Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Analytical Philosophy and Analysis

My thesis is self-serving, as I find that the stances I take in philosophy are often analyses that other philosophers dismiss out of hand as incredible on their faces. (On the other hand, which philosopher doesn't face the same predicament? So perhaps I am serving all today!) My thesis is that all interesting results in analytical philosophy, in a strict sense of that term, will seem untrue to most philosophers.

I take it that analytical definitions are the goal of analytical philosophy in the strict sense (the loose sense being philosophy that aims at uncovering the truth of philosophical issues by rigor of argument and clarity of terms.) If interesting, any viable analytical definition is by bound to appear to be incorrect or uninteresting. It is the expansion on, the unpacking of the sense of a term in order to draw out implications for philosophical issues to which it is relevant. If the analysis seemed correct it wouldn't have been interesting. It would have been a common-sense or lexical definition of the term. It just so happens that many terms relevant to philosophy have a large semantic space that is not transparent even after several passes and examinations and that after further scrutiny is found to have multiple compartments, as well as quite a few nooks and crannies. An analytical definition comes up with a summary description of this space and an identity of it with its packaging term: of definiens with definiendum. Due to the volume of space and the distance covered by the identity, any true analysis will seem false to most philosophers. They'll need to follow the sound argument in order to convince themselves. Otherwise the analysis would not be interesting, as, ex hypothesi, it is.

In the little series on verification I will give you a definition of "right". In the twelve years of its existence, no one has ever told me he thought it seemed true to him. This is evidence that it is true. Just kidding! But you see my point. In fact, I hope someone will come up with a refutation of the definition. No one has yet.