2)     Nine is the number of planets.
(3)     Necessarily, the number of planets is greater than seven.

These puzzles could be given resolution in the light of the traditional analytic-synthetic distinction so vehemently denied by Quine. Quine argued that the analytic-synthetic distinction does not hold for individual scientific statements.

It was previously suggested that scientific statements could be divided in two kinds- analytic statements such as the statement that
all bachelors are married men, and synthetic statements such as the statement that all creatures with kidneys are creatures with hearts.

The first type of statement is necessarily true, which means it cannot be false, while the second type of statement is contingently true, by which it means it is true or false depending on the factual circumstances.

The main difference between analytic and synthetic statements is that analytic statements are true by virtue of meaning, whereas synthetic statements are true by virtue of fact.

As such, scientific statements such as the statement that all copper conducts electricity, that all swans are white, or that F=ma cannot be classified as either analytic or as synthetic statements.

Quine was right to say that scientific statements are neither analytic nor synthetic. However, this is not to say that the analytic-synthetic distinction cannot be used to resolve the philosophical puzzles that arise.

In order to resolve the puzzles mentioned by Quine, we need only turn to the analytic-synthetic distinction. For example, in the case of the puzzle of identity, we can classify the statement “morning star=evening star” as a factual statement or a synthetic truth. We therefore cannot treat the statement as an analytic truth, and substitute the term ‘morning star’ for ‘evening star’ without changing the truth-value of the statement.

In the case of Russell’s example of Scott and the author of Waverly, the statement that Scott is the author of Waverly is an instance of an identity statement that again cannot be treated analytically because it is a factual statement.

Finally, in the case of the modality example, the statement that nine is the number of planets is another instance of an identity statement that cannot be treated analytically, i.e. cannot have substitution of one term for another because it is a factual or synthetic statement.

To conclude, we have looked at three examples where the analytic-synthetic distinction can be used in philosophy to answer to puzzling phenomena in the philosophy of language. The analytic-synthetic distinction is thereby defended on different grounds, independent of Quine’s rejection of the distinction in the case of scientific statements.

Quine, W.V. 1951. Two Dogmas of Empiricism
Quine, W.V. 1956. Reference and Modality

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