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Philosophical Studies in Contemporary Culture


Series Editor
H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of
Medicine, Houston, Texas, and Philosophy Department, Rice University, Houston, Texas

Associate Editor
Kevin William Wildes, S.J., Philosophy Department and Kennedy Institute of Ethics,
Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Editorial Board
Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Terry Pinkard, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
Mary C. Rawlinson, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Stuart F. Spieker, Massachusetts College ofPharmacy and Allied Health Sciences, Boston,
Marx W. Wartofsky, Baruch College, City University of New York

The titles published in this series are listed at the end of this volume.
The Enlightenment Project
in the Analytic Conversation


University of Tulsa,
Tulsa, Oklaho1lllJ, U.S.A.


A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

ISBN 978-90-481-5019-9 ISBN 978-94-017-3300-7 (eBook)

DOI 10.1007/978-94-017-3300-7

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Originally published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in 1998
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Nicholas Rescher

It is not possible to thank all of the individuals and authors who have
influenced the writing of this book. My debts in many cases are obvious. A number
of individuals deserve special mention: My friend Charles Sherover, my colleague
and friend Richard McDonough, and my research assistant Steven Chesser all read
the entire manuscript. John Kekes read and commented on an earlier draft. My
colleagues Paul Rahe and Jacob Howland read and commented on Chapter Eleven.
Special thanks are due to my colleagues in the Philosophy Department at the
National University of Singapore who patiently endured my early lectures on this
topic during the 1985-86 academic year. Despite my criticism of his position, Rom
Harre was a ray of hope who during my term at Oxford helped me to transcend
positivism. Hilail Gildin introduced me to the writings of Leo Strauss and made me
recognize at an early date that true philosophy and political philosophy could be kept
alive outside of the academic mainstream. A large part of the time needed to produce
Chapter Ten was made possible by a grant from the Earhart Foundation.
Insofar as I have grown philosophically, this has largely been made possible
by my association with and participation in the intellectual life of Liberty Fund.
Those most responsible for this privilege and for my development include Charles
King, George B. Martin, H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr., Emilio Pacheco, John Gray,
Stuart Warner, Timothy Fuller, Stephen Erickson, Douglas Den Uyl, Tibor Machan,
Douglas Rasmussen, and Donald Livingston.
My long time association with the Pluralist movement brought me into
contact with a number of individuals who made me realize the importance of our
responsibility not only to the discipline of philosophy but to the profession of
philosophy. These include the late William Barrett, John Loughney, John Smith,
John Lachs, Robert Neville, Don Ihde, Sandra Rosenthal, Jude Dougherty, David
Weissman, and Robert Scharff. Special acknowledgment should be made of Bruce
Wilshire not only for his leadership in the Pluralist movement but for his contribution
to understanding the crisis created in the university by professionalization.
Despite all of this help, I must accept full responsibility for this volume.
Finally, in dedicating this volume to Nicholas Rescher I wish to
acknowledge the very special role he has played in the evolution of the analytic
conversation, his enormous contribution to philosophy, and his continuing
leadership in the profession.





Appendix: Outline of the Enlightenment Project in

the Analytic Conversation 11
Notes 16


The Enlightenment and the Enlightenment Project 17

Critics of the Enlightenment Project: Kant and Hegel 25
Russell and the Origins of Analytic Philosophy 27
Positivism: How The Enlightenment Project Became Part of
The Analytic Conversation 30
Summary 33
Notes 34



The Importance of Science for Analytic Philosophy 41

The Structure of Science 44
Aristotelianism as a Philosophy of Science 44
The Analytic Restatement of the Modern Aristotelian Philosophy
of Science 48
The 'Kantian Turn' 55

Does Science Progress? (Popper, Quine, Kuhn, and Feyerabend) 56
Alternative to Scientism 65
Summary 68
Notes 69



Philosophy as the Logic of Physical Science 75

What is Logic? 76
Logicism (Frege and Russell) 81
From Positivism to the New Analytic Philosophy (Elimination
and Exploration) 89
Philosophy as the Social Science of Science 92
Explication as the Alternative 97
Explication vs. Exploration 100
Notes 104



Introduction 112
What is Metaphysics? (Platonic, Aristotelian, and Copernican) 112
Modern Aristotelian Metaphysics 114
Hegelian Metaphysics (The Hegelian Argument) 116
Does Analytic Philosophy have a Metaphysics? 120
The Modern Aristotelian Metaphysics of Analytic Philosophy 123
Quine as Modern Aristotelian Metaphysician 124
Kripke as Modern Aristotelian Metaphysician 128
Self-Reference as the Achilles Heel of Analytic Metaphysics 132
The Hegelian Moment in Analytic Metaphysics (Nozick) 139
Summary 144
Notes 145


Introduction 153
Classical Epistemology (Platonism. Aristotelianism, and

Skepticism) 153
Medieval Aristotelian Epistemology (Aquinas, Ockham, and
Suarez) 159
Modern Epistemology (Spinoza and Locke) 160
Early Analytic Epistemology (Brentano, Moore, and Russell) 170
Wittgenstein's Tractatus 174
The Tractatus Solution 176
The Implications of the Tractatus Solution 177
Wittgenstein's Misgivings 181
Post -Wittgensteinian Analytic Epistemology (Quine and Kripke) 184
Notes 188



The Epistemological Agenda 194

Why Language? 194
Analytic Linguistic Epistemology 195
Alternative Philosophical Views of Language 198
Philosophy of Language as Elimination (Quine) 201
Philosophy of Language as Explication (Wittgenstein' s
Philosophical Investigations) 204
Philosophy of Languages as Exploration
(Neo-Carnapians - Kripke) 208
Quine's Elimination vs. Kripke's Exploration 215
Summary of the Analytic Philosophy of Language 218
Wittgensteinian Explication vs. Analytic Philosophy of
Language 219
Ordinary Language Philosophy 225
Notes 231



Introduction 245
The Enlightenment Project: Introspection and the Central
Role of Cognition 246
Analytic Philosophical Psychology as Elimination

(Behaviorism and Identity Theory) 249
Epistemology, Language, and Mind 255
Analytic Philosophical Psychology as Exploration 257
Versions of Exploration (Functionalism, Fodor, and Dennett) 259
What's Wrong with Exploration? 263
The Hegelian Moment in Analytical Philosophical Psychology
(Burge) 267
The Alternative of Explication 270
The Analytic Critique of Explication (Churchland) 276
Summary 279
Analytic Philosophical Psychology as Ideology 279
Notes 281



Introduction 292
Unified Science 292
Analytic Social Science as Elimination (Methodological
Individualism) 293
Analytic Social Science as Exploration (Harre) 296
The Hegelian/Marxist Moment in Analytic Social Science 304
Explication as an Alternative to Analytic Social Science (Winch) 306
Analytic Philosophy as a Social Science 308
Summary 311
Notes 312


The Enlightenment Project and Utilitarianism 317

Analytic Ethics (Moore) 318
The Enlightenment Project Enters Analytic Ethics (Russell) 318
Analytic Ethics as Elimination (Emotivism) 319
Analytic Ethics as Exploration - Meta-ethics (Hare) 320
The Return to Substantive Ethical Theorizing (Nozick and
MacIntyre) 325
Analytic Ethics and the Loss of the Moral Agent 331
The Alternative of Explication 333

Summary 338
Notes 339



The Politics of the Enlightenment Project 349

The Enlightenment Project in the Nineteenth Century
(Liberalism, Socialism, and Marxism) 352
The Political Agenda of Analytic Philosophy 358
Analytic Political Philosophy as Elimination 362
The Meta-Politics of Exploration (Hart, Rawls, and Nozick) 364
The Inevitability of Marxism 371
The Communitarian Alternative (MacIntyre) 374
Exploration vs. Explication 377
Notes 384



Introduction 393
The Positivist Elimination of the History of Philosophy 393
Why Positivist Elimination Still Needed a History of Philosophy 395
The History of Philosophy as Exploration 396
The Analytic Exploration of the History of Philosophy 397
The Alternative of Explication 408
Explication vs. Exploration 418
Analytic History of Philosophy and the History of Analytic
Philosophy 423
Summary 428
Notes 430



Metaphysics 443
Epistemology 451

Axiology 456
Analytic Philosophy and "Our" Culture 456
Notes 461




For most of the twentieth century analytic philosophy has been the dominant
philosophical movement in the English-speaking world. I

The dominant mode of philosophizing in the United States is

called 'analytic philosophy'. Without exception, the best
philosophy departments in the United States are dominated by
analytic philosophy, and among the leading philosophers in the
United States, all but a tiny handful would be classified as analytic
philosophers. Practitioners of types of philosophizing that are not
in the analytic tradition ... feel it necessary to define their position
in relation to analytic philosophy. Indeed, analytic philosophy is
the dominant mode of philosophizing not only in the United
States, but throughout the entire English-speaking world ... It is
also the dominant mode of philosophizing in Scandinavia, and it
is also becoming more widespread in Germany, France, Italy and
throughout Latin America. 2

But for the past two decades, analytic philosophy has increasingly become
the object of criticism by rival philosophical perspectives as well as undergoing a
period of self-assessment if not soul-searching. 3 This book is intended as a
contribution to the on-going reassessment of analytic philosophy.
What complicates this task has been aptly summarized by David Bell:

Analytic philosophy ... established with remarkable speed a

distinctive set of philosophical concerns, an equally distinctive
vocabulary and a network of methodological procedures that to
this day dominate philosophical practice throughout the English-
speaking world. And yet neither the nature, the origins, the
development nor indeed the value of this 'analytic tradition' has
been of significant concern to those who have worked within:
analytic philosophy has been, and remains, largely unselfconscious
and almost entirely ahistorical. 4

We propose to identify the origins, the original core of ideas, the

development of those ideas, and assess analytic philosophy, and we shall do so by
putting that movement into historical perspective.
It is not the expression 'analytic philosophy' that is at issue, of course, but
the set of ideas that together characterize the expression. The term 'analytic
philosophy' is itself too broad to be of much help. The expression covers a century
of evolving philosophical activity by a large and diverse group of people who
frequently disagree with each other. At this late date, to attempt to define 'analytic
philosophy' would be to enter a semantic, rhetorical, and professional political
quagmire that would only obfuscate the philosophical and cultural issues at stake.
It would be more accurate and more helpful to say that there has been an analytic
conversation often consisting of disparate and dissonant voices.
2 Introduction

We begin by identifying one major strand in that conversation: the

Enlightenment Project. Our first thesis, then, is that one continuously important
element in the analytic conversation has been the Enlightenment Project. We shall
have a great deal to say about that project in Chapter One, but for the moment we can
identify the Enlightenment Project as the attempt to define, explain, and deal with the
human predicament through science. The Enlightenment Project appealed to an
autonomous human reason, freed of any higher authority and channeled itself
through science as its privileged tool.
We are not attempting to reduce analytic philosophy to the Enlightenment
Project, nor are we saying that all those who would be identified as analytic
philosophers have subscribed or do subscribe to a single set of tenets. What we are
saying, however, is that the analytic conversation originated in and is informed in
large part by the continuous presence within it of a program with historical roots that
stretch back to the Enlightenment. Our main historical contention is that the
Enlightenment Project is the cultural context within which contemporary analytic
philosophy operates. Many of the issues that concern analytic philosophers, the ways
in which those issues are identified and defined, and the range of discussable
solutions will all be illuminated by reference to the Enlightenment Project. Even the
criticisms that some analytic philosophers make of other analytic philosophers are
best understood as a debate within the larger conversation about the viability of that
The Enlightenment Project has been the dominant intellectual force in
Western Civilization for the past two centuries. That Project is now widely
perceived as having failed. Our second thesis, then, is that the sense of failure within
and the reassessment of analytic philosophy is best understood by focusing on what
we shall describe as the implosion of the Enlightenment Project. This is not to say
that all of analytic philosophy is a failure but only that a large part of the soul-
searching that characterizes the contemporary scene in the West is a reflection of the
wide-spread recognition both inside and outside of the analytic community of the
failure of a program or a series of programs that have been of central interest to
analytic philosophers.
The centrality of the Enlightenment Project for analytic philosophy will be
demonstrated by systematically examining its presence and development in areas of
major philosophical concern: the philosophy of science, metaphysics, epistemology,
the philosophy oflanguage, philosophical psychology, the philosophy of the social
sciences, ethics, political philosophy, and the history of philosophy. This
examination will also enable us to follow the internal logical disintegration of that
project. That is, technical discussions within the analytic conversation help us to
understand not only the espousal of the project but the eventual failure and rejection
of that project.
The third thesis of this book is an account of why the Enlightenment Project
failed and must always fail. This account has two parts corresponding to the two
stages of the Enlightenment Project within the analytic conversation. Briefly, the
first stage is positivism and it is marked by the espousal ofa kind of thinking called
Introduction 3

Elimination: When we theorize from an elimination point of view there is

an explicit substitution of new ideas for old ideas. Elimination is most characteristic
of physical science and technological thinking. Some examples would be the
elimination of Ptolemy's geocentric view of the universe and its replacement by
Copernicus' heliocentric view of the universe. Another example would be the
elimination of traditional theories of disease by the discovery of microbes.
Elimination is a form of radical replacement through innovation. All forms of
reductionism are forms of elimination. This is a form of thinking that seems to make
sense ifthere is some prior agreed upon framework in terms of which we can judge
that one new theory is better than an old theory.
Positivism subscribed to the view that all correct thinking is eliminative
thinking. In the early Russell and in the positivism of the Vienna Circle one sees an
optimism about how science is the successful elimination of superstition and
nonsense and how philosophy is the overseer of the transition period to a totally
scientific world view.
The major difficulty with elimination is that there must be some independent
criterion or set of norms in terms of which we can judge an elimination to be
successfid. Positivists believed, originally, that science bore the empirical mark of
its own validity. Therefore, in order to decide when one theory has successfully
eliminated another we can look to science itself. Within physical science we would,
presumably, find examples of "successful" reductions of one theory to another or
eliminations of one theory in favor of another. So it would seem to be a simple
matter to extract the criteria for such success. Unfortunately this turned out not to
be the case. Instead of being a minor technical problem of specifying when
reduction-elimination was successful, it turned out that there was no consensus on
when elimination was successful. In logic, in mathematics, and in science there are
a priori elements (semantic notions, conventions, appeals to common sense or to
intuitions, etc.) which cannot be eliminated in a straightforward and unambiguous
fashion. Turning to the larger question of how science "progresses" from one theory
to another we find an even greater mystery.
Positivism was anti-philosophical in denying the existence of a pre-
theoretical domain. By a pre-theoretical domain we mean a normative frame of
reference which serves as the departure for theoretical activity of any kind. The pre-
theoretical domain encompasses the basic presuppositions of all of our activity. The
pre-theoretical domain has historically been the subject-matter of philosophy.
Although positivists officially denied this domain, their own work was only
intelligible against a background of presuppositions. Not only were positivists
unwilling to deal with this background but their own professional and theoretical
activity lacked the resources to do so.
The second stage of the Enlightenment Project within the analytic
conversation is contemporary analytic philosophy. In spite of the fact that
contemporary analytic philosophy is a rejection of positivism it is nevertheless a way
of trying to preserve the Enlightenment Project in response to the perceived
difficulties of positivism. The second stage is marked by the espousal of a kind of
thinking called exploration.
4 Inrroduction

Exploration: In exploration we begin with our ordinary understanding of

how things work and then go on to speculate on what might be behind those
workings. In time, we come to change our ordinary understanding. The new
understanding does not evolve from or elaborate the old understanding, rather it
replaces it by appeal to underlying structures. The underlying structures are
discovered by following out the implications of some hypothetical model about those
structures. There are two versions of exploration. In one version, our ordinary
understanding is a necessary but temporary scaffolding to be taken down when the
construction is completed. In a second version, our ordinary understanding is
indispensable but revisable in the light of the clarification of underlying structures.
Exploration is a mode of thinking found in the physical sciences and is
exemplified in the use of the atomic theory to explain chemical behavior or the
behavior of gases. But exploration is also preeminently the mode of thought of
academic social science. By alleged analogy with physical science, the social
sciences have persistently sought to discover the hidden structure behind the
everyday understanding of social activities. Exploration, then, stresses the search
for structure rather than for meaning, the search for the formal elements underlying
the everyday world rather than believing that the everyday world can constitute its
own level of understanding.
The problem with exploration is the same as the problem with elimination,
namely, there is no way to confirm or disconfirm an exploration. We are unable to
choose authoritatively among competing explorations. The failure of
foundational ism in science and epistemology leads sensitive writers like Richard
Rorty to a kind of despair and to the speculation that perhaps philosophy is an
interminable conversation of incommensurable voices.
Whereas positivism was anti-philosophical in denying the existence of a
pre-theoretical domain, contemporary analytic philosophy recognizes its existence
and attempts not only to discuss it but to conceptualize it, albeit from a naturalistic-
scientific perspective. Recognition of the pre-theoretical domain is what we shall
call the 'Kantian Turn' in the analytic conversation. Unfortunately, this made
matters worse. For analytic philosophy proper has at its disposal only exploratory
thinking. Unable to confirm an exploration at one level it offered supplementary
explorations at another level. That is, it produced, in our terms, unconfirmable
explorations about other explorations. As a consequence immense prestige was
accorded to those individuals skillful in formulating clever, ingenious, and
sometimes bizarre hypotheses. Ingenuity became the benchmark of success, and like
present day movements in the arts led to sudden shifts in fashion.
Matters deteriorated when rival groups began to offer exploratory
hypotheses about why members of other groups held what they took to be the wrong
exploratory hypotheses. Civility in the common search for the truth was replaced
by the deconstruction of rival approaches. The inability to confirm an exploratory
hypothesis about the pre-theoretical domain, the interminable multiplying of further
unconfirmable exploratory hypotheses at other levels, and the deconstruction of
one's philosophical rivals is what we call the abyss of exploration.
Introduction 5

Thefourth thesis of this book is that there is both a way out of the abyss,
an alternative to the collapse of the Enlightenment Project, and a way of regaining
contact with the pre-theoretical domain. This alternative is explication.
Explication: In explication we try to clarify that which is routinely taken
for granted, namely our ordinary understanding of our practices, in the hope of
extracting from our previous practice a set of norms that can be used reflectively to
guide future practice. Explication is a way of arriving at a kind of practical
knowledge that takes human agency as primary. It seeks to mediate practice from
within practice itself. Explication is a form of practical knowledge and presupposes
that practical knowledge is more fundamental than theoretical knowledge.
Explication presupposes that efficient practice precedes the theory of it. All
reflection is ultimately reflection on primordial practices that existed prior to our
theorizing about them.
Explication involves the following set of assumptions:
1. There is a cosmic order.
2. We gain access to the cosmic through an understanding
of ourselves. How we understand ourselves is fundamental, and
how we understand the non-human world is derivative. By
making this distinction in this way, we allow for an understanding
of universal truths about human interests, such that this
understanding is not subject to the limitations of science.
3. We cannot, ultimately, understand ourselves by reference to
physical structures. The cosmic order is not a physical structure
accessed through science. Hence, the Enlightenment Project is
4. Explication is a philosophic method whereby we identifo the
implicit norm governing any practice. We understand ourselves
by examining "our" practices. A practice is an action informed by
an implicit cultural norm. To say that the norm is cultural is to say
that it is social and historical. To say that it is social is to say that
the existence and nature of the norm cannot be established
epistemologically by an individual without reference to a larger
community. To say that the norm is historical is to assert that later
practice evolves out of earlier practice and can be revelatory of a
better understanding ofthe norm. To say that the norm is implicit
is to assert, epistemologically, that it is discovered internally in
action rather than as an external structure. Such a norm reflects a
universal insofar as persistent or enduring norms reveal
something universally true about ourselves. There is, in short, a
form of natural law consisting of moral truths about human nature
understood in a way independent of our understanding of the
physical world.
5. The act of retrieving this common moral framework of the
natural law is neither reactionary nor anachronistic. Retrieving
our tradition is not a simple matter of an uncritical return to the
past. Instead, it is the re-identifying of something that is a
6 Introduction

permanent part of the human condition even though it is always

expressed in specific historical contexts. The fact that these
universal truths are always contextualized means that the act of
retrieval inevitably involves a reformulation. To encompass the
past is to make it our own in some fashion. A tradition is not a
rigid structure but a fertile source of adaptation that not only
evolves but expands to incorporate things that might from an
earlier perspective even seem alien. Philosophers are intellectually
and morally obligated to engage in a perpetual retrieval of their
tradition. Since the universal truths are moral truths and since
their apprehension is not solely an intellectual act, we should not
be surprised that there is no definitive articulation of the cosmic
order, inevitable controversy over its articulation, and a necessary
act offaith in its continuing apprehension.
The clearest and most fundamental example of this is natural language.
Language has an inherent structure that was not planned but whose rules we can
articulate. That is why philosophy always begins with what we assume when we
begin to speak and rightfully takes to task those who insist upon using language to
deny that language has meaning. It is hopelessly misguided to offer an explanation
of language in terms of its structure since all such speculation would have to be
judged by intuitions about what the language really meant. Plato's Socratic notion
of reminiscence, Aristotle's conception of teleology, Hume's notion of custom,
Kant's conception of the synthetic a priori, Wittgenstein's notion of practice, and
Heidegger's "retrieval" are all examples of explication.
Explication attempts to specify the sense we have of ourselves as agents
and to clarify that which seems to guide us. We do not replace our ordinary
understanding but rather come to know it in a new and better way. Explication seeks
to arrive at a kind of practical knowledge which takes as primary that human beings
are agents. Advocates of explication reject the perspective of exploration in any area
outside of physical science because within exploration human beings are perceived
as purely thinking subjects facing an objective world and performing a purely
theoretical task. Put another way, whereas exploration is an attempt to conceptualize
the relation between theory and practice, explication seeks to mediate practice from
within practice itself.
The foregoing four theses dictate the order of presentation within the book.
This introduction concludes with an appendix in which we outline as a continuous
abstract argument the Enlightenment Project within the analytic conversation.
Chapter One provides the broader historical context both of the Enlightenment
Project and its introduction into and presence within the analytic conversation.
Chapter Two commences the discussion of the analytic philosophy of science, the
key intellectual component of the Enlightenment Project. Subsequent chapters
discuss other areas of philosophical concern, following the general order of the
appendix from metaphysical issues through epistemological issues to axiological
issues. Within each chapter the order of presentation is: (a) the initial positivist
program of elimination is summarized and its problems identified; (b) the analytic
response to those problems is to take a 'Kantian Turn' and adopt an exploratory
Introduction 7

mode; (c) exploration leads to an abyss from which the only exit appears to be a
representation of the pre-theoretical domain by means of explication. The evolution
of positions within analytic philosophy, the inner dialectic of its discussions, reflects
the gradual recognition of the lack of intellectual viability of the Project. We
maintain that the cogency of explication is best seen rhetorically at this stage of our
intellectual journey as a response to the insuperable problems of elimination and
Contemporary analytic conversation is marked by three broad responses.
First, there is a refusal on the part of some to come to terms with the inner dialectic
ofthe analytic conversation; this refusal on the part of "hard liners" is explained in
terms of the commitment to the ideology of the Enlightenment Project; that is, the
historical thesis explains the refusal of some to follow the argument through to its
logical conclusion. It is in this sense that seeing the cultural context illuminates a
philosophical position. Second, there has been a reaffirmation of the commitment
to some of the values of the Enlightenment Project, usually its political values, now
defended in a variety of new ways referred to as post-analytic or post-modem. This
is one way in which rapprochement with non-analytic philosophy has been
attempted. Third, there is the recognition that the consequence of both the first and
second response is a devastating nihilism in science as well as in ethics and politics
that permeates much of contemporary culture. This is what has prompted the
abandonment of the Project.
Reflection on the failure of the Enlightenment Project leads to the
conclusion that contemporary philosophy must find an alternative way of proceeding
if it is to avoid being marginalized within the larger cultural context, and if it is to
playa significant role in the articulation of our fundamental values. We are not
suggesting an entirely new direction. On the contrary, we shall argue for a return to
the main track of western philosophy, specifically beginning with a return to some
of the views of Hume, Kant, and Hegel - all of whom were major critics of the
Enlightenment Project - in addition to recapturing the richer understanding of
ourselves that is preserved in the classical western philosophical tradition. Ifthere is
one broad philosophical theme in the book it is that much of contemporary
philosophy has suffered because of its reversal ofconceptual priorities. Specifically,
it has under the influence of the scientism of the Enlightenment Project failed to
appreciate that how we understand ourselves is fundamental as well as different from
the way in which we understand the world.
The aspirations, achievements, and ultimate failure of the Enlightenment
Project all have important intellectual, practical and cultural implications far beyond
the discipline of philosophy. By examining the philosophical articulation of that
project in the analytic conversation we shall be in a better position to understand how
and why that project failed, to determine what is and is not salvageable, and to gain
some insight into where we go from here. By relating analytic philosophy to the
Enlightenment Project in a systematic way there is a great gain in clarifying and
simplifying the basic issues we confront in moving beyond the Enlightenment
Project. By studying the evolution of this movement and the reasons for its demise
we shall be in a better position to assess what is and is not still viable in our
intellectual heritage. We maintain that the explication of the pre-theoretical domain
8 Introduction

encompassing the articulation and critique of the fundamental values of our

civilization is the unique philosophical enterprise. We believe, then, that there are
important philosophical and cultural lessons to be learned from the demise of the
Enlightenment Project and that these lessons are of crucial importance and take us
far beyond the confines of a single discipline.

It should be clear by now that this book comprises an extended argument
against the voice ofthe Enlightenment Project within the analytic conversation. The
overall argument takes the following form:
I. the Enlightenment Project voice models philosophy on a particular
conception of physical science;
2. this conception of physical science is defective;
3. this defective conception of physical science renders the analytic
conception of social science, philosophical psychology, and epistemology
defective; and
4. the foregoing defective conceptions of the human condition lead to
defective conceptions of both moral and political philosophy.

Specifically, the defective conception of moral and political philosophy that

emanates from the Enlightenment Project is the idea of social engineering or social
technology. Social engineering is defined as: (a) the conceptualization of the human
situation not as a condition or predicament but as a set of problems, such as the
problems of poverty, racism, anxiety, depression, crime, unemployment, teen-age
pregnancy, war, etc.; (b) the belief that there can be an objective social scientific
consensus on what these problems are; (c) the belief that the origin of these problems
lies not in human nature nor in the human predicament but in physical,
environmental, or institutional structures; (d) the belief that to each problem there
is a solution; (e) the utopian belief that unique technical solutions can be found, at
some level, that do not themselves create new or additional unsolvable problems or
that do not conflict irremediably with the solution to other problems; (t) the belief
that the solution involves reconstructing the physical, environmental, or institutional
structures. For example, the response to crime might be either genetic engineering,
or adding more psychologists to elementary education, or improving diets in school
lunches, or more prisons and police, or a planned economy guaranteeing jobs. As
this example is intended to show, representatives of different places on the political
spectrum can still all nevertheless subscribe to a general belief in social engineering
or technology.
In what way is the Enlightenment Project's conception of physical science
defective? It is defective in two ways: (I), it falls into the abyss of exploration - the
endless proposal of more hidden structure accounts to buttress the inability to provide
confirmation for any hidden structure account; (2) it leads to the redefinition of the
data to provide a better fit with the hidden structure accounts. For example, unable
to square a commitment to physicalism with the traditional conception of the free and
responsible moral agent we are either given a different definition of freedom or we
Introduction 9

are told that the traditional conception of freedom makes no sense precisely because
it cannot be accommodated by any kind of hidden structure account.
What defense can be mounted in support of the Enlightenment Project's
conception either of physical science or of scientific accounts of human endeavor?
There are two: a substantive defense and a rhetorical defense.
The substantive defense declares that analytic philosophers committed to the
Enlightenment Project are engaged in a series of overlapping scientific research
projects, and as such their efforts, however unsuccessful to date, should not be
rejected a priori anymore than in other complex scientific research projects that are
in the early stages of a maturation process.
The substantive defense is inadequate. It is inadequate because it (a)
concedes the failure to provide a successful example of an exploration, (b) cannot
state what in principle would constitute a successful exploration, and (c) is question-
begging in assuming that it is operating with a correct conception of science. It fails
to respond to the charge that analytic explorations are bogus intellectual enterprises.
The rhetorical defense has two parts. The first part of the rhetorical defense
claims that when we engage in a wholesale attack on the movement or its supposed
doctrines we are tilting at windmills that exist only in the mind of the critic. It is
frequently said that analytic philosophers or the analytic conversation exhibit only
a method and not a set of substantive beliefs. This rhetorical stance, by the way, flies
in the face ofthe first defense which presupposes a substantive view about the nature
of philosophical activity, namely that it is a form of scientific activity. More to the
point, this rhetorical expression is inadequate for any number of reasons (e.g., can
one adopt a methodology without presupposing some substantive beliefs about the
world? Is this not a consequence of an original commitment to scientism? How did
a community come to adopt a common methodology?5 Is not the lack of interest
in this question a reflection ofthe substantive view that problems can be identified
and methods adopted independent of historical context?), but most of all it fails to
note that when one says that analytic philosophers do not share substantive beliefs
what it is really saying is that the analytic conversation has, as a whole, fallen into
the abyss of exploration. That is, analytic philosophers can no longer agree on
anything except that they should formulate exploratory hypotheses because there is
no way of choosing among competing explorations. Rather than undermining our
comprehensive view of the Enlightenment Project within the analytic conversation,
this admission confirms our deepest contention. What we have provided is an
account of how and why the conversation has bogged down.
The second part of the rhetorical defense is the claim that those of us who
engage in a direct critique of the statements of individual analytic authors have either
misconstrued those views or the views selected for criticism are outdated or atypical.
To say that specific positions have been misconstrued is not to say that they
have been misunderstood. Rather, it is to say, generally, that there is a different
framework for interpreting these positions. If so, then the defender of analytic
philosophy is under an intellectual obligation to (a) spell out the framework and (b)
provide criteria for assessing rival frameworks. That is, the defender must provide
a "big picture". But that is precisely what defenders of analytic philosophy either do
not do or claim cannot be done. On the contrary, in this volume, we provide both a
10 Introduction

big picture and an evolutionary account of the debates within that picture. Instead
of seeing isolated activities we see a larger whole of which they are a part.
To say that selected positions have been misconstrued is to say, specifically,
that the defender of analytic philosophy has a different (exploratory) account of that
position. Unfortunately, there is no way within the context of analytic philosophy
to choose among rival exploratory accounts. Ifthere is no way to choose, then no
account (including ours) can be discredited; if there is no way to choose then our
worst fears about the analytic conversation coming to an end have been realized.
To say that the critics have selected outdated views will not do as a
response. It will not do because the claim that some views are outdated presupposes
a thesis about the historical evolution ofthe analytic conversation. Failure to provide
a consensual account of the history of the conversation invalidates any claim as to
what is or is not outdated.
There is also here an implicit presupposition that "later is better" or that the
"latest" versions of the analytic position are either immune to the criticisms of the
earlier versions or have taken the criticisms into account and have transcended them.
Our counterclaims are that (a) the belief that the conversation is progressing, even
slowly, as opposed to winding down is part of the mythology of the Enlightenment
Project, and we say 'mythology' advisedly, both because there is an allusion to a big
picture that is never provided and because there is no objective determinant of
progress; (b) the adoption ofa quasi-scientific rhetoric in which it is assumed that the
latest version transcends the limitations of the earlier version is also a reflection of
the "scientism" of the Enlightenment Project; and in the absence of a commitment
to and argument for scientism there is no a priori reason to assume that 'later is
better'; (c) we do not find that the later versions transcend the earlier versions; rather,
the later versions offer more of the same - one level removed - hence our reiterated
condemnation of the abyss of exploration; we have in key instances painstakingly
shown this; (d) finally, we have repeatedly recast the analytic conversation in a
dignified manner within the larger context of an ongoing historical debate among
Platonists, Aristotelians, Copernicans, ancients and modems. Much of what appears
to an ahistorically minded contemporary practitioner of analytic philosophy as
transcending the objections to earlier versions is a mere restatement within one
paradigm that fails to address the challenge to the paradigm as a whole, indeed, one
which comes from an alternative paradigm.
To say that the critics have selected atypical views also will not do. It will
not do as an adequate response because in the absence of a comprehensive thesis
about the analytic conversation one is not empowered to decide what is or is not
typical. Moreover, those who claim, as in the case above, that there is no
commonality in the analytic conversation cannot appeal to the notions of typical or
atypical without contradicting themselves. Finally, the rhetorical response is
inadequate because it cannot meet the following challenge: to produce even a single
example of analytic philosophy that does not fall into the abyss of exploration. This
is a simple test. We shall stake our entire thesis on the claim that nowhere in the
analytic conversation does anyone present an exploration that does not fall into the
abyss. All anyone has to do to refute this thesis is to present a single example.
Introduction 11

If our challenge cannot be met, then we have demonstrated that the analytic
conversation encompasses a large number of bogus intellectual enterprises. We must
raise the question of what larger interest sustains these bogus intellectual enterprises.
The answer is the Enlightenment Project quest for a social technological utopia.
What are the consequences of engaging in these bogus intellectual enterprises? The
abyss of exploration leads inexorably to undermining the entire cultural context
including the context that sustains both philosophy and science. In short, all of this
leads to nihilism. It is no accident that the current crisis of confidence in Western
civilization in general and modern liberal culture in particular reflects increasing
awareness that the Enlightenment Project has failed.
These are serious matters, and they deserve a fair hearing, but it will be
difficult if not impossible to get such a hearing within large segments of the analytic
community. No matter how many preemptive disclaimers we make, no matter how
often we indicate that within the analytic conversation there have been (e.g.,
Wittgenstein, Von Wright) and are (e.g., Rorty, Rescher, Putnam, MacIntyre) voices
calling these problems to our attention. we cannot disguise the fact that our thesis
de legitimates a large number of intellectual enterprises. We are not, here, merely
calling attention to normal human political and intellectual bias. Our most serious
concern is that the practice of analytic philosophy discourages critical self-
examination. To the extent that it does so, it betrays the Socratic heritage and leads
to nihilism. These charges cannot be ignored, and they cannot be evaded without a
direct response to the arguments that follow.





The Enlightenment Project, as it is reflected within logical positivism and its

successor analytic philosophy,6 is exhibited by the following formal outline.


1. Naturalism.
(a) The world of nature is self-explanatory; anti-theistic.
(b) Monism: we understand ourselves and nature in the same
ec) The continuity between ourselves and nature allows
fondamental realities to be identified by the use ofepistemological
(grammatical) criteria.
12 Introduction

(d) Metaphysical truths are equivalent to the ontological structure

revealed by the philosophy of science.

2. Scientism.
(a) Theoretical science is the whole truth about everything in the
world: it is intellectually autonomous and self-legitimating.
(b) Physical science is the basic science (physicalism).
(c) The world is to be understood as a mechanical system devoid
of purpose and composed of atoms interacting according to natural
laws. The ontology of the Enlightenment Project is mechanistic:
nature consists of discrete entities that retain their character
irrespective of context and whose interaction can be understood as
a serial, causal sequence.
(d) Unity of science
(i) How we understand the world is fundamental and how
we understand ourselves is derivative;
(ii) the social sciences are to be modeled after the physical
(iii) subjects are objects of a special kind.
(e) Scientific explanations are superior because they
(i) refer to an objective (realist) structure independent of
the observer,
(ii) express necessary causal relationships or connections
within that structure,
(iii) are deductively related, and at some point
(iv) empirically verifiable.
(0 Scientific explanations are either eliminative reductions or
exploratory hypotheses about hidden sub-structure.


1. Analysis. In view of the unity of science, whatever account is given of

the physical world supplies a basis for any account of the process by which
human beings acquire knowledge. Knowing (cognition I methodology) is
a reduction to discrete parts. Analysis is the epistemological analogue to
ontological atomism.

2. Epistemic realism. Scientistic explanations commence with truths that

refer, ultimately and exclusively, to objective structures; hence, to know is
to reflect a structure external to and totally independent of the observer.

3. Empiricist. Experience is the internal processing of external stimuli.

To be an empiricist is to construe experience (not phenomenologically but)
as the internal physical processing of an external physical structure. It is
through experience that we can gain access to the truths that refer to
Introduction 13

objective structures. Our meaningful thoughts (or concepts), thus, either

originate in or cash out into experience without remainder.

4. Rejection of a self (anti-agency).

(a) The internal processing of external stimuli must be explainable
without reference to an autonomous agent, i.e., the world consists
ultimately only of objects, and a putative subject must be a
concatenation of sub-objects.
(b) Knowledge of the object-like sub-structure of subjects permits
us to overrule the agent's interpretation of his own action (or
works). History and culture are ultimately explainable (or
explained away) by sub-structure.
(c)Eliminative social science entails:
(i) methodological individualism.
(ii) epistemological individualism, and
(iii) value free epistemology.
(d) Exploratory social science entails:
(i) a social theory of meaning,
(ii) a "We Think" epistemology,
(iii) a relaxation ofthe requirement that explanations are
deductive and empirically verifiable,
(iv) a two-tier conception ofthe human world, and
(v) the claim that explanations encompass values on the
upper level but are value free on the exploratory level.


1. Primacy of theoretical knowledge. As a consequence of scientism,

theoretical knowledge is primary and practical "knowledge" has a
secondary status. The philosophical challenge is not merely to identify the
realm of the practical but to explain it theoretically.

2. Dichotomy of fact and value.

(a) Only factual judgments can be true.
(b) Value judgments are not truths because they do not refer to
structures independent of the observer or agents.

3. Science of Ethics.
(a) Values are a kind of epiphenomena.
(b) Given the primacy of theoretical knowledge and the derivative
nature of the social sciences, there can be a physical-scientific
and/or social-scientific factual account of the sub-structure of the
context within which values function. This is how the realm ofthe
practical will be explained, ultimately, in theoretical terms.
14 Introduction

(i) There is a two-tier view of human psychology in which

values are epi-phenomena with a materialist sub-
(ii) The relevant explanatory constituents of the sub-
structure are physiological drives;
(iii) Freedom is compatible with sub-structure
determinism only iffreedom is construed as the absence
ofarbitrary external constraints, and where restraints are
determined to be "arbitrary" relative to the fundamental
(iv) The fundamental drives alleged to exist in the sub-
structure are neither culture specific nor conscious level
specific but physiological (e.g., seeking pleasure), and
therefore more universal.
(v) The fundamental drives also seek some kind of
homeostasis or maximization that permits negotiation or
overruling specific rules (utilitarianism).
(vi) The foregoing conception offreedom leads to a
political conception of ethics based on external social
sanctions instead of morality (which involves the inner
sanction ofautonomous agents).
(vii) This substructure allows for a social technology in
which cognition can control volition because this sub-
structure is not dependent upon a perspective; it is a
structure that reveals our basic and universal drives so
that we respond automatically (causally) to any
information about this structure.
(viii) Ifwe add a cultural (i.e., social and historical)
dimension to our understanding of this sub-structure (i.e.,
a social epistemology) we arrive at Hegelian versions of
analytic philosophical ethics.
(ix) This is the science of ethics for which analytic
philosophers seek, i.e., this is the level at which we shall
find explanations that exhibit realism, causality, and
empirical verifiability but not deductivity.
(c) Knowledge of this sub-structure is what permits social and
political planning.
(i) Liberalism, socialism, and Marxism all subscribe to
the two-tier view of human psychology in which values
are epi-phenomena with a materialist substructure that is
transcultural, timeless, and allows for a social
engineering that renders human beings compatible and
cooperative (homeostasis).
(ii) This substructure can be appealed to in order to correct
surface disagreements and overcome relativism.
(iii) In the case of liberalism the upper level consists of
Introduction 15

rights (e.g., life, liberty, property, etc.) that are not

directly equatable with or deducible from a specific
account of the good life.
(iv) If we supplement the cultural account with some
notion of homeostasis, the Hegelian versions become
compatible with socialism and Marxism on the political
16 Introduction


1. " ... as Danto and Putnam contend, [analytic philosophy is] the dominant
philosophy in capitalist countries today" Rajchman and West (1985), p. x.

2. Searle (1996), pp. 1-2.

3. For a small sampling of this literature see Barrett (1978); Dummett (1978);
Rorty (1979); Kekes (1980); Rosen (1980); Hubner (1983); Rajchman and
West (1985); Cohen and Dascal (1986); Hao Wang (1986); Perry (1986);
Sacks (1989); Bell and Cooper (1990); Baynes, Bonham, and McCarthy
(1991); Charlton (1991); Von Wright (1993); Borradori (1994); Scruton
(1995); and Hacker (1996).

4. Bell and Cooper (1990), p. vi.

5. Fleck (1981).

6. Von Wright (1971), pp. 9-10: "It would be quite wrong to label analytical
philosophy as a whole a brand of positivism. But it is true to say that the
contributions of analytical philosophy to methodology and philosophy of
science have, until recently, been predominantly in the spirit of positivism
. . .. It also largely shares with nineteenth-century positivism an implicit
trust in progress through the advancement of science and the cultivation of
a rationalist 'social-engineering' attitude to human affairs."

The Enlightenment Project

The Enlightenment and the Enlightenment Project

'Enlightenment' is a term used broadly by historians of ideas to refer to the
intellectual and social ferment in Western Europe during the eighteenth century.
This ferment was different in England from what it was in France, Germany, or Italy.
One would therefore have to distinguish further among the British Enlightenment,
the Scottish Enlightenment, the French Enlightenment, the German Enlightenment,
etc. In addition, depending upon what features one emphasizes, some concepts
which are included in one definition of the Enlightenment might be excluded in
another. Figures who would be major representatives of the Enlightenment under
one construal would also emerge as critics of the Enlightenment under another
definition. 1
Our intention is not to generalize about this entire period but to identify a
specific, salient project that we shall call the Enlightenment Project. 2 What do we
mean by the Enlightenment Project? The Enlightenment Project is the attempt to
define and explain the human predicament through science as well as to achieve
mastery over it through the use of a social technology. 3 This project originated in
France in the eighteenth century with the philosophes. The most influential among
them were Diderot, d' Alembert, La Mettrie, Condillac, Helvetius, d'Holbach, Turgot,
Condorcet, Caban is, and Voltaire.
Isaiah Berlin characterizes the Project as follows:

... there were certain beliefs that were more or less common to
the entire party of progress and civilization, and this is what makes
it proper to speak of it as a single movement. These were, in
effect, the conviction that the world, or nature, was a single whole,
subject to a single set of laws, in principle discoverable by the
intelligence of man; that the laws which governed inanimate
nature were in principle the same as those which governed plants,
animals and sentient beings; that man was capable of
improvement; that there existed certain objectively recognizable
human goals which all men, rightly so described, sought after,
namely, happiness, knowledge, justice, liberty, and what was
somewhat vaguely described but well understood as virtue; that
these goals were common to all men as such, were not
unattainable, nor incompatible, and that human misery, vice and
folly were mainly due to ignorance either of what these goals
consisted in or of the means of attaining them-ignorance due in
turn to insufficient knowledge of the laws of nature. . .
Consequently, the discovery of general laws that governed human
behaviour, their clear and logical integration into scientific
systems-of psychology, sociology, economics, political science
and the like (though they did not use these names) - and the
determination of their proper place in the great corpus of
18 Chapter I

knowledge that covered all discoverable facts, would, by replacing

the chaotic amalgam of guesswork, tradition, superstition,
prejudice, dogma, fantasy and 'interested error' that hitherto did
service as human knowledge and human wisdom (and ofwhich by
far the chief protector and instigator was the Church), create a
new, sane, rational, happy, just and self-perpetuating human
society, which, having arrived at the peak of attainable perfection,
would preserve itself against all hostile influences, save perhaps
those of nature. 4

The intellectual origins of the Project are identified by Randall as follows:

Voltaire and his successors took over and used four main bodies
of English ideas. First, there was Newtonian science, which was
developed in France into a thoroughgoing materialism. Secondly,
there was natural religion, or Deism, which the French pushed to
atheism. Thirdly, there was Locke and British empiricism, which
became theoretically a thoroughgoing sensationalism, and
practically the omnipotence of the environment. Finally, there
were British political institutions as interpreted by Locke, the
apologist for 1688, which became the basis of the political theories
of the Revolution. s

This project has three philosophical elements: metaphysical,

epistemological, and axiological.
1. Metaphysically, the philosophes who formulated the Enlightenment
Project were philosophic naturalists: they asserted both that the physical world was
the only reality and that it could be explained only by modern natural science. This
modern naturalism was self-consciously traced backed to its Aristotelian roots as
understood by those influenced by the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. As Condillac put it, "immediately after Aristotle comes
Locke; for it is not necessary to count the other philosophers who have written on the
same subject."6 The use of a scholastic Aristotelian conceptual apparatus turned in
a materialist direction is especially prominent in La Mettrie' s Histoire de I 'ame.? La
Mettrie's L 'Homme machine (1747) specifically aimed to reduce mental processes
to their physiological causes. Atheism is openly declared by La Mettrie:

The universe will never be happy, unless it is atheistic. .. If

atheism were generally accepted, all the forms of religion would
then be destroyed and cut off at the roots. .. Deaf to all other
voices, tranquil mortals would follow only the spontaneous
dictates of their own being, the only commands which can never
be despised with impunity and which alone can lead us to
happiness. .. Let us then conclude boldly that man is a machine,
and that in the whole universe there is but a single substance
differently modified. s
The Enlightenment Project 19

2. Its epistemology is Aristotle's epistemology without a soul or an active

intellect. The product of this is empiricism. Following Locke, Condillac was led to
engage in analysis, the breaking down of the contents of the human mind into
elementary units and then reconstituting or ordering those units into a whole. The
whole was to be understood in terms of its constituent and separable parts. Departing
from Locke, Condillac suggested that sensory impressions could give rise to all of
our mental operations without reference to a self or active intellect. Condillac,
further, identified the relationship between the parts as analogous to mathematical
identities. He contemplated that a purified language would emerge from this
construction. Finally, it was Condillac who lauded the method of analysis: "Analysis
is the only method for acquiring knowledge."9
Cabanis summarizes the connection between the metaphysics and the
epistemology as follows:

Therefore, the physical and the moral are one at their source; or,
better, the moral is only the physical considered under certain
more particular points of view. . .. We are doubtless not still
required to prove that physical sensibility is the source of all the
ideas and of all the habits which constitute the moral existence of
man: Locke, Bonnet, Condillac, Helvetius have carried this truth
to the last degree of demonstration. 10

3. Its axiology can be characterized as the transformation of

Aristotelian/Thomistic natural law into natural right, without God. Morality,
according to Condillac, arises as a refinement of volitional operations which
originate from a combination of both internal and external physical stimuli without
the interposition of an agent. Earlier, La Mettrie, in L 'Homme machine, denied free
will in favor of determinism, but he also asserted that human materialism gave rise,
in a manner never explained, to an internal teleology characterized by a hierarchy of
values. This internal teleology could be perfected by a kind of medical technology.
In his Discours sur Ie bonheur (1750), La Mettrie described the highest good as the
maximization of the pleasurable well-being of the human machine. In his 1776
publication, Le Commerce et Ie gouvernment consideres relativement I 'un a I 'autre,
Condillac argued against mercantilism, in favor of free trade, and maintained that
reason would discover social laws endorsing private property.
It is generally agreed that it is during the Enlightenment that a commitment
to scientism ll first crystallizes into a dogmatic program. Proponents ofthis program,
like d' Alembert among others, point back to the inspiration of Bacon, Descartes, and
Hobbes. It is, therefore, tempting to suggest that the program was already covertly
present in earlier thinkers. Let me indicate to what extent this suggestion should be
First, one must not confuse science with scientism. Proponents of the
project went far beyond enthusiastically endorsing the importance of science for
helping us to understand the world and advocating the practical importance of a
scientifically based technology. They went further by asserting the intellectual
autonomy of science, the belief that science can explain everything including its own
20 Chapter J

status. Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, and others had defended the importance of
science, but none of them advocated scientism, or the intellectual autonomy of
science. On the contrary, there is an explicit rejection in each of scientism and the
embrace of some form of theism.
It has also been suggested that protestations of faith on the part of
individuals like Bacon, Descartes, Hobbes, and others is disingenuous and a
reflection of the prudential regard for survival. This is a plausible point to argue in
some cases, and certainly atheism, materialism, and free-thinking were widespread
long before the Enlightenment. But there are reasons why we should resist this line
of thought. One is the long-standing tradition of those who deny naturalism, i.e.,
who deny that the world is self-explanatory. The other is that many modem thinkers
maintained that the usefulness of science presupposed a set of values that logically
required human beings as masters of nature to be in some respects different from
nature. This is what prompted Descartes' dualism. Even in Bacon, mastery is
understood as a defensive mastery of nature, a mastery over fortune and not an
offensive mastery over the world with a specific program of social technology.
Two centuries of scientific debate had already made clear that mechanistic
science is not a self-sufficient explanation of either the world or of human nature. It
was clear both to Newton and Leibniz that the laws of nature did not explain
themselves; it was clear to Descartes that human nature could not be explained
mechanistically; it was clear both to Hume and his Scottish critics that without
appeal to either divine guarantees or to tradition and custom there was no way to
insure that the human thought process accurately modeled the world; it was clear to
Descartes, Hume, and Kant that the practice and intelligibility of science required a
background of assumptions and norms that science itself could not explain; and it
was clear to Hobbes, Locke, and Adam Smith that social, political, and economic
stability required both some version of theism and some appeal to traditional
authority. In short, it is impossible to read and understand the greatest minds even
ofthe seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and to take seriously the contention ofa
pure naturalism. It is precisely the power of these objections that accounts for the
intellectual appeal of Deism during the eighteenth century. Cassirer maintains that
d'Holbach and La Mettrie reflect "a retrogression into that dogmatic mode of
thinking which the leading scientific minds of the eighteenth century oppose and
endeavor to eliminate."'2 How all of this gets ignored is something we shall have to
Second, even amongst some of the philosophes there is an explicit
awareness of the limits of science. As d' Alembert expressed it, "the supreme
Intelligence has drawn a veil before our feeble vision which we try in vain to
remove."13 It is specifically amongst a subset of the members of the philosophes that
we find the advocacy of scientism, specifically in Condillac, d'Holbach, and La
The attempted delegitimation of fundamental metaphysical issues is unique
to the Enlightenment Project. It is during the Enlightenment that an "anti-
systematic" philosophy is first advocated. The "esprit de sysU:me" is specifically
attacked in d'Alembert's Preliminary Discourse and in Condillac's Treatise on
Systems. Condillac was influenced to move in this direction by his reading of
The Enlightenment Project 21

Voltaire's Elements de la philosophie de Newton (1738) in which Condillac thought

he had found an English anti-metaphysical and experience-based way of thinking.
To be anti-system, like the later anti-metaphysical stance of the positivists, is
explicitly to refuse to deal with the philosophical issues raised by scientism. In some
cases, e.g., d' Alembert and Diderot,14 the refusal reflects genuine perplexity; in other
cases, e.g. d'Holbach and La Mettrie, this signals an attempt to discredit or
delegitimate those issues.
La Mettrie is crucial in this regard. His Histoire naturele de l'dme (1745)
was specifically directed against the metaphysical views of Descartes and Leibniz.
The explanation of the "soul" is part of the history of the body and thus a matter of
physical science, not metaphysics or theology.
In their attempt to delegitimate the fundamental philosophical issues
broached by the advocacy of scientism, defenders of the Enlightenment Project
developed an historicist posture. Whenever challenged, the first line of defense for
the mechanistic-naturalistic thesis was the claim that scientific progress would in
some unspecified manner meet these objections. In an ironic sort of way, a
providential history without God became a substitute for argument. In short, while
the philosophes drew upon their own readings of Bacon and Descartes, what is
unique and original to advocates of the Enlightenment Project is the anti-system
approach to philosophy and the historicist posture.
The importance of a progressive account of history is not to be
underestimated. It would be fair to say that Aristotelian teleology understood
organically was transformed by the philosophes into a form of historicism
understood mechanistically. Whereas teleology in an organic world is visualized as
an infinitely repeating process, progress in a mechanical world is an inexorable
movement in a straight line with a beginning, middle, and end. The transformation
in astronomy of planetary motion from a circular process to the Galilean-Newtonian
motion in a straight line controlled by gravity is the immediate physical scientific
origin of the eighteenth-century doctrine of progress in history.
One of the first theorists in the eighteenth century to suggest an historicized-
teleology was Turgot. 15 Turgot's thesis was later to be refined into attempts to
formulate laws of development. Turgot's successor among the philosophes was
Condorcet whose history of civilization in terms of scientific progress has become
the model of all subsequent history of science. The most important figures to
continue Turgot's work into the nineteenth century were Fourier, Saint-Simon, and
Comte. 16 Comte is an important figure for our story because he serves as the
connecting link to the positivists, and he was so cited in their manifesto (to be
discussed below).
It is during the Enlightenment that we see the equating of the history of
philosophy with the history of science and the rhetoric of progressive scientific
histories without any rational substantiation. It is important to recognize that this is
a story and not an argument. As Montaigne had already made clear, there is no way
of standing outside history and seeing that science is progressing. I?
This progressive historicism is a crucial part of intellectual history. While
it is certainly clear that the philosophes tookfrom Bacon and Descartes the notion
of salvation through physical technology, it was the philosophes who openly
22 Chapter I

proclaimed that physical science could define and totally explain humanity as well.
Whereas their predecessors had recognized the metaphysical and epistemological
limits of scientific explanation, the philosophes sought to overcome those limits
through the notion of the historical progress of science.
In order to give some indication of the distance between their predecessors
and the philosophes, we can identify a novel methodological pose, i.e., the belief that
one can step outside of all contexts and critically evaluate all practices by means of
a wholly dispassionate reason that is its own ground of legitimation. Ironically,
Descartes himself had wisely refrained from applying this super-rationalism to the
human and social world and had even insisted that the use of this kind of reason
presupposed the acceptance of common sense traditional moral and social practices.
But by the end ofthe eighteenth century this super-rationalism was adopted without
any restraints and applied to every facet of human endeavor. This is reflected in
Condorcet's statement that "all errors in politics and morals are based on philosophic
errors and these in tum are connected with scientific errors. There is not a religious
system nor a supernatural extravagance that is not founded on ignorance of the laws
of nature." 18
What we see in Condorcet's remark is the view that scientism entails the
existence of a special kind of social knowledge, modeled after physical science, such
that the first result of that social science will be an explanation of why individuals
oppose scientism. What we are promised is a scientific delegitimation of the
opposition to scientism. What we are not given is a logical refutation of the
arguments against scientism.
Defenders of the Enlightenment Project respond to their critics with a plea
for scientific tolerance coupled with the claim that traditional views of human nature
are idols or obstacles to accepting the new scientific view. We are told such things
as, people could not previously imagine standing at the antipodes, or we are
reminded of canonic episodes like the account of those who refused to look through
Galileo's telescope. In short, there is a story about scientific progress with a special
kind of rhetoric that is supposed to establish the legitimacy of turning subjects into
objects, and an important component of that story is a "scientific" account of why
people oppose scientism. The history of ideas comes gradually to be construed as an
historical progression in which earlier ideas are only worthwhile to the extent that
they reflect the current "mature" intellectual agenda. Condorcet's History is just
such a work. Instead of responding to the critics' arguments, proponents of the
Enlightenment program employ the rhetoric of scientific progress to delegitimate
their opposition.
What other considerations led people to take this project seriously? One
consideration is that the naturalistic-mechanistic world view allows for a social
technology that could in principle solve all human problems. 19 Mechanistic views
of human nature are attractive because they are, prima facie, compatible with the idea
that human beings are either a tabula rasa or fundamentally good. Hence, human
beings could be either caused to be good or obstacles to their natural goodness could
be removed. It was no accident that freedom in the modem world came to be
defined, negatively, in its most popular version, as the absence of external
constraints. In an analogous way, rationality could seemingly be promoted either
The Enlightenment Project 23

mechanically or by removing "idols" such as the belief in religion, authority, custom,

or tradition. This has the added benefit of reinforcing the progressive-scientific
story by seemingly providing a naturalistic account of why it has taken so long to
arrive at the super-rationalism of the Enlightenment.
The other consideration is, that given the economic and social challenges
of the modem world, it seemed to many ofthose impatient to alter the status quo that
a wholesale rejection of authority, tradition, and the religious institutions that seemed
to support the status quo was the quickest way to achieve reform; hence, the
enthusiasm for a seemingly liberated reason. Since traditional institutions had
justified themselves on the grounds that they embody a certain wisdom about human
shortcomings, mechanistic theories about the natural goodness of human nature seem
doubly attractive to critics of the status quo.
The Enlightenment Project is the attempt to engage in social reconstruction
on the basis of a purely scientific reason. The philosophes also believed that their
theoretical position was in fact compatible with and led to then widely held
Enlightenment values. It is this attitude which explains the radical transformation of
Locke's ideas and even Rousseau's ideas in the hands of the philosophes and their
The clearest example of this is to be found in Helvetius' De I'Esprit (1758).
Starting with Locke's epistemological claim that all knowledge originates in
experience and that the human mind at birth is a tabula rasa ("blank tablet"),
Helvetius goes on to embrace an extreme form of environmental determinism. All
differences in beliefs, attitudes, values, etc. are solely the result of historical and
environmental accident. "Quintilian, Locke, and I myself say, the inequality of
minds is the effect of a known cause, and this cause is the difference of education."20
From this, it was concluded that all human beings are fundamentally identical and
therefore equal. All forms of social hierarchy, privilege and differences in power and
influence were deemed the result of historical accident and denounced as unjust. In
its place was substituted the notion that all individuals when properly educated are
equally competent judges.

If I could demonstrate that man is indeed but the product of his

education, I should undoubtedly have revealed a great truth to the
nations. They would then know that they hold within their own
hands the instrument of their greatness and their happiness, and
that to be happy and powerful is only a matter of perfecting the
science of education. 21

Participatory democracy is therefore the only form of government compatible with

the fundamental equality of human nature. This public policy implication is made
clear by David Hartley, the British representative and transmitter of the
Enlightenment Project to Bentham and James Mill:

It is of the utmost consequence to morality and religion, that the

affections should be analyzed into their simple compounding
parts, by reversing the steps of the associations which concur to
24 Chapter 1

form them. For thus we learn how to cherish and improve good
ones, check and root out such as are mischievous and immoral,
and how to suit our manner of life, in some tolerable measure, to
our intellectual and religious wants. And as this holds, in respect
of persons of all ages, so it is particularly true, and worthy of
consideration, in respect of children and youth. If beings of the
same nature, but whose affections and passions are, at present, in
different proportions to each other, be exposed for an indefinite
time to the same impressions and associations, all of their
particular differences will, at last, be overruled, and they will
become perfectly similar, or even equal. They may also be made
perfectly similar in a finite time, by a proper adjustment of the
impressions and associations. 22

The desire for reform presupposes some norms. The philosophes believed
(i.e., assumed but never proved) that their theoretical position was in fact compatible
with and led to then widely held Enlightenment values. There are two difficulties
with the practical part of the Enlightenment Project. First, it is not clear how there
can be norms at all in a world that is neither theistically, teleologically, nor
conventionally defined. Second, it is not clear by what standards progress of any
kind, either moral or scientific, is to be measured.
The critics of the Enlightenment Project have always rejected "progress"
because all suggested or imaginable standards of what constitutes 'progress' lie
outside the realm of science. The advocates of the Enlightenment Project not only
believe that such standards are available, but they also believe that knowledge of
them is itself progressive. The standards will be defined, apparently, "as we advance
towards them and the[ir] validity ... can be verified only in the process of attaining
them."23 In the end, what science declares to be "progress" will become the
definition of 'progress'. That is, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is precisely
because advocates of the Enlightenment Project did not and could not offer any
argument that we have characterized their presentation as an historicized
methodological pose.
What supporters ofthe Enlightenment Project end up doing is adopting two
complementary discourses. On the one hand, they speak from within our common
heritage by invoking intellectual and political norms as needed, and, on the other
hand, they reserve the right seemingly to step outside the common heritage into the
atmosphere of a contextless reason in order to amend or reject the common heritage
when they deem it necessary. We are told at one and the same time that science is
the whole truth about everything and that we can never be sure that we have the
whole truth. Both the speech within and the speech without are billed as provisional,
but what is not provisional is the assumption that scientific progress will show that
the two speeches are ultimately coherent and that there is some kind of historical
progression from one to the other. The historicization of the two discourses serve
jointly to deflect counter-argument, but not to answer it. There is, in short, a special
rhetoric developed to compensate for the lack of a philosophical argument.
The Enlightenment Project 25

Crucial to the Enlightenment Project is the denial of the idea of a free and
personally responsible individual soul that emerged out of the Greco-Roman and
Judeo-Christian world view. The denial of the self serves a number of important and
interrelated purposes. Metaphysically it reinforces the claim that the world
understood in physical science terms is primary. On the contrary, the entire Western
intellectual tradition prior to the Enlightenment had made self-understanding
primary. Coincidentally it is a further attack on the theistic contention ofa unique
volitional being. Epistemologically, the denial of the self reinforces the claim that
knowledge is nothing but the grasping of an external structure. Failure to grasp the
structure cannot be attributed to any act of the will but becomes in principle
explainable in terms of further objective structures. This gives a tremendous boost
to rationalist optimism. Finally, the denial of the self serves the axiological function
of providing for an objective social technology which denies the existence of human
attitudes that cannot be externally manipulated. This is why it is so important to deny
the traditional conception of human freedom.

Critics of the Enlightenment Project: Kant and Hegel

A number of modern thinkers, in fact most of the prominent ones from Descartes to
Kant, continued to adhere to the view that although the physical world was a machine
it was nevertheless a machine created by God and that God had made the machine
for His ends. In short, the world is orderly and ultimately beneficent with regard to
human beings. Moreover, before we could transform the world we must first learn
to discipline ourselves internally. These views are an important part of the modern
scene, but these were not the views of the supporters of the Enlightenment Project.
We have identified two major philosophical innovations within the
Enlightenment Project. The first innovation is its anti-metaphysical stance. When
pressed to answer metaphysical questions about the whole, advocates of this project
resorted to the claim that metaphysical issues were at bottom epistemological issues,
i.e., issues about the acquisition of knowledge. Somehow, in the end, a knowledge
of the parts would add up to a knowledge of the whole. This reduction of
metaphysics to epistemology will only work if there is reason to believe that the
limited number of parts or epistemological items we presently possess are reliable
and are in fact progressing toward a "big picture." This leads to the recognition of
the second innovation, the attempt to buttress epistemology with an historicist
conception of progress.
In the mechanical and deterministic scientific world view, nature is bereft
of both purpose and consciousness. Yet, human beings, in both action and in
cognition, seem to possess both v)I1sciousness and purpose. The problem of
empiricism is to explain how consciousness and purpose can arise from inanimate
nature, i.e., how the "physical" can give rise to the "mental." During the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries it was assumed by many thinkers that an as yet undiscovered
physiological mechanism was responsible for the transition. Some, like Locke, who
believed in God, claimed that God could make matter think. However, the
supporters of the Enlightenment Project who denied the existence of God in the
interest of a wholly naturalistic world view, were much more heavily taxed in
explaining the transition. The modern epistemological predicament, then, is that
26 Chapter 1

although we are in one way conscious of how our minds work and of the norms
generated within the conscious mind about how the external physical world works
and is to be both understood and managed, we still do not know how the physical
world generates the conscious mind. There is, in short, no physiological account
available. As long as we do not know that we cannot be sure of either the continuity
of mind and physical world or whether the intellectual and moral norms generated
within the conscious mind accurately tell us about the physical world. This is an
especially serious problem for the Enlightenment Project because everything depends
upon an accurate view of the physical world.
Curiously, those who proposed such programs, from Locke to d'Holbach
or La Mettrie or Condillac, rarely if ever conducted experimentation. Rather, they
engaged in intellectual speculation about the possibility of such experiments. Not
only were these speculations unsuccessful as research projects but they remained
mysterious, since no one could explain even in principle what such experiments
would be like. What emerged from this was the character of the philosopher as
quasi-scientific technician, but a technician of an indeterminable kind. The
philosopher was a technician who argued for the possibility of an allegedly
'scientific' research project but did not actually carry out the project himself.
Kant, following Hume,24 pointed out that there were no guarantees possible
within the empiricist epistemology of the Enlightenment Project. There is no way
to establish that the way we think about the world is in fact the way the world is. He
went on to institute a Copernican revolution in philosophy. According to proponents
of the Copernican Revolution, knowledge and understanding do not consist of the
discovery of absolute (timeless and contextless) standards external to humanity but
involve, instead, the clarification of standards implicit within the human mind and/or
social practice. Kant postulated a separate realm of unchanging transcendental norms
in the human mind. The doctrine of synthetic a priori truths in Kant guaranteed the
absoluteness and unchangeable nature of our norms. The norms are imposed upon
experience but are neither derived from experience nor revisable in the light of
Hegel offered another response to the Enlightenment epistemological
predicament. The predicament is to explain how we can be sure that the world
corresponds to the way we think about it and that we are progressing in our
understanding. True to the spirit of the Copernican Revolution, Hegel insists that
absolute knowledge is only intelligible within the intellectual framework and history
of the subject. According to Hegel, our standards change and evolve, as anyone
familiar with intellectual history can readily attest. Hegel went one step further and
argued that there was a rationale or pattern to the changes in our norms, a progressive
pattern that mirrored the definitive truth. As Hegel tells us, the correct version of the
Copernican Revolution in philosophy is that the internal intellectual standards
progress according to a teleological pattern that terminates in direct contact with a
total and absolute truth. We can only guarantee that the world is the way we think
it is and that we are making progress if the world and our thought are somehow
Hegel maintained that there was only one way within the spirit of modernity
to defend both consistently and coherently the vision of a unity of humanity and
The Enlight~nment Project 27

nature. In doing so, Hegel went further than anyone else in merging the object of
knowledge with the knower. Yet, there is a price to be paid, and the price is absolute
idealism. In philosophical idealism, knowledge of the subject is primary and
knowledge of the object is secondary.
As an absolute idealist, Hegel is at odds with the Enlightenment. The
Enlightenment, as a philosophical movement, stood for philosophical materialism.
That is, it took what science said about the physical world and made that knowledge
primary, while knowledge of the subject was both secondary and derivative. In
addition, the proponents ofthe Enlightenment interpreted human beings and society
in terms of individual rights, as well as maintaining that all social and political
problems could be solved through a social technology modeled after physical science
and technology. Hegel, on the contrary, had made physical science but a moment in
the progress of the Absolute. Finally, Hegel saw the concept of individual rights as
a moment in a story with a social ending.
The Copernican response to the major problems of the Enlightenment
Project can be summarized: Metaphysically it is possible to defend modem
naturalism, realism, account intelligibly for the totality, and make sense of self-
reference only if we adopt the Hegelian view that ultimate reality is a social subject
undergoing progressive historical self-articulation. Epistemologically it is possible
to defend the possibility of knowledge not as grasping an external structure but as the
subject's imposition of structure. Axiologically it is possible to defend the reality
and universality of norms but only as part of the internal structure coupled with the
contention that epistemological norms are derivative from axiological norms. In
every case the problems of the Enlightenment Project can be overcome by elevating
the subject over the object, by making metaphysics and axiology primary and
epistemology secondary.
Both Kant and Hegel subscribed to some of the liberating social and
political aspirations of the Enlightenment, but only by transforming their context to
a kind of idealism -- transcendental or absolute -- and thus refusing any redirection
to mere technology.

Russell and the Origins of Analytic Philosophy

The foremost defender of Hegel's philosophy in Great Britain during the latter half
of the nineteenth century was F.H. Bradley. Bradley argued that, strictly speaking,
there are no discreet individual truths. Everything is related to everything else so that
there is only one all-encompassing truth. This notion of an all-encompassing truth
was referred to as holism. Further, Bradley contended that when we try to
understand a statement in which it is asserted that something has a particular quality
we invariably relate that quality to others, and these qualities are in tum related to
others, etc. The original something disappears as a distinct object. As Bradley put
it, everything is internally related: what is essential to each thing is its web of
relations to other things so that no one thing can be understood apart from the wider
web. Anyone piece of knowledge leads to all of the others by a chain of deduction.
Thus, only the whole is real or capable of being true. This is a version of the
coherence theory of truth. Any attempt to arrive at isolatable individual truths, that
is to analyze, is to falsify. Analysis involves inherent falsification and distortion. In
28 Chapter I

his characteristic way, Bradley had articulated this metaphysical view in Appearance
and Reality, but he had arrived at this view through logical arguments in his
Principles ~f Logic. The logical doctrine had been expressed by saying that "words
only have meaning in the context of a proposition."25
Analytic philosophy is the contemporary voice of the Enlightenment's
answer to Hegel in particular and the Copernican Revolution in general. 26 Analytic
philosophy's inaugural spokesman was Bertrand Russell, and it was Russel/'s
answer to Bradley, specifical/y Russell's defense ofanalysis, that gave the movement
its name.

The logic which I shall advocate is atomistic as opposed to the

monistic logic of the people who more or less follow Hegel.
When I say that my logic is atomistic I mean that I share the
common sense belief that there are many separate things; I do not
regard the apparent multiplicity of the world as consisting merely
in phases and unreal diversions in a single indivisible reality. It
results from that, that a considerable part of what one would have
to do to justify the sort of philosophy I wish to advocate would
consist in justifying the process of analysis. One is often told that
the process of analysis is falsification, that when you analyze any
given concrete whole you falsify it and the results of analysis are
not true. I do not think that is the right viewY

Bertrand Russell is the key defining figure of analytic philosophy.28

Russell's career was long, colorful, and marked by controversy, but he was always
a great publicist of his views even as his views were shifting. Russell did not start
out as an analytic philosopher, but once he became the spokesman for analysis the
shifts in his views reflected the various stages of awareness of the problems inherent
in analytic philosophy.
Earlier, Russell had himself subscribed to the Hegelian view. What had
made him change his mind? The change of mind can be explained at two levels. 29
Russell's own deepest commitments, to say nothing of his talents, were to the success
of physical science, mathematics, and the cause of individual rights. He was a true
grandchild of the Enlightenment. At another level, Russell believed that the older
empiricism of Locke could be refurbished and its difficulties would be resolved if it
were given a new logic. Russell's own great intellectual creation, done jointly with
Alfred North Whitehead Principia Mathematica (1910-1913), provided, or so he
thought, that new logic.
From the point of view of the Copernican Revolution, analytic philosophy
is a reactionary movement, a return to an earlier philosophical outlook refurbished
with new techniques and new arguments. From a cultural point of view, analytic
philosophy is a defense of the Enlightenment presuppositions of our own scientific
and technological culture.
Analytic philosophers were from the beginning conscious of their
opposition to the Copernican alternative. Since analytic philosophers have not
generally recognized Hume's role in the Copernican Revolution,30 they have directed
The Enlightenment Project 29

their attention to criticizing Kant31 and Hegel,32 Moritz Schlick once epitomized
positivism as the rejection of the view that there are synthetic a priori truths.
Synthetic a priori truths, for Kant, epitomize the irreducible agency of the mind or
self as it expands its knowledge.
During the writing of Principia Mathematica, Russell started to become
self-conscious of what later was to become the analytic program. In 1911, after
working on Principia Mathematica, Russell wrote a popular work entitled The
Problems ofPhilosophy. It was during the composition of this latter project that his
idea of a grand program began to take shape. "Doing this book has given me a map
of the theory of knowledge which I hadn't before.'m By now, Russell was openly
committed to the belief that facts are independent of anyone's awareness of them, to
the belief that anyone statement could be known to be true independent of our
knowledge of any other statement, and to the practice of analysis which presumes
that parts can be known independent of the totality. In 1914, Russell published Our
Knowledge of the External World, the first clear articulation of the analytic
program. 34 The program was that of using logic to reach empirical knowledge
through sense-data. 35
Earlier, Russell had believed that every meaningful unit of language (or
thought) must have an external empirical referent. Gradually, he came to recognize
exceptions, specifically mathematical and logical concepts. The logicist program
(begun in the Principia Mathematica) of reducing mathematics to logic was now
understood to be a step in handling the exceptions. In 1911 Russell met Ludwig
Wittgenstein, and on January 26, 1912, Wittgenstein suggested to Russell a definition
of logical form which aided Russell in solidifying his program. All knowledge was
now viewed by Russell as empirical knowledge, and the connections between the
supposedly isolatable pieces of empirical knowledge were viewed as a kind of formal
grammar codified in the logic of Principia Mathematica. The formal logic is the
"glue" because it is the abstract skeleton of mathematics, which, in tum, is the
language of science. Science, of course, is presumed to reveal the truth about reality.
In the 1920s, Russell worked on reducing physical concepts which referred
to unperceived entities to something perceivable. He even went so far as to deny that
there was a subject of awareness, what we have called the agent-self, by claiming to
reduce mental terminology to behavioristic terms. He ran into difficulty with contrary
to fact conditionals. He also ran into problems with intentional statements. The
further Russell pursued these difficulties, the more he began to replay the difficulties
of Locke's empiricism. Were sense-data, or Russell's alleged atomic units of
experience, sources of knowledge about reality or were they the objects of
knowledge, the reality itself? Henceforth, Russell was to be known as the father of
analytic philosophy and the formulator of problems to be worked out by the next
generation, that is Carnap and the Vienna circle. In 1945, in his History of Western
Philosophy, Russell wrote a concluding chapter entitled "The Philosophy of Logical
Analysis" in which he proudly proclaimed that it was "a philosophical school of
which I am a member."36
30 Chapter 1

Positivism: 37 How The Enlightenment Project Became Part of The Analytic

The second important figure in the history of analytic philosophy was Rudolf
Carnap. The connection between Camap and Russell is recorded in Carnap's
intellectual autobiography: "Whereas Frege had the strongest influence on me in the
fields oflogic and semantics, in my philosophical thinking in general I learned most
from Bertrand Russell."38 Carnap specifically singles out Russell's Our Knowledge
ofthe External World, and Carnap quotes with approval the following statement by

The study of logic becomes the central study in philosophy: it

gives the method of research in philosophy just as mathematics
gives the method in physics .... [we seek the] creation of a school
of men with scientific training... unhampered by the traditions of
the past, and not misled by the literary methods of those who copy
the ancients in all except their merits.

When Camap first read these words of Russell's in 1921, he said that, "I felt as ifthis
appeal had been directed to me personally."39
Carnap was the most prominent member of the "Vienna Circle". The
Vienna Circle was founded as a discussion group in 1922, when Moritz Schlick
arrived in Vienna to hold the Chair of the History and Philosophy of the Inductive
Sciences, a chair originally created for Ernst Mach in 1895. The membership grew
to include Hans Hahn, Otto Neurath, Victor Kraft, Philipp Frank, Herbert Feigl,
Gustav Bergmann, Friedrich Waismann, and in 1926 Rudolf Carnap. Earlier in
1923, Camap had met Hans Reichenbach at a conference in Germany, a conference
Carnap regarded as "the initial step in the movement for a scientific philosophy in
Germany." Reichenbach was to remain a while in Berlin to form a similar group
which included Carl Hempel. Another like-minded group in Poland formed around
Lukasiewicz, Tarski, Kotarbinski, Lesniewski, and Ajdukiewicz. The Vienna Circle
became the object of pilgrimages by philosophers from Britain, such as AJ. Ayer,
and philosophers from the United States, such as Ernest Nagel and W.V.O. Quine.
The rise of National Socialism in Germany during the mid 1930s put an end to the
Circle. Carnap, Reichenbach, Feigl, Hempel, Bergmann, and Tarski subsequently
emigrated to the United States. Together with Nagel and Quine, they provided the
nucleus which gradually gained a hegemony over the major graduate philosophy
programs in the United States by the early 1960s.
In 1929, the Vienna Circle sponsored the publication of a manifesto in the
form of a pamphlet that spelled out their doctrinal beliefs. Not surprisingly, the
pamphlet emphasized scientism, modem naturalism, and an anti-agency view of the
self. The pamphlet, entitled "Wissenschaftliche Weltanffassung der Wiener Kreis,"
was written by Neurath, but signed by Hahn and Camap as well as Neurath. Of
special interest in the pamphlet is an appendix where the Circle defines itself by
specific membership and the enumeration of others who are considered as sharing
the same spirit. Kurt Godel is listed as a member, but GOdellater dissociated himself
from the movement. 40 Ludwig Wittgenstein: 1 along with Albert Einstein and
The Enlightenment Project 31

Bertrand Russell, are listed as "leading representatives of the scientific world

conception." The pamphlet goes on to single out as its precursors: (1) empiricists
such as Hume, Comte, Mill, and Mach; (2) philosophers of science such as Poincare
and Duhem; (3) logicians such as Frege, Peano, Russell and Whitehead of course,
and Hilbert; (4) "sociologists" such as Bentham, Mill again, Comte again, Spencer,
Feuerbach and Marx. As Carnap put it, the three main programmatic features of the
Vienna Circle were a denial of supernaturalism, a belief in scientific progress, and
the expectation that technology was the key to solving social problems. The
Enlightenment roots are clearly evident and self-proclaimed.
Carnap emerged as the undisputed intellectual light of the Circle. In 1927
he published Der Logische Aujbau der Welt. In this book, Carnap attempted to
reconstruct the whole of science using only a phenomenalistic language and the
logical notation of the Principia Mathematica. That is, Carnap attempted to develop
the program originally suggested by Russell in a much more rigorous fashion and
aided by an idiosyncratic reading ofWittgenstein's Tractatus. No sooner had Carnap
published the Aujbau than difficulties were discovered, not unlike the difficulties
Russell had discovered, and not unlike the difficulties seen as far back as Locke. 42
Epistemological phenomenalism did not work and was soon replaced by
physicalism. 43
Analytic philosophy is the heir of the Enlightenment Project. 44 The Vienna
circle consciously conceived of itself as the heir.

. . . when Philipp Frank summarised [sic] the main achievements

of Mach's philosophy in an article published in 1917, he first
pointed to the idea of the unity ofscience . ... [And] he praised
Mach for being the philosopher who preserved the heritage of the
Enlightenment for our time. 45

As Neurath expressed it,46 The International Encyclopedia of Unified

Science is the direct counterpart to the Encyclopedie begun under the direction of
Diderot in the eighteenth century and inspired by the philosophes who were its major
contributors. In his introductory article in the Encyclopedia, Neurath presents an
historical account of western thought and the role of positivism within it. Neurath
specifically invoked the critique of systems found in d'Alembert and in Condillac's
Traite des systemes. 47
Rudolf Carnap was a pivotal figure in the development of analytic
philosophy throughout the twentieth century.48 It will be useful to cite him here as
an example of someone who subscribed in a holistic and unambiguous fashion to
each and every feature of the Enlightenment Project.
First, we have Carnap's critique ofreligion: 49 "During my pre-university
years, I had gradually begun to doubt ... religious doctrines about the world, man,
and God. . .. I recognized that these doctrines, if interpreted literally, were
incompatible with the results of modem science, especially with the theory of
evolution in biology and determinism in physics."sO
Second, we find his endorsement of scientism: "Since science in principle
can say all that can be said, there is no unanswerable question left."sl
32 Chapter J

Third, Carnap proclaims the unity ofscience, understood as the reduction

of subjects to objects: "[T]he unity of science ... thesis must be understood primarily
as a rejection ofthe ... view ... that there is a fundamental difference between the
natural sciences and the Geisteswissenschaften [social sciences] .... "52
Fourth, is his endorsement of the Enlightenment Project: "I was in
sympathy with ... [the] humanist aim of improving the life of mankind by rational
means."53 Part of that project, in Carnap's mind, was the creation of a special
language, Esperanto, which he viewed favorably as the fruit of "Western culture,
more specifically, its modem science and technology .... "54
Fifth, we discover Carnap's persistent refusal to deal with the metaphysical
issue ofthe totality: "I came in my philosophical development first to the insight that
the main statements of traditional metaphysics are outside the realm of science and
irrelevant for scientific knowledge ... the same holds for most of the statements of
contemporary Christian theology."55
Sixth, instead of engaging the philosophical arguments against scientism,
we find a seemingly scientific hypothesis about why others are against scientism:
"[T]he belief in one or several gods and in immortality was very widespread in all
known cultures. This, however, was not a philosophical problem but a historical and
psychological one. 1 gradually found an answer based on anthropological results ..
. [and] later ... through the results of Freud's investigations and in particular his
discovery of the origin of the conception of God as a substitute for the father. "56
Seventh, we find the desire to be a scientific technician but of an
indeterminate formal sort: "I ... saw clearly that 1 did not wish to do experimental
work in physics, because my inclination and abilities were purely theoretical."57 "I
often thought of becoming a linguist. However, 1 was more inclined toward
theoretical construction and systematization than toward description of facts.
Therefore 1had more interest in those problems oflanguage which involved planning
and construction."58
Eighth, there is the exhibition of the two-levels of discourse: "All of us in
the [Vienna] Circle were strongly interested in social and political progress. Most
of us ... were socialists. But we liked to keep our philosophical work separated
from our political aims."59
Ninth, despite the disclaimers just mentioned, there is the embrace of a
progressive historicism: "[There is a] connection between our philosophical activity
and the great historical processes going on in the world: Philosophy leads to an
improvement in scientific ways of thinking and thereby to a better understanding of
all that is going on in the world, both in nature and in society; this understanding
serves in tum to improve human Iife."60
Finally, we see in Camap the endorsement of a specific political agenda of
a social technological sort not based on any actual social scientific study. This is
seen in Carnap's "conviction that the great problems of the organization of economy
and the organization of the world at the present time, in the era of industrialization,
cannot possibly be solved by the 'interplay of forces' , but require rational planning.
For the organization of economy this means socialism in some form; for the
organization of the world it means a gradual development towards a world
The Enlightenment Project 33

Analytic philosophy cannot be understood simply as a method or style or as a self-
contained conversation in which later philosophers address issues raised by earlier
philosophers. On the contrary, analytic philosophy began as a programmatic
movement with substantive beliefs and a larger social and political agenda. The
later evolution of the program cannot be understood except against the backdrop of
those substantive beliefs. The most important of those beliefs is that modem physical
science could be used to de legitimate most of the previous western philosophical
tradition, that any serious objections to the Enlightenment Project could be safely
ignored, and that somehow the program would take care of itself.
34 Chapter 1


1. "The Enlightenment. . . was the work of three overlapping, closely

associated generations. The first of these, dominated by Montesquieu and
the long-lived Voltaire ... grew up while the writings of Locke and Newton
were still fresh and controversial, and did most of its great work before
1750. The second generation reached maturity in mid-century: Frank-
lin ... Buffon ... Hume ... Rousseau ... Diderot. .. Condillac ... Helvetius
. . . d' Alembert. . . It was these writers who fused the fashionable
anticlericalism and scientific speculations of the first generation into a
coherent modern view of the world. The third generation, the generation
of Holbach and Beccaria, of Lessing and Jefferson, of Wieland, Kant and
Turgot. ... moved into scientific mythology and materialist metaphysics,
political economy, legal reform, and practical politics... In the first half of
the century, the leading philosophes had been deists and had used the
vocabulary of natural law; in the second half, the leaders were atheists and
used the vocabulary of utility" Peter Gay (1966), pp. 17-18.

2. Alasdair MacIntyre, in his enormously important and influential book After

Virtue (1981), identifies the 'Enlightenment Project' as the "project of an
independent rational justification of morality" (p. 38). While we use the
same expression as MacIntyre, namely 'Enlightenment Project', and while
we agree that part of that project was to establish the authority of Judeo-
Christian morality by reason alone, that is to secularize morality, we
propose to give a more systematic account of tflat project. We further
suggest that the attempt to secularize morality antedates the Enlightenment;
finally we would disagree with MacIntyre's analysis of specific figures such
as Hume and Kant. MacIntyre's own agenda to defend an Aristotelianized
version of Christianity obscures important differences between the
philosophes and their critics. Nevertheless, what is important here is our
agreement with MacIntyre's recognition that contemporary moral
discussion is rooted in something we can all identify as the 'Enlightenment
Project'. See also Bloom (1987), pp. 243-312; Adorno and Horkheimer
(1990); McCarthy (1998).

3. See Becker (1962), Chapter Four, for an exposition of the position that the
dream of a technological utopia is the common inheritance of liberals,
socialists, and Marxists.

4. Berlin (1993), pp. 27-28.

The Enlightenment Project 35

5. Randall (1962), p. 862.

6. Condillac (1921), p. 32.

7. The purely naturalistic reading of Aristotle was a problem even within

medieval Christendom. Averroes of C6rdoba (died 1198), for example, an
Arab commentator on Aristotle, exercised enormous influence on the early
introduction and understanding of Aristotle in the West. Averroes
maintained that (I) God is so self-contained that individual human actions
are not guided by divine providence, (2) the material world is eternal and
not created, (3) the material world is further governed by an internal
necessity under the influence of celestial bodies, (4) there was no first
human being, (5) the individual soul dies with the body, and (6) the human
will acts within material necessity.

8. La Mettrie (1960), pp. 175-76.

9. Condillac (1798), p. 17.

10. Cabanis (1805), pp. 39, 85.

11. For a fascinating account of scientism, its rise during the enlightenment, its
influence upon analytic philosophy, and its larger cultural influence see
Sorell (1991).

12. Cassirer (1955), p. 55.

13. D' Alembert, Melanges de Philosophie, (1759) vol. iv, pp. 63-64.

14. See Diderot's novel Jack the Fatalist.

15. Turgot published two essays, in 1750, dealing with his philosophy of
history: "Philosophic Panorama of the Progress of the Human Mind," and
his "Plan of Two Discourses on Universal history". See also Buffon,
Histoire naturelle XIII, Paris, 1765; Yves Goguet, De I'Origine des loix,
des arts, et des sciences, 1758.

16. For an insightful discussion of the relevance of Comte see Scharff (1995).
Scharff maintains that Comte was not a narrow positivist and that he is
closer, in his view ofthe relation between philosophy and history, to Rorty,
Charles Taylor, and Putnam.

17. The full skeptical challenge to the idea of scientific progress is to be found
in Montaigne's Apology of Raimond Sebond. For the importance of
Montaigne's influence in subsequent discussion see Popkin (1964).
36 Chapter 1

18. Condorcet (1955), p. 163 (The Ninth Stage: From Descartes to the
foundation of the French Republic).

19. "But with these well known conclusions of the materialistic system, we only
have so far its outside, not its real conceptual core. For, paradoxical as it
may appear at first glance, this core is not to be found in natural philosophy,
but in ethics" Cassirer (1955), p. 69.

20. Helvetius (1774), De ['homme, vol. III, sec. II, ch. I, pp. 113-14. Compare
to Rawls (1971), p. 74: "Even the willingness to make an effort, to try, and
so to be deserving in the ordinary sense is itself dependent upon happy
family and social circumstances."

21. Helvetius (1774), De l'homme, vol. III, ch. 2, p. 4.

22. Hartley (1791), I, ch. I, sec. ii, proposition XIV, corollaries 5 and 6, pp. 81-

23. E.H. Carr, What is History (London, 1961), quoted by Morris Ginsburg
(1973), p.637. See also the previous article by E.R. Dodds, "Progress in
Classical Antiquity." The classic works on progress are Bury, (1932) and
Baillie (1950).

24. "Both Kant's and Hume's views share the characteristic aspect of our own
position in having the consequence that laws, even natural laws, are in some
measure made by man rather than being altogether products of his
discovery" Rescher (1973b), pp. 62-63.

25. See Manser (1983), p. 131, and chapter vii.

26. Hylton (1993).

27. Russell (1961), pp. 298-299.

28. Hacker (1996) offers a useful distinction between the version of analysis
that derives from Russell and the version that derives from Moore. "One
(Russellian) root ofthis new school might be denominated 'Iogico-analytic
philosophy', inasmuch as its central tenet was that the new logic, introduced
by Frege, Russell and Whitehead, provided an instrument for the logical
analysis of objective phenomena. The other (Moorean) root might be
termed 'conceptual analysis', inasmuch as it was concerned with the
analysis of objective (mind-independent) concepts rather than 'ideas' or
'impressions' . From these origins. . . other varieties grew. Russell's
Platonist pluralism, considerably influenced by the pre-war impact of the
young Witlgenstein, evolved into logical atomism. Fertilized by the
Tractatus linguistic tum in philosophy, and greatly influenced by the
The Enlightenment Project 37

contemporary writings and teaching of Moore and Russell, Cambridge

analysis on the inter-war years emerged. At much the same time, the
Tractatus was a primary source of the different school of logical positivism,
which arose in Vienna, was further fertilized by contact with Wittgenstein
between 1927 and 1936, and spread to Germany, Poland, Scandinavia,
Britain and the United States. In both these phases of the analytic
movement, philosophers, in rather different ways, practised and developed
forms of reductive and (its mirror image) constructive analysis. Under the
influence of Wittgenstein in Cambridge (and later, of his posthumous
publications), analytic philosophy became more syncretic, and entered yet
another phase. Reductive and constructive analysis were repudiated.
Connective analysis ... exemplified in various forms in Oxford after the
Second World War, emerged, and, with it, therapeutic analysis" (p. 4).

29. It would be a mistake to lump Russell and Moore together here

indiscriminately. Russell credits Moore with having shown the way. "It
was towards the end of 1898 that Moore and I rebelled against both Kant
and Hegel. Moore led the way, but I followed closely in his footsteps"
Russell (1959a), p. 54. More precisely, Russell (1967-69) credits
"conversation" with Moore rather than a specific argument in Moore: " ..
. it was largely his conversation that led me to abandon both Kant and
Hegel" ( p. 78). Moore's article, "A Refutation ofIdealism" appeared in
Mindin 1903, and the article says nothing about wholes and parts. Rather,
the article defines "idealism" as the thesis that everything is spiritual. It
deals with the epistemological issue of distinguishing within perception
between an act and an object. In an earlier essay in Mind in 1899, Moore
had criticized Russell's 1897 Essay on the Foundations o/Geometry as
being too psycho logistic in appealing to a subject or mind.
The specific philosophical roots of Russell's rejection of idealism
are attributed by Russell himself to (1) the claim that the discussion of
mathematics in Hegel's Logic was nonsense and to (2) the claim that when
he, Russell, lectured on Leibniz, he was able to see the fallacy of Bradley's
arguments against the reality of relations.
Moore's rejection of Hegel is a rejection of what Moore considered
Hegel's subjectivism and holism. Moore offered in their place a position
that can be described as realism and atomism. This raises the question,
"Did Moore offer any arguments for realism and atomism?" The answer is
that he did not. As Baldwin (1984), p. 366, has put it, "I think it was
because Moore accepted, almost without thinking about it, the natural
assumption that one should explain wholes by their parts ... that he rejected
the conception of an organic whole as incoherent."
What this amounts to saying is that Moore and Russell had an
implicit commitment to the old, pre-Copernican Revolution empiricism.
However, it was only with the development of the new logic that the
implicit commitment, in Russell's case, became the basis for a principled
objection and a new movement in philosophy. Finally, a crucial difference
38 Chapter J

for the subsequent development of the Enlightenment Project in analytic

philosophy was Russell's commitment to scientism, something Moore did
not share. See Eames (1989), pp. 56, 58-9.

30. Capaldi (1992).

31. According to Russell (190011937b),p. 14, " 'Kant's Copernican Revolution'

[is the position] that propositions may acquire truth by being believed
.... " In his unpublished dissertation of 1898, entitled "Metaphysical Basis
of Ethics", Moore maintained that Kant's account of the a priori was
excessively psychological. In Principia Ethica (1903), p. 133, Moore
criticized the Copernican position: "That 'to be true' means to be thought
in a certain way is, therefore, certainly false. Yet this assertion plays the
most essential part in Kant's 'Copernican Revolution' of philosophy, and
renders worthless the whole mass of modern literature, to which that
revolution has given rise, and which is called Epistemology."

32. See Popper (1950). If one accepted a holistic approach, as Hegelians insist,
not only would analysis be wrong but we would not be able to formulate a
theory of meaning: "The acceptance of holism should lead to the
conclusion that any systematic theory of meaning is impossible," or so says
Dummett (1975), p. 121. As Putnam has moved closer to a Hegelian
position he has begun to wonder if we need a theory of meaning.

33. Clark (1975), p. 153.

34. Another good source for Russell's views of his new program are the essays
published in 1918 under the title Mysticism and Logic. Hylton (1990) dates
the beginning of analytic philosophy in 1912 with the formulation oflogical

35. See Hacker (l996), pp. 14-15.

36. Russell (1945), p. 836.

37. Positivism is the view that all legitimate knowledge is based upon sense
experience and that speculative metaphysical claims are therefore
illegitimate. The term 'positivism' was first used to describe the doctrines
of Auguste Comte (1798-1857). Positivism is the nineteenth-century
expression of the Enlightenment Project. The expression 'logical
positivism' is sometimes used (e.g., by Feigl) to denote the philosophy of
the Vienna Circle because logical statements that are not based upon
experience were also recognized as legitimate knowledge. 'Analytic
philosophy' encompasses positivism but is a much broader expression that
covers many who reject positivism. By encompassing positivism, however,
analytic philosophy encompasses the Enlightenment Project. What we
The Enlightenment Project 39

identify as the' analytic conversation' is by and large a conversation among

positivists, sympathetic and constructive critics of positivism, those who
reformulate a more chastened positivism in the light of the criticisms, and
those who have worked through positivism to the point of abandoning it.

38. Carnap (1963), p.13.

39. Ibid.

40. Philosophically, G6del has always been a Platonist and not an Aristotelian.

41. Ludwig Wittgenstein is the major anti-analytic philosopher in the twentieth-

century. Carnap was always aware of this and proceeded to isolate
Wittgenstein from other members of the circle. Polish analytical
philosophers always saw Wittgenstein as anti-analytic. See Skolimowski
(1967), pp. 247-48. As we shall see, it is important to distinguish between
the Wittgenstein who wrote the Tractatus and the later Wittgenstein. But
even with regard to the early Wittgenstein the case has been made that he
was not an analytic philosopher. See Janik and Toulmin (1973) and
McDonough (1986). We shall be discussing Wittgenstein at length in
chapters five and six.

42. "And the new empiricism, for all of its logical and scientific pretensions,
was full of uncritical pre-Kantian assumptions about the relations of
language to its 'objects' . . .. On reading the new empiricists one often has
the impression that they are not talking about anything remotely related to
the practical problems either of experimental science or of common sense,
but on the contrary that they have reinstituted the archaic methodological
and semantical dogmas of seventeenth-and-eighteenth century rationalists
and empiricists which Kant had been at such pains to explode" H.D. Aiken
in Barrett and Aiken (1962), p. 9.

43. As late as 1951, Nelson Goodman was still attempting to improve the
Aujbau in his book entitled The Structure of Appearance, a revision of his
Harvard dissertation. Goodman recanted in 1972.

44. "Rorty thinks there was a 'hidden agenda' behind the central problems in
analytic philosophy: the defense of the values of science, democracy and
art on the part of secular intellectuals .... " Rajchman and West (1985),
p. xii. In "Solidarity or Objectivity?", Richard Rorty claims that "there is,
in short, nothing wrong with the hopes of the Enlightenment. . .. I have
sought to distinguish these institutions and practices from the philosophical
justifications for them provided by partisans of objectivity, and to suggest
an alternative justification" Ibid., p. 16.

45. Haller (1988), p. 39.

40 Chapter I

46. This view was expressed in a letter to Charles Morris. See the introduction
by Morris to the 1969 edition of vol. I of the Encyclopedia. See also p. 103
of Hanfling (1981).

47. Neurath (1938), p. 2.

48. As Hacker (1996) has noted: " ... the impact of. .. the Vienna Circle and,
in particular, Quine's influence steered philosophy into new channels ....
To a large extent, the 'scientific world-view' was transformed into a
scientistic world-view" (p. 265).

49. The opposition to absolute Idealism can perhaps be understood here as a

rejection of its endorsement of religion. As Hacker (1996) points out,
"Absolute Idealism met two needs in social and intellectual thought: it
provided a defence of Christianity against threats from science (in
particular, Darwinism and geology) and German biblical historical
scholarship, hoping to reconcile science and religion in a 'higher synthesis';
and it advocated an ethic of social responsibility in opposition to both
utilitarianism and social Darwinism, thus contributing to the non-Marxist,
Christian socialist roots of the subsequent ideological development of the
British Labour party" (p. 5).

50. Carnap (1963), p. 7.

51. Ibid., p. 38.

52. Ibid., p. 52.

53. Ibid., p. 7.

54. Ibid., p. 70.

55. Ibid., p. 9.

56. Ibid., p. 8.

57. Ibid., pp. 10-11.

58. Ibid., p. 67.

59. Ibid., p. 23.

60. Ibid., pp. 23-24.

61. Ibid., p. 83.


Analytic Philosophy Of Science

The Importance of Science for Analytic Philosophy

The increasing, cumulative, and spectacular successes of science and technology
throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries made science the most prestigious
and authoritative institution in western society.] This can be seen in a number of
ways. In Germany, from about 1830 onwards scientism was not on Iy in the
ascendancy but an intellectual threat to the legitimacy of philosophy. From about
1870 onwards in Germany the new philosophy tended to justify itself as concerned
with the logic of science and the articulation of a world view replacing philosophy.
This current was subsequently to sweep across Great Britain and the Atlantic. 2 At
the first meeting of the American Philosophical Association, on March 31, 1902, at
Columbia University, the association's charter president, J.E. Creighton, pointed out
that philosophy's importance had been eclipsed by the empirical sciences. He urged
that philosophy should compete more effectively with the empirical sciences by
becoming more methodological, systematic, and by setting strict standards of what
counts as professional work.]
Scientism is the view that physical science is the ultimateframeworkfor
understanding everything including science itself. This entails that science is self-
legitimating. Scientism is the fundamental presupposition of the Enlightenment
Project within analytic philosophy. Scientism is not just the view that science is
important or should be taken seriously. Of course, if one subscribes to scientism then
one believes that science is important and should be taken seriously. But one can
believe that science is important and should be taken seriously without believing that
science is either autonomous or the whole truth about everything. One could believe
that science is part of the truth about everything or that it is the whole truth only
about part of the world, or that it is part ofthe truth about part of the world, or even
that it is not in any sense true but a series of important techniques for manipulating
part of the world. There are all kinds of positions that one could hold, positions
which involve taking science seriously but which do not involve a commitment to
What distinguishes the doctrinaire analytic philosopher,4 that is the analytic
philosopher who subscribes to the Enlightenment Project, is the clear, insistent,
unambiguous, and rigid adherence to the view that physical science is the whole truth
about everything. As Bertrand Russell once put it:

I have no doubt that, in so far as philosophical knowledge is

possible, it is by such [scientific] methods that it must be sought;
I have also no doubt that, by these methods, many ancient
problems are completely soluble. . .. Whatever can be known,
can be known by means of science .... 5

In the words of Wilfrid Sellars:

42 Chapter 2

science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of

what is not that it is no1. 6

More recently, Michael Dummett has expressed this commitment as follows:

[Most American philosophers] are unanimous in regarding

philosophy, with Quine. as at least cognate with the natural
sciences, as part of the same general enterprise as they.7

Mark Sacks has succinctly noted the philosophical commitment to scientism.

The idea that the world is fully determinate, such that for any fact
in the world there is a reason why it is so rather than some other
way, or that the world abides bivalence, was not new. However by
the early part of the twentieth century the conviction that the
principle of sufficient reason held true of the world seemed to be
fully borne out by empirical successes of science, and no longer
required rationalist principles to be adduced in its favour. 8

Rorty's description of the commitment to scientism is worth quoting:

... positivism preserved a god in the notion of Science (and its

notion of 'scientific philosophy'), the notion of a part of culture
where we touched something not ourselves, where we found Truth
naked .... 9

If one looks at the early careers of prominent and influential analytic

philosophers like Russell, Carnap, Schlick, Quine, even the early Wittgenstein,
Kripke, and many others one sees an early aptitude, training, and even some
accomplishments in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Analytic
philosophers are often products of scientific training. In most cases, academic
philosophy was not their first career choice.
Since there are many branches of science, which science is the whole truth?
Since the time of Newton, and especially since the latter half of the Nineteenth
century, the dominant branch of science has been physics. Commitment to scientism
has, therefore, usually meant a commitment to physicalism, or the view that (a) only
what mathematical physics says exists, really exists; that (b) the only differences
among things are the differences that mathematical physics says there are; and that
(c) all truths whatsoever are reducible to or dependent upon the truths at the level of
mathematical physics. 1o Physicalism is usually supported by the unity of science
thesis, namely, the thesis that whatever diversity exists within science is merely
apparent, reflects an underlying homogeneity and unification, and will be borne out
by the progress of science.
Given the cultural hegemony of science and technology, it was not science
that was called upon to justify itself but anything which seemed at odds with
scientism. To the extent that Hegelianism came into conflict with scientism, it was
Analytic Philosophy O/Science 43

Hegelianism which was to give way. Specifically, physics and mathematics cannot
be absolute standards of truth if they are dependent upon mind, so their independence
of mind is not only assumed but hotly defended against the encroachments of Hegel
and the Copernican view in general. The notion that truth comes to us in isolable
atomic units and not in some all-encompassing whole reflects, among other things,
that in mathematics we must first identify individual units before we can understand
their relations, and it reflects the allegedly gradual and piece-meal nature of the
growth of scientific knowledge. Ifwe could not know for sure that each new piece
of scientific information was genuine until we knew all of scientific truth, then not
only would scientism be left exposed but we could not be sure of each ofthe pieces
or ofthe meaning of the progress and growth of the accumulating pieces. In short,
the commitment to scientism dictates an anti-Hegelian posture and a defense of the
validity of an analytic methodology.
Philosophical analysis is a rejection of Hegelian monism precisely because
analysis assumes that we can reduce the complex to the simple, that the "simple" can
be recognized in isolation. To the extent that the "simple" was not previously
recognized or was not immediately obvious (e.g., "sense-data") and we had to learn
how to isolate it, it bears an analogy to the "atom" in physical science. At a deeper
level, analysis presupposes the incremental growth of scientific knowledge. As
Hector-Neri Castaneda has expressed it,

the method of philosophy is, like the method of the sciences:

empirical, exegetical, hypothetical, deductive, iterative, and
cumulative. I I

The notion of analysis as the isolation and identification of simples which are
combined into a knowledge of the whole is consistent with both empiricism as weB
as the notion that the acquisition of knowledge is itself a cumulative and progressive
process. Analytic philosophers refer to this conception of knowledge acquisition and
growth as /oundationalism. Roderick Chisholm maintained that, "no serious
alternative in epistemology to foundational ism has yet been formulated."12
Scientism is not just a doctrine. It issues in a program in the sense that it
specifies how we should identifY, define, and look/or solutions to our intellectual and
practical problems. Because of the vast implications of such a program it is only fair
to ask why we should adopt it. The only possible answer is the belief that science is
the ultimate framework for understanding everything. We would then be led to ask,
further, what reason is there to believe that science is true about anything. We are
not asking if science is useful or important. After aB, science is still an on-going
enterprise. Only if what we believe now about science and what science tells us is
true and that it will continue to be true do we have a basis for adopting the program
of scientism. However, what we know now, or what we think we know now, is a
collection of individual and quite specific truth claims. Therefore, it is only on the
assumption that analysis, or a piece-meal approach to knowledge, is correct that
scientism can serve as a program. Analysis is a necessary presupposition 0/
44 Chapter 2

The commitment to scientism means that it is incumbent upon analytic

philosophers (1) to specify clearly, precisely, and accurately the internal logical
structure of science, (2) to establish that the internal logic of science is self-
legitimating, (3) to indicate how this logic is applicable outside the confines of
physical science, and (4) that after this approach there is no remainder.

The Structure of Science

The practice of science does not dictate the acceptance of the doctrine of scientism.
Scientism is a philosophical dogma. J3 The interpretation given to science by some
analytic philosophers is not an empirical report on scientific practice but an
interpretation that reflects a philosophical framework. Analytic philosophers
attribute the superiority of physical science to three factors. First, science is
supposed to reveal the truth about the real world. Realism u with regard to science
is the belief that science discloses an objective epistemic and ontological structure
that exists independent of human beings and that this structure includes or applies to
human beings as well. An epistemological realist maintains that the conceptual
apparatus of science refers exclusively to structural features of the world and not in
any degree to the conceptualizer. Realism is opposed to the Copernican Revolution
in general and, allegedly, to Hegel's philosophical idealism in particular. Second,
it is alleged that physical science, unlike myth or religion, offers a coherent
explanation of how the world is, and not a mere tale or description. Explanations
have a special logical structure, one that we shall discuss shortly. Third, explanations
in physical science are alleged to be empirical or firmly grounded in experience.
That is, unlike religious or metaphysical explanations, scientific explanations can be
tested and established experientially.
In singling out these factors we are not constructing an ad hoc list. These
factors actually reflect a long-standing philosophical tradition. Early analytic
philosophers did not fashion a view or interpretation of science based on their own
experience as scientists or on a scrutiny of the practice of scientists contemporary
with themselves, nor did they arrive at their view by a careful reconsideration of the
history of science. IS On the contrary, analytic philosophers inherited their
interpretation from a long and continuous philosophical tradition. That tradition,
which came to analytic philosophy, through the Enlightenment Project is
'Aristotelianism'. Keep in mind what we showed in Chapter One, namely that the
Enlightenment Project took over Aristotle's ontology and epistemology but without
the teleological metaphysics. Analytic philosophy of science began then as
"truncated" Aristotelianism. 16

Aristotelianism 17 as a Philosophy of Science.

Aristotelianism as a philosophy of science is comprised of three tenets: deductivism,
empiricism, and causality. IS
a. Deductivism: Many philosophers have traditionally held that
there is an important distinction between a description and an explanation. A
description merely presents the details of a situation or event. Since the Copernican
Revolution in philosophy, some philosophers have held that there is no fundamental
logical distinction between descriptions and explanations, and that both are relative
Analytic Philosophy O/Science 45

to the explainer or the audience to which the explanation is offered. Realists, on the
other hand, insist that explanations connect events in a manner that displays a
structure independent of the explainer or the audience. An explanation puts the
description into a context that "connects" the description with other events.
What this means is that in an explanation one event is shown to be part of
a wider network of events and that the events fit together into an objective structure.
The structure clearly must have some identifiable form or shape. The shape of that
structure for Aristotelian philosophy of science is a hierarchical one in which the
most general or all-encompassing events are at the top and the less general or more
specific ones are at the bottom. The hierarchical shape or form of explanation is
analogous to the presentation of a classical proof in geometry in which specific
theorems are deduced or derived from fundamental axioms. The fundamental
axioms represent the basic truths which are not themselves derivative from anything
else. The axioms are said to be self-explanatory or self-evident. The first tenet, then,
of the Aristotelian philosophy of science is that an adequate explanation is a
deduction from first principles. This conception of explanation was taken over by
Aristotle from Plato, and it has been with some exceptions the dominant position
throughout the history of Western thought. 19
b. Empiricism: Aristotelians differ from Platonists in holding that
the first principles or fundamental axioms are abstracted from experience. In
Aristotle's organic universe, processes are endlessly repeating cyclical ones. Hence,
when Aristotle appealed to experience it was to a well established record of what had
already happened not an appeal to imagined or hypothetical experience under some
as yet unrealized set of conditions. As Aristotle described it, the process of
abstraction moves from particular experiences to the formation of generalizations.
The movement from particulars to a generalization, or from a lower level
generalization to a higher level generalization is called induction. Once a
generalization is achieved, then particular conclusions or lower level generalizations
may be deduced from it.
c. Causality: For Aristotle, all explanations are causal
explanations. That is, not only do explanations form a hierarchy that moves
downward logically from the more general to the less general, but the more general
level reflects a structural connection within the world itself. Entities on the more
general level are the causes of entities on the less general level. To take a
contemporary example, we explain a specific collection of symptoms such as a fever
and aches and pains (entities on the less general level) as a disease or illness by
reference to a virus which is said to be the cause of the disease or illness. The virus
is an empirically confirmable entity that connects the symptoms in a structural way.
Aristotle had asserted that there was only one world and the principles of
intelligibility were within that one world (i.e., form was in matter). The one world
is self-explanatory. In order to defend this assertion, Aristotle had to answer two
Platonic objections: (a) How can a world offlux have anything permanent within it?
And (b) how can we explain the use of or the knowledge of ideal concepts if we must
rely totally upon our experience of the everyday world?
Aristotle answered the first objection by arguing that although nothing in
the world is permanent because everything changes, nevertheless the process by
46 Chapter 2

which the changes take place is permanent. Processes, not things, are permanent.
For example, oak trees produce acorns which in turn grow into oak trees. At some
point, each generation of oak trees will die out, but the process in which oaks
produce acorns which produce more oaks, etc. remains forever. This biological
example is a reflection of a deeper point in Aristotle. He conceived of biological
(organic) processes as fundamental to everything, and further interpreted organic
processes as teleological or goal directed. In understanding an individual process we
are, according to Aristotle, recognizing its goal, as when the acorn becomes an oak.
Not only does every process have a goal in itself but it is part of a wider all-
encompassing hierarchy of goals. The use of teleological biology as a model
permitted Aristotle to find a prime place within nature for human beings, for purpose,
and for consciousness.
Aristotle further elaborated his answer by means of his theory of causation.
There are four causes: material, formal (structure); efficient (originating agent), and
final (goal). In natural objects the formal, efficient, and final causes are identical.
For example, the efficient cause of an acorn is an oak tree (parent oak), the final
cause or goal is for the acorn to become an oak tree, and the formal cause is the
acorn's internal structure which gives it the potential to become an oak tree. It is this
form that gets transferred from generation to generation and accounts for the
permanence of the process. The identity of the formal, efficient, and final causes is
what permits us to know or to infer the past (i.e., the efficient cause) or the future
(i.e., the final cause) from a knowledge of the present structure (i.e., the formal
Aristotle answered the second objection, the acquisition of ideal concepts
from experience, by appeal to the notion that the form is in the matter. What happens
when we learn, according to Aristotle, is that we abstract the form from the matter.
Aristotle explained this process by a metaphor. The mind is like a piece of wax upon
which a seal leaves an imprint, its form so to speak, although the seal remains
external to the wax. Thus, although in experience we see many acorns which do not
become oak trees, we somehow manage to discern in our experience that some
acorns do develop into oaks and thus achieve their goal. If we have correctly
identified the goal, then we have obtained knowledge of the form. This follows from
the identity of formal, efficient, and final causes. How do we know when we have
correctly discerned or abstracted the form? The answer is that we see it fit into wider
and wider nets of goals.
This last point about the wider net is important. Observe that Aristotle's
account of form being embedded in matter relies ultimately on his theory of
causation, specifically the identity of formal, efficient, and final causes. If form is
embedded in matter, then the theory of causation explains how we would know it.
At the same time, Aristotle's account of how we learn appeals to the theory of
causation which, in turn, presupposes that form is embedded in matter. At no point
does Aristotle or can Aristotle step outside of the circle of his own theory. If
knowing is a natural process then the only way to explain it is by appeal to natural
processes, and the understanding of the natural processes is accounted for by the
account of how we know. What saves Aristotle from the charge of a circular
Analytic Philosophy O/Science 47

argument is the contention that there is a wider net of goals and that part of the goal
of human beings is to become conscious of these other goals.
The belief that we can thus abstract form from matter and that this form (or
essence) is identical with the efficient and final causes, and the belief that knowing
the essence (formal cause) guarantees the truth of inferences to efficient and final
causes lead to the articulation of logic, the discipline that deals with correct
reasoning. The model of logic is the following:

All A's are B's.

This is an A.

Therefore, this is a B.

We can derive one truth from others if we know the correct rules of reasoning. The
correct rules reflect a structural feature of the world, namely, that the formal,
efficient, and final causes are identical. Our certainty about the truth of the original
premisses, like "All A's are B's", depends upon our having correctly abstracted the
essential form in a universe which has both true essences and objective goals.
Aristotle's logic thus follows from his epistemology, which in tum follows from his
The significance of the identity of the formal-efficient-final causes is that
it permits a special kind or kinds of inference. Once we have grasped the formal
cause we are entitled to infer the existence of an efficient or final cause. The
Aristotelian maintains that the formal cause is abstracted from experience. The
explanation of the identity ofthe formal-efficient-final causes is derivative from the
Aristotelian beliefs that processes are permanent and that the form is "passed on"
from one "generation" to the next. This is expressed in the view that nothing can be
in the effect that is not already present in the cause. If everything in the effect is
already present in the cause, then it also follows that a careful observation of the
effect entitles us to infer some things about the cause.
This traditional Aristotelian conception of causality dominated Western
thought for 2000 years, until the eighteenth century. The Aristotelian tradition
continued not only throughout the Middle Ages (Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus,
Aquinas, Grosseteste, etc.) but down into the modem period with Francis Bacon,
Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and many figures during the Enlightenment.
The Aristotelian analysis of causation was even accepted as the correct understanding
of causation by philosophers who were in other respects not Aristotelian or even anti-
Aristotelian. One historical example can be useful here. Descartes rejected final
causes with regard to the natural world, and as a scientist was instrumental in
undermining Aristotle's physics. Yet Descartes still accepted the identity of formal
and efficient causes. It was this alleged identity which licensed, in Descartes' view,
the backwards inference from the idea of God (the effect) to the existence of God as
a real external, efficient cause ofthat idea. An analogous use of this identity is to be
found in Locke's inference from our ideas of primary qualities (the effect) to the
existence of external substance, sight unseen, as the efficient cause of our ideas of
primary qualities.
48 Chapter 2

We are not at the moment concerned with the correctness or incorrectness

of the foregoing views. What concerns us is the continuity of the Aristotelian
tradition of explanation as deductive, empirical, and causal in the above sense, as
well as the extent to which the understanding of causality achieved a kind of
intellectual autonomy that cut across even the so-called rationalist/empiricist

The Analytic Restatement of the Modern Aristotelian Philosophy of Science

Analytic philosophy is, in part, heir to the Enlightenment Project. The
Enlightenment Project operates with a truncated or modern version of
Aristotelianism. We can now explain both analytic philosophy of science and its
evolution in terms of the foregoing Aristotelian conception of the philosophy of
science and the problems that it generates in a mechanically conceived post
seventeenth-century universe.
To begin with, analytic philosophers of science subscribe to the view that
an adequate explanation is a deduction from first principles. The classic statement
of this view is to be found in Hempel and Oppenheim.

We divide an explanation into two major constituents, the

explanandum and the explanans. By the explanandum we
understand the sentence describing the phenomenon to be
explained, ... by the explanans, the class of [those] sentences
which are adduced to account for that phenomenon. . .. The
explanandum must be a logical consequence of the explanans; in
other words, the explanandum must be logically deducible from
the [information contained in the] explanans .... 20

The explanans consists of a covering law in conjunction with a description of the

initial conditions. The explanans is further stipulated to be true, to have empirical
content, and to be causal. As Popper expressed it:

To give a causal explanation of a certain event means to derive

deductively a statement (it will be called a prognosis) which
describes that event, using as premisses of the deduction some
universal laws together with certain singular or specific sentences
which we may call initial conditions. 2t

L t , L2,· •• ,Ln (laws)

C t , C2 , ••• ,Cn (initial conditions) Explanans

E (event) Explanandum

A deduction from first principles is called either a covering law explanation or a

deductive-nomological explanation.
Aristotle's conception of causation is still implicit in this view of
explanation. What has happened is that the identity of formal-efficient-final causes
Analytic Philosophy OfScience 49

has been elevated to a logical requirement long after that identity has lost its
scientific and ontological status. The identity offormal and final causes is implicitly
present in the requirement that explanation be symmetrical with prediction: 22

... an explanation is not fully adequate, unless its explanans if

taken account of in time, could have served as the basis for
predicting the phenomena under investigation. 23

A prediction is a disguised deduction of descriptions of the predicted event from

causal laws and initial conditions.

Since in a fully stated deductive-nomological explanation of a

particular event the explanans logically implies the explanandum,
we may say that the explanatory argument might have been used
for the deductive prediction of the explanandum-event if the laws
and particular facts adduced in its explanans had been known and
taken into account at a suitable earlier time. In this sense a
deductive-nomological explanation is a potential deductive-
nomological prediction. 24

Successful prediction is a necessary condition of an adequate explanation

but not a sufficient condition. Correlations between two events can be formalized
into a successful prediction without leading us to believe that we have given an
adequate causal explanation. For example, prior to an earthquake we can observe
abnormal animal behavior. No one would maintain that the abnormal animal
behavior caused the earthquake.
One further criterion is needed to distinguish an adequate explanation and
serves to identify a covering law. A genuine law is distinguished from an accidental
generalization because the former, but not the latter, licenses unfulfilled
hypotheticals. As Nelson Goodman expressed it, the causal law "all heated gases
expand" licenses counterfactual and subjunctive conditionals such as "if this gas had
been heated, it would have expanded."2s On the other hand, the accidental
generalization "all the coins in my pocket are silver" does not license the conditional
"if this coin had been in my pocket, it would have been silver." Again, there is an
implicit appeal to Aristotle's conception of causation, for within Aristotle's language
Goodman's point could be expressed as the identity of formal and efficient causes.
Along with the identity offormal and final causes, the identity offormal and efficient
causes constitute the necessary and sufficient conditions of an adequate explanation.
The identity of formal-efficient-final causes is expressed as the requirement that
causal laws license predictions and counterfactuals.
To sum up so far, analytic philosophers continue to subscribe to the
traditional Aristotelian philosophy of science by embracing the views that (a)
explanation is deduction from first principles, (b) a first principle is based upon
experience, and (c) it expresses a necessary26 causal connection among events.
Moreover, scientific explanations are alleged to be superior because they (i) refer to
an objective (realist) structure independent of the observer, (ii) express necessary
50 Chapter 2

causal relationships or connections within that structure, (iii) are deductively related,
and at some point (iv) empirically verifiable.
The idea ofaxiomatization takes on additional significance within analytic
1. Analytic philosophy of science is committed to total conceptualization,
and the analogue to this would be an axiomatic or formal system with one all
encompassing axiom. This means, first, that all sciences are to be reduced to and
derived from one science, and, second, that within that science all laws are to be
reduced to one over-arching theoretical principle. This is what came to be known as
the unity of science.
2. Later, as we shall see, in choosing among alternative possible theories,
analytic philosophers appealed to the traditional notion of simplicity, understood in
a mathematical or axiomatic sense. A "simpler" theory came to be understood as one
which fit better with the proposed reduction to one science and to one law within that
science, that is, it simplified axiomatization.
3. The favored science was to become physics (and the favored principle
E=mc 2). Physics is the favored basic science because it is within physics that we
allegedly find necessary causality. That is to say, axiomatization and total
conceptualization are tied to causality.27 Physics is also the favored science because
it lends itself to the idea of technological manipulation which is the foundation of the
program of the Enlightenment Project.
Now let us turn our attention to the problems generated by using an
Aristotelian philosophy ofscience in a mechanically cunceived universe. As should
already be clear, Aristotle's physics, metaphysics, and epistemology function in an
interdependent way. Despite the indigenous difficulties, Aristotle's own views form
a coherent whole. It should also be recalled that Aristotle's own view of the universe
is teleological and organic, not mechanical and deterministic. The mechanical~
deterministic view is attributed by Aristotle to the Greek atomists and promptly
rejected by him. Our concern here is to indicate the logical difficulties engendered
by the application of the Aristotelian tradition to a modern mechanical universe.
These difficulties will presage some of the difficulties analytic philosophers will have
in the twentieth century in their attempt to formulate a coherent account of physical
The first difficulty for the analytic philosophy ofscience concerns the nature
and status of causation. The thrust of the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries was to reject Aristotle's physics and to substitute a mechanical
and deterministic world view. Galileo, Descartes, Gassendi, and Newton were
chiefly responsible, and they were the architects of the new mechanical physics. The
newer mechanical physics of the seventeenth century led first to the rejection of the
existence of final causes and eventually to the rejection of the existence of fonnal
causes. We were left only with efficient causes, and hence our univocal notion of
causation as opposed to Aristotle's four fold view. Ifthere are only efficient causes,
then there can be no such thing as the identity offonnal-efficient-final causes. Once
this identity of causes is eliminated, then the inference from present effect to past
cause as well as the inference to future effect is invalidated. There is then no
necessary connection among the past (efficient cause) the present (formal cause) and
Analytic Philosophy Of Science 51

the future (final cause). That is, there is no logical or conceptual link in Newton's
physical world in the way there was in Aristotle's world. One may want to believe
anyway that there is a structure in the world that allows for such necessity, but there
is nothing in Newtonian physics that licenses such a belief.
David Hume was the first to understand these implications of Newton's
physics, and Kant was soon to concur. 28 Left only with efficient causation, Hume
proceeded to reconstruct the concept of causation in his now familiar way by
reference to spatial contiguity, temporal priority, and observed constant conjunction.
Aside from its Copernican reference to the observer-agent, this reconstruction raised
serious obstacles to the program of explanation by deduction from first principles.
Specifically, the traditional Aristotelian "cement" that held the universe together
seemed to have disappeared.
What is the objective difference, if any, between an accidental
generalization and a law of nature? Are there, in fact, laws or "necessary"
relationships of any kind? If there are no laws, then there can be neither first
principles from which we can explain by deduction nor a necessary structure of
events independent ofthe explainer. Science would then be reduced to an elaborate
system of descriptions, and explanations would be relative to the purposes of the
(i) Ifthere are no necessary laws, how can we justify predictions about the
(ii) If there are no necessary laws, then how do we justify our statements
about past hypothetical situations concerning what would have happened
if something else had happened?
Some analytic philosophers, like Ernest Nagel, were perfectly well prepared
to jettison contrary to fact conditionals or to reinterpret them along Humean Iines. 30
Nagel's argument was that the purposes of modem technological science were
adequately served by the Humean recasting of the concept of causation. Nagel's
critics, however, were unhappy with this answer because the case for scientism was
not adequately served by the Humean conception of causation. 3 I
One possible resolution is to jettison the insistence on necessary structural
ties. After all, it can be argued, as long as science gives us information sufficient for
physical and social technology, why worry about necessity. There are two
difficulties with this resolution. First, scientific explanations were supposed to be
superior to other kinds of explanation precisely because they were explanations and
not elaborate descriptions. Giving up on necessity is to make everything into a
description. Second, without necessity, any proposed technology might have to be
qualified by appeal to other cultural values. In effect, this undermines the
Enlightenment Project claim to cultural hegemony through scientific technology.
In opposition to Aristotle's four-fold conception of causation including final
causes, modem Newtonian physics recognizes only efficient causes. When the
concept ofefficient causation is applied to events in the human social world, as is to
be expected in light ofthe unity ofscience, the major explanatory concept becomes
'historicism '. By' historicism' we mean the view that events succeed one another in
linear time such that earlier events are said to cause later events. The notion of linear
52 Chapter 2

time replaces the classical notion of cyclical time, and this can be seen even in the
modem physical idea that natural motion is motion in a straight line.
It is not surprising that the philosophes adopted an historicist posture.
However, without final causes or theism, there is no way to equate historicism with
progress. Without importing some norm or invoking final causes, it is difficult to
argue that what comes later is in any sense better. Hence there is always going to be
a lacuna in any attempt to show that an historical explanation is also a progressive
To sum up, Aristotle's analysis of causation did not seem to hold for modem
mechanical physics. Hume's alternative analysis led to difficulties with defining
laws and law-like statements, the alleged symmetry between explanation and
prediction, the status ofthe claim that laws license contrary to fact conditionals, and
the inability to show how historical development was progressive.
The reconstructed concept ofcausation also brought to the fore difficulties
in the traditional Aristotelian doctrine ofempiricism, namely, that knowledge offirst
principles is "abstracted" from experience. Modem or seventeenth-century physics,
unlike Aristotle's physics, postulated the existence of hidden structures. That is, the
ultimate explanatory principles were not descriptions of the ordinary world of
everyday experience but of a world to which we gained access via microscope as
well as via telescope.32 Some modem philosophers starting with Locke held that on
the micro or atomic level we would in principle find the "cement" or necessity that
was formerly expected on the macro or everyday level. Hume maintained, on the
contrary, that even on the micro level "necessity" no longer made sense.
In the meantime, empiricists, or those who attempted to explain our
knowledge of the world through the internal processing of external physical stimuli
were forced to put on hold any attempt to offer a satisfactory account of exactly how
the external physical objects "caused" our internal experience. It was not the
introduction ofphenomenalism that undermined the traditional Aristotelian view of
causation. Quite the contrary, it was the questioning of the traditional Aristotelian
concept of causation that had, among other things, suggested epistemological
The Aristotelian empirical tradition presents us with a largely passive
picture of perception, one in which external objects leave imprints upon the mind.
Of course, there is always something done internally with the imprints, and in the
case of Aristotelians who believe in an active intellect and in final causes and the
human role in the great purposes of nature, the difficulties can be safely ignored.
However, once the active intellect, purpose and final causes are banished from
nature, the difficulties cannot be ignored. How the internal workings correlate with
the external workings, if at all, remains a mystery. Moreover, it now becomes a
mystery to discover if there are any external workings. The content of physical
science told us of a not-directly-visible world which somehow "caused" the visible
world, and the logic of Aristotle's concept of causation "allowed" Locke to infer to
his own satisfaction the existence of those causes from our directly visible world.
Yet, on further reflection, specifically Hume's reflection on Newton, the content of
physical science had eliminated Aristotle's concept of causation. What we are left
with, so to speak, is our raw experience, our internal cognitive structures, the
Analytic Philosophy O/Science 53

problematic existence 0/ an external world, and a mystery about how all of these
things are connected.
During the 1920s, optimistic members of the Vienna Circle held to the
position that what distinguished physical science from everything else was that the
statements of scientific fact could be shown to be true by direct appeal to experience.
In line with scientism, this view was expanded into the principle known as the
verifiability criterion of meaning or the verification principle. According to the most
common version of the verifiability criterion o/meaning, a statement is meaningful
if the statement can in principle be subject to empirical testing. Very quickly it was
brought to the attention of these philosophers that the vocabulary of science makes
use of terms that do not refer to observable entities (e.g., points, lines, instants,
particles, etc.). On the surface, it appears as if the verifiability criterion is too strong,
throwing out the baby with the bath water. In response, members of the Circle
appealed to Russell's theory of descriptions. In his theory of descriptions, Russell
had argued that the surface structure of a statement could be misleading and that a
sentence could be recast to make more explicit its underlying logical structure.
Armed with the technical language of Principia Mathematica, positivists such as
Carnap, as well as Russell himself, sought to recast scientific statements which
mentioned unobservables into statements, all of whose components referred either
to observable entities or purely logical functions.
Carnap's original program was designed to express the statements of science
in phenomenalistic terms. Later, Carnap abandoned phenomenalism for a physicalist
language that permitted the use of statements about common sense physical objects
and not just sense data. Somewhat later, the positivist translation program was
modified again, this time to permit statements about things not directly observable
as long as those statements could be shown to follow from a finite and consistent set
of observation sentences. That is, one sentence was now being translated into a set
of statements under a specific set of circumstances. Unfortunately, even these
changes in the translation program still disallowed Newton's mechanical laws,
Maxwell's electrodynamic equations, and Einstein's theory of relativity. By 1937,
in his work "Testability and Meaning", Carnap had surrendered the view that all
legitimate expressions in science could be recast in observational terms. A statement
was held to be meaningful if it played a function in scientific discourse. What was
needed was a clearer conception of scientific discourse and the meaning of
Analytic philosophers of science introduced what they originally thought
was a major modification in the form of the concept of a scientific hypothesis. An
hypothesis is a generalization not initially secured by experience, and its origins
though shrouded in creative mystery are declared irrelevant to science. What is
relevant, according to analytic philosophers, is that once the hypothesis is formulated
it serves as a generalization from which particular instances may be deduced. The
inferred particular instances then become test cases that can be empirically examined
by observation or experiment. If the test cases are positive, then the hypothesis is
said to be confirmed. The elaborate criteria for confirming an hypothesis constitute
an inductive logic.
54 Chapter 2

The alleged difference between the traditional Aristotelian empiricism and

the analytic modification can be brought out in the following diagrams. The earJy-
modem Aristotelian, Francis Bacon, supposedly represented the process of scientific
thinking as follows.

particular experiences---> generalization---> deduction of new information

The analytic modification that supposedly bypasses the murky problem of how
particular experiences generate (---» a generalization is as follows.

Analytic modification:
hypothesis (generalization)---> deduction of new particular cases--->
tested empirically (positive test results)---> confirm the hypothesis

Unfortunately, this modification is not successful. As can be seen from the

diagrams above, in both cases we are still going to have to explain how particulars
give rise to or support a generalization. The locus of the problem has been changed
but not its nature.
As early as 1945, Carnap had initiated rigorous research programs to deal
with inductive logic or confirmation logic. 33 In pursuing these programs of
confirmation logic all kinds of paradoxes were uncovered. It was admitted that in no
single instance of an observed regularity can one discern the difference between an
accidental generalization and a genuine causal law. One way of trying to get around
this difficulty is to maintain, as Hempel suggested, that an alleged causal law may be
said to be confirmed by the number and kinds of observations. The degree of
confmnation is said to be proportional to the number of observed positive instances.
Further, the degree of confirmation increases with the representative nature of the
sample of observations. For example, the alleged causal law that "all heated gases
expand" increases in confirmation not only every time we heat hydrogen and the
hydrogen expands but much more so according to the number of different gases that
are observed to expand when heated under different sets of circumstances.
However, the strongest argument against confirmation logic was articulated
by Popper. 34 According to Popper, if we take seriously the notion of the positive
confirmation of an alleged causal law, the probability is always going to be zero, no
matter how many and how varied the positive instances. Every alleged causal law
covers a potentially infinite number of possible situations. But the number of
observable instances is always finite. Since the probability is the derivative of a
finite number divided by an infinite number, the probability is always zero. Popper's
argument neatly reinforces a point made by Kneale. Kneale had pointed out that
there is never any way to distinguish through observation the difference between a
causal law and an accidental generalization, for any alleged causal law might just be
an accidental generalization on a cosmic scale. 35
Analytic Philosophy Of Science 55

The 'Kantian Turn'

Difficulties with the concept of causation led to difficulties with empIrIcIsm.
Difficulties with empiricism will lead to difficulties with the notion that science is
preeminently a matter of deductive explanation. In analytic philosophy it is
maintained that science owes its superiority to its being able to offer deductive
explanations from first principles which are grounded in experience. We have seen,
in the previous section, that analytic philosophers have great difficulty both in
establishing causal laws as first principles with the requisite necessary structural tie
and in anchoring scientific discourse in experience. Not only had analytic
philosophers been unsuccessful in showing how the terms of scientific discourse
could be anchored in experience, but they had been unsuccessful in showing how
alleged scientific causal laws could be anchored in experience.
A bottleneck had been reached in large part because ofthe narrow construal
of the Aristotelian requirement that all first principles be grounded in experience.
Little by little, analytic philosophers moved away from the Baconian and Lockean
conception of experience, and, in epistemology, began to exorcise the ghosts of
Mill's and Russell's sense-data. Having failed to anchor in experience either terms,
sentences, or laws, analytic philosophers began to move to a higher level of
generality. More and more, analytic philosophers came to see that great speculative
principles, which were in no sense derived from experience, played a significant role
in scientific discourse. We have already noted some indication of this in our earlier
discussion of how analytic philosophers modified Bacon's conception of scientific
method by recognizing the role of creative hypotheses. In a hesitant sort of way it
was conceded that Platonists were right about abstract intellectual constructs, and it
was conceded that Kant may have been on the right track when he insisted that our
thinking was guided by intellectual norms. Analytic philosophers now accepted the
vital instrumental role of theoretical constructs.
By the 'Kantian Turn', we shall mean both the abandonment ofthe earlier
narrow empiricist attempt to ground starting points in experience and the
recognition that theoretical activity originates in theoretical contexts that are not
empirically anchored. 36 On the other hand, analytic philosophers were quick to
domesticate this Kantian insight by insisting that these vast theoretical structures
were, in principle, a kind of temporary scaffolding that would "eventually" be
removed when science reached its ultimate fruition. In this way realism would still
In 1946,37 Richard Braithwaite had proposed that the mark of a genuine
scientific law was its own deducibility from statements of a still higher order of
generality. These higher order generalities were theories. Statements of scientific
theories were in an important sense speculative and therefore did not refer directly
to observable entities. This proposal had the added advantage of seeming to fit actual
scientific practice, for in the case of the gas laws, the formulation of the laws came
after the formulation of the kinetic theory of gases. Charles' Law is explained by
being deduced from the kinetic theory just as wave lengths for the emission of
hydrogen are explained by deduction from Bohr's theory of the atom. Not only was
the bottleneck broken, but Braithwaite's proposal preserved the deductive
requirement of explanations.
56 Chapter 2

According to the new "Kantian" analytic philosophy of science, the key

element in scientific thinking is the theory. A theory, such as the kinetic theory of
gases, is a set of conceptual postulates such as "molecule", "elastic collision",
"kinetic energy," etc., all of which refer to unobservables. These theoretical terms
are connected to observable physical events by means of "bridge principles" or
"correspondence rules." A 'bridge principle' is one that bridges the gap between an
observable entity and an unobservable entity. For example, a correspondence rule
in the kinetic theory of gases relates the "mean kinetic energy of molecules"(which
is not directly observable) to temperature (which is directly observable). What
emerges from this tri-partite distinction is the now familiar hierarchical logical


Bridge Principles

observation laws

The theory explains the observation laws by providing the premises from
which the observation laws can be deduced. The highest order theoretical statements
are not themselves statements of scientific laws. Rather, the theory systematizes and
integrates the observation laws. This notion of theory thus preserves the Aristotelian
logical structure of explanation. The observation laws describe the world of
everyday experience. The theory explains the laws deductively, permits new or
additional predictions by way of deduction from the theory, and the theory is in turn
confirmed by the successful prediction of observational laws. Finally, the
hierarchical structure of explanation by theory provides an account of the piece meal
growth of scientific knowledge. Specific successful laws and theories are both
superseded and reincorporated as consequences of ever more general theories. What
we are given is a linear historical model that moves from the base of the hierarchy
to its apex.
What is missing in this instrumental account oftheories is any clear idea of
a necessary structural tie, causal or otherwise. Without actually saying so, it was
generally assumed that the issue of the necessary structural tie could be safely
subordinated to the issue of confirmation. That is, if and when the theory was
confirmed, then we would know what on the "micro" level was the cement of the
universe. In short, theories postulated a presently hidden sub-structure in which the
requisite necessity reigned. 38

Does Science Progress?

Perhaps the most interesting modification introduced by this analytic
reconceptualization of the structure of science is the new notion of how scientific
knowledge grows. The question of how an individual abstracts the general from the
particular or the more general from the less general has been replaced by a communal
Analytic Philosophy OfScience 57

model of the growth of scientific knowledge. 39 The foregoing notion of a theory

allows for the incremental growth of observation laws, for those laws to be
superseded by more general ones, and for less general theories to be superseded by
more general theories. In place of a psychology of learning we are given an
historical account of theory growth. The historical account seemed more in tune
with actual scientific history. As Ernest Nagel put it, "the phenomenon of a
relatively autonomous theory being absorbed by, or reduced to, some other more
inclusive theory is an undeniable and recurrent feature of the history of modem
science."4o The classical historical instances always cited are that Galileo's laws of
terrestrial motion and Kepler's laws of planetary motion were "absorbed by" or
reduced to Newton's theory of gravitation. Subsequently, Newton's theory was
"absorbed" by Einstein's theory, and the ultimate goal of contemporary physics is
then seen as the "absorption" of both Einstein's relativity theory of the macro world
and the micro world of quantum mechanics into an all-inclusive theory like
Einstein's unified field theory.
What seemed like a liability for the Aristotelian logic of science as
subscribed to by analytic philosophers, namely, the ambiguous connection between
observation and interpretation, had now become a kind of asset. Theoretical
statements and theoretical terms in scientific discourse are always partially
indeterminate in their links to observation. Vagueness of this kind had now become
a virtue. This indeterminacy is now seen as a necessary feature of the growth of
scientific knowledge. Indeterminacy is precisely what allows for theory
development, or further articulation, and growth. According to the revamped view,
old theories grow into new theories in a kind of progressive-conservative process.
The new theory is connected with the old theory both because of the presence of
terms or concepts that maintain the same meaning and because the observational
deductions, or predictions, of the old theory are accommodated by the new theory.
In short, the traditional Aristotelian problem of relating complex abstract structures
to experience has seemingly been solved by appeal to the notion of the growth of
scientific knowledge as exemplified in the actual history of science. Scientism is now
to be defended by appeal to the common experience of theory growth as seen in the
empirical history of science. Once more we see scientism defended, ultimately, by
appeal to a progressive view of the history ofscience.
We may now ask, "Exactly, how does growth take place in science?" The
most sophisticated analytic view on the growth of scientific knowledge was
articulated by Karl Popper. Popper had always insisted upon distancing himself from
the naive empiricism of the positivists. 41 Instead, Popper had always asserted a
strong instrumental role for theories in scientific discourse. He interpreted theories
as conjectures subject to refutation orfalsification, rather than as generalizations to
be confirmed. Instead of proving a theory to be true, we hold a theory until it is
discarded, and it is discarded when it is shown to be false. In a somewhat ironic
fashion, scientists are said to be trying to falsifY their theories rather than confirming
them, and the process of falsification through testing leads to new discoveries and the
further growth of scientific knowledge.
This interpretation of the growth of scientific knowledge has to be qualified.
Stated in its most simplistic form. the interpretation might give the impression that
58 Chapter 2

there is only one theory at a time and that there is a smooth logical transition from
one theory to its successor. Actually, the situation is much more complicated, as any
historical survey of science will amply show. One has only to think ofthe famous
controversy between defenders ofthe Ptolemaic geocentric theory and the defenders
of the Copernican heliocentric theory.42 Nevertheless, the initial response to the
historical existence of conflicting and competing theories was to look for formal
criteria for selecting one theory over its rival or rivals. Having surrendered the
notion of a direct confirmation of the truth of a theory, analytic philosophers had no
choice but to embrace formal or non-empirical criteria.
Two formal criteria widely discussed in the literature were simplicity and
fecundity. It was widely held that the more simple theory was to be preferred to the
less simple theory. The traditional notion of simplicity is understood in a
mathematical or axiomatic sense. A 'simpler" theory is one which fits better with the
proposed reduction to one science and to one law within that science; that is, it
simplified axiomatization. This characterization alone is too general to be of much
help in the day to day practice of science. 'Simplicity' is often characterized as
roughly equivalent to 'economical' in having a less complicated and less ad hoc
structure. The usual example is that the Copernican heliocentric theory has fewer
epicycles than the Ptolemaic geocentric theory. However, the mathematical
calculations in the Ptolemaic theory are far less complex than in the Copernican
theory. Simplicity seems a useful retrospective criterion, but it does not seem useful
in formulating new speculative hypotheses. There does not seem to be a univocal
notion of simplicity.
It is also said that some theories were preferable because they were more
fertile (fecundity) in the discovery of new facts by suggesting additional predictions
and experiments. For example, the apparent exception to Newton's theory of
gravitation is the "irregular" motion of Uranus. Assuming Newton is correct led to
the speculative suggestion that the gravitational pull of the existence of an as yet
unseen planet might explain the apparent irregularity of Uranus' path. What
followed was the discovery of Neptune.
One difficulty with fecundity as a criterion is that it is time-bound. Given
different time frames, a theory might be fecund in one period but not in another. For
example, at the time that Descartes' vortex theory was a rival to Newton's
gravitational theory, Descartes' theory could explain why all of the planets revolved
around the sun in the same direction while Newton's theory could not. But Newton's
theory subsequently proved to be more fecund. One is led to wonder how long a
'grace period' do we allow for specific theories? Is there a theory about 'grace
periods'? Are there competing theories about 'grace periods'?
An innocent reader coming to this discussion might raise the question of
why it is necessary to choose among alternative theories? Why not have a
continuous market place of theories? This suggestion will be derisively dismissed
because it conflicts with scientism. Scientism requires that there has to be, in the
end, only one correct theory. Only by insisting upon and establishing the one true
theory can it be shown that science is self-certifying.
Given the commitment to scientism and given the open texture of theories
which allows for continuous elaboration and emendation, an embarrassing problem
Analytic Philosophy Of Science 59

keeps reappearing: "Is there a rational basis for why a community of scientists favors
one theory or modifies a theory in a particular way at a given time?" There does not
seem to be an easy answer to this question.
Theories, according to Popper's view, have to be modified or discarded
when they are falsified. But exactly how does an experiment falsify a theory? This
question is raised in the light of Pierre Duhem's contention that there is no such thing
as a crucial experiment.

. . . the physicist can never subject an isolated hypothesis to

experimental test, but only a whole group of hypotheses; when the
experiment is in disagreement with his predictions, what he learns
is that at least one of the hypotheses constituting this group is
unacceptable and ought to be modified; but the experiment does
not designate which should be changed. 43

Duhem's point was revived by Quine in 1951.44 Quine went even further
in maintaining that the entire system of what we know is put to the test, not just an
isolated theory. "Any statement can", according to Quine, "be held to be true come
what may, if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system."45 It is
in the light of what was happening to analytic philosophy of science that one can
now understand the tremendous importance of Quine's collapsing of the analytic-
synthetic distinction and his suggestion of holism for broadening the scope of what
was to count as empirical.
One significant point that is sometimes lost sight of in these discussions is
the tremendous strain being put on the analytic philosophy of science by the demands
of empiricism. It was claimed to have been part of the legitimacy and superiority of
explanations in physical science that its statements could establish some direct link
with experience. More and more that claim itself is being held true by making
drastic changes in other parts of the analytic view of the philosophy of science.
Quine's holism is just such an example. Theories with non-empirical conceptual
components are admitted, and this is followed by the admission that theories cannot
be separated from background assumptions. We have identified these admissions as
"Kantian." They are, of course, different from Kant's own views because analytic
philosophers offer us the promissory note that these non-empirical elements, the
"pragmatic a priori"' (to use c.I. Lewis' memorable phrase) will be cashed out as
empirical or as part of something empirical at some future time. The relationship of
background assumptions to scientific theories is itself handled by assuming, as Quine
does, that the whole of our conceptual knowledge structure is one gigantic theory.
This move can, in retrospect, itself be seen as inherent in the assumption of scientism
once we are forced beyond naive empiricism. Whether this move is intelligible is
something to be discussed.
Quine's Duhemian point created a crisis in the Popperian model of the
growth ofscientific knowledge. Analytic philosophers of science were split into two
camps. Some (e.g., Agassi) argued that preserving a theory through auxiliary
modification was often defensible. Others (so-called Popperian hard-liners) derided
what they saw as a conventionalist stratagem. As Popper had himself argued, the
60 Chapter 2

difference between genuine science and pseudo-science was that in pseudo-science,

like Marxism, a failed prediction was always rationalized by the addition of ad hoc
This crisis was soon overshadowed by another. As a byproduct of the
notion of the communal growth of scientific know ledge there was a renewed interest
in examining the history of science. Having appealed to the history of science in
order to show how scientific knowledge grew. Popper had made the study of the
history of science fashionable. The Encyclopedia of Unified Science, a positivist
inspired series founded by Neurath and Carnap, published in 1962 Thomas Kuhn's
The Structure ofScientific Revolutions. This book became an instant sensation and
a battleground for the next decade. An accomplished historian of science, Kuhn
challenged the reigning analytic view of the growth of scientific knowledge as
accretion and incorporation, and in so doing brought all of the skeletons out of the
According to Kuhn, the historical development of science is a series of
paradigm shifts. A paradigm comprises not only a theory and a set of
methodological practices but a whole host of background assumptions that guide
activity within a scientific community. What Kuhn calls a paradigm is one more
example of the 'Kantian Turn' in the analytic philosophy of science. When a theory
(and its attendant paradigm) is in its period of ascendancy, the paradigm is not really
open to refutation or falsification. A period marked by the presence of a dominating
paradigm Kuhn calls a period of normal science. As anomalies or conflicting data
are uncovered, the theory is protected through modification by auxiliary hypotheses.
When the anomalies begin to multiply beyond the point where auxiliary hypothesis
modification is not so readily available or where members of the scientific
community "Sense" the ad hoc nature of the modifications we enter a period of
crisis. During the period of crisis, rival paradigms compete for acceptance.
Kuhn calls a period of competing paradigms a period of revolutionary
science. During this period, the normal procedures of confirmation or falsification
do not work because there is no consensual basis or set of neutral observations in
terms of which we can choose among rival theories. Whereas Quine had pictured
two or more alternatives each of which was consistent with the data, Kuhn finds in
the history of science cases where none of the alternatives is fully compatible with
the data and where each rival theory interprets the data from within its own
Here we come to the heart of Kuhn's position. We cannot appeal to
observations and experiments in order to decide among competing theories because
all observations are interpreted by reference to the background assumptions that
constitute each paradigm. Any theory, according to Kuhn's account, structures the
data not just at its origin but at every stage including the evaluation at the end. Since
all observation is theory-laden, some of the constraints on theory development that
we noted earlier, such as the notion that key terms should be meaning invariant and
that there should be continuity of predictive successes, are no longer operative. Kuhn
thereby reopened the whole issue of the relation between interpretation and
observation implicit in the 'Kantian Turn.' Kuhn had not been the first to challenge
the dichotomy between interpretation and observation, for Quine had already done
Analytic Philosophy G/Science 61

that with his epistemological critique of the analytic-synthetic distinction. What

made Kuhn's version the focus of discussion was the recent prominence given to the
history of science.
Some of the points uncovered in the case studies are worth noting. As
terminology changes from one theory to another, so does the meaning. In Newton's
theory, the concept of 'mass' is conserved and 'length' is independent of velocity,
gravitation, and the motion of the observer; in Einstein's theory, 'mass' is convertible
into energy, and 'length' is dependent on all three of the factors mentioned.
Moreover, the predictions for Newton are inconsistent with the predictions of
Einstein at high relative velocities. Galileo's prediction that in free fall a body has
constant acceleration near the earth's surface is inconsistent with Newton's
prediction of increasing acceleration with decreasing distance from the earth's
surface. Analytic philosophers soon found themselves talking about the relationship
between the predictions of the older theory and the predictions of the successor
theory in such terms as "close approximations" (e.g., Popper) or "most" of the
predictions or the "most important" predictions being consistent (e.g., Putnam).
A good example of how a theory, and its attendant paradigm, collapses the
distinction between interpretation and observation is given by Feyerabend. 46 The
defenders of Ptolemy maintained that the earth was the stationary center of the
universe. They suggested an experiment to prove this, an experiment in which a
stone was dropped from a high tower. If the earth moved, as the rival Copernicans
argued, then the stone should land some distance from the tower. If the earth
remained stationary, then the stone should land at the base of the tower. The
experiment showed that the stone landed at the base of the tower. For the defenders
of Ptolemy, this was a crucial experiment in proving that they were correct.
However, according to Feyerabend, the Copernicans can offer the following rebuttal.
The earth moves as well as rotating on its axis, but the tower and the stone move as
well; what we observe is a "mixed straight and circular" motion. Feyerabend
reminds us that no crucial experiment is available either to the Ptolemains or the
Copernicans. Finally, Feyerabend pointed out how Galileo used rhetoric to persuade
the scientific community at a time when the light of sight observations remained the
same for both theories.
One of the most remarkable things to emerge within Kuhn's writings and
the literature that he inspired was the extent of our ignorance of the history of
science. 47 Kuhn's own scholarship and that of others showed both how little had
been actually known and the extent to which specific case studies failed to reveal any
unambiguous method or structure to science. The analytic movement had formed its
conception of the growth of scientific knowledge in ignorance of the actual history
of science. When the study of the history of science failed to conform to the analytic
model, many analytic philosophers stubbornly held on to their preconceptions. One
even heard it said that the scientific community failed to embody fully the scientific
method! Holding on to the analytic preconception in the face of such anomalies
ironically seems to exemplify Kuhn's views on how paradigms operate, only this
time in philosophical thinking.
The periods of revolutionary science come to an end when a new paradigm
manages to achieve dominance within the scientific community. We then return to
62 Chapter 2

normal science. Kuhn does not specify in any formal way exactly how the rise and
fall of paradigms has worked. He has always insisted that there is progress in
science, but he interprets it as progress from a previous cultural and intellectual

Later scientific theories are better than earlier ones for solving
puzzles in the often quite different environments to which they are
applied. That is not a relativist's position, and it displays the sense
in which I am a convinced believer in scientific progress. 48

Despite Kuhn's protestations of personal loyalty, analytic hard liners such

as Shapere were not satisfied with Kuhn's version of realism, and they and others
remain convinced that the implications of Kuhn's own argument pointed in a quite
different direction. Shapere's suspicions seem well founded. The existence of
alternative paradigms in the practice of science seems to confirm the Copernican
view that epistemological structures are reflections of concerns internal to human
beings rather than reflections of an external and physically embedded structure.
An attempt to defend the Popperian view of the growth of science and to
accommodate some of Kuhn's contentions was made by Irme Lakatos. Lakatos
called his view "sophisticated falsificationism."49 He begins by admitting that if
every theory were judged on the basis of whether they made false predictions then
no theory could survive. For example, initially, Newton's theory could not predict
the orbit of the moon. It is therefore necessary to think of theories as research
programs and then to distinguish between progressive and degenerating research
programs. A research program is progressive if the auxiliary hypotheses generate
new and successful predictions. Thus, the problem of the irregular orbit of Uranus
was resolved by the auxiliary hypothesis of the existence of another planet which
turned out to be Neptune. A research program is degenerate if the auxiliary
hypotheses only accommodate some of the anomalies and do not lead to new and
successful predictions. Newton's research program presumably entered its
degenerate stage when the anomalous motion of Mercury was interpreted by
reference to the assumed existence of the planet 'Vulcan'. There is no such planet.
It is then that Einstein's research program supersedes the Newtonian one.
Putting aside the issue of the relation between interpretation and
observation, Feyerabend was able to expose the flaw in Lakatos' argument. The
fortunes of a research program can vary over time in a non-cumulative fashion. A
program can be progressive, then degenerate, and then be progressive again. This
seems to have been the case with Prout's hypothesis about atomic weights.
Anomalies were at first discounted by claims that the samples were impure. This
auxiliary hypothesis led nowhere. Prout's hypothesis was later revived by the
introduction of the notion of isotopes whose existence was predicted successfully.
Any program could in principle be defended by waiting a little longer!50
There have been subsequent attempts to defend the notion of progress in
science, notably by Laudan. 51 What is curious about these attempts is that they
exemplify the point we made in Chapter One about the concept of 'progress' as
employed by the philosophes. Committed to the view of scientism but unable to
Analytic Philosophy OfScience 63

demonstrate independently that science progresses, the philosophes declared that

'progress' was whatever science said it was. 52 In short, what we receive in place of
an argument is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This question-begging approach has been
exposed by Worrall:

If no principles of evaluation stay fixed, then there is no 'objective

viewpoint' from which we can show that progress has occurred
and we can say only that progress has occurred relative to the
standards that we happen to accept now. However this may be
dressed up, it is relativism. 53

To use Kuhnian language and insight, we can preserve the word 'progress' at any
cost if we are willing to change its meaning from context to context.
The major difficulty with the historical theory of the progressive growth of
scientific knowledge is that it is itself a theory that cannot be confirmed! The
concepts of 'growth' and 'progress' only make sense once we have completed the
process and have arrived at the final destination. Only when science tells us the
whole truth may we look back on the history of science and see where and how
scientific progress occurred. Prior to reaching the end point, there is no non-
question-begging way oftelling which ofthe alternative research programs was most
deserving of experimental elaboration.
No one questions the fact that we now know more than was known in the
past in the sense that there are items of information available to us than to our
predecessors. But for the Enlightenment Project science is not just a growing
collection of useful items of information; science is also supposed to explain these
items of information. However, the explanations keep changing. What cannot be
established is that later explanations are "better" than earlier explanations in any
realist-objective sense. Any criteria we use for judging success or progress are not
realist criteria. Within the scientific community we can discern specific
intersubjective norms for directing future research, but this in no way is guaranteed
by structures independent of the community. In this respect, social epistemology
does not advance the cause of realism.
The criteria we use for judging success or progress are not realist criteria.
As Nicholas Rescher has pointed out such criteria might include technological
success as defined by historical or cultural norms (e.g., increasing life span, military
capability, etc.) or conventional norms of rationality (like past record of successful
predictions in areas that are of interest to us) or even aesthetic norms of rationality
like theoretical elegance, etc. 54 In none of these cases can the appeal to ultimate truth
be a criterion. 55
Coupling the analytic 'Kantian Turn' with an historical and teleological
theory of the growth ofscientific knowledge brings us to Hegel. Addressing Hegel,
Popper concedes that:

... it is of the very essence of all rationality that it must work with
contradictions and antinomies. . .. The synthesis absorbs, as it
were, the two original opposite positions, by superseding them; it
64 Chapter 2

reduces them to components of itself. . .. I am quite prepared to

admit that this is not a bad description of the way in which ...
scientific thought, may sometimes progress. 56

Popper cites a statement by Einstein S7 as evidence:

No fairer destiny could be allotted to any physical theory than that

it should itself point out the way to introducing a more
comprehensive theory in which it lives on as a limiting case. 58

Is this new and more comprehensive theory any truer? Popper admits that "we need
the new theory in order to find out where the old theory was deficient."59 So, it is
only after we have accepted the newer theory that we can see it as an improvement
over the older theory. Finally, Popper points out that the newer theory is infinitely
open to reexamination and reconstruction.
Wherein, then, does this differ from Hegel?

Hegel was right in pointing out ... that the framework, too, was
subject to growth, and could be transcended. But he was wrong in
suggesting ... that we are dependent upon the evolving ideas,
rather than these upon us . . .. [Hegel] leads ... to historical
relativism. 60

Hegel is a relativist to Popper because Hegel was an idealist and not a materialist.
For Popper, we can only avoid relativism if our framework ultimately reflects a
physical structure independent of us but discovered by us. Can we ever know for
sure that our framework reflects such a structure? The answer turns out to be
negative, so that in the end we are left with an act of faith and a heroic posture.

We can merely escape into a wider prison (that of a language of

relations). This fact, however, should not depress us. A life
sentence confining us to an intellectual prison from which we can,
in principle, free ourselves by escaping into a wider one, and then
on into another that is wider still, with no pre-assigned limits, is
not only a bearable sentence but one that opens up a thrilling
prospect of fighting for freedom: a worthy task for our intellectual
life. 6!

Some would argue that this does not avoid relativism for Popper, and is in fact
inferior to the neatness of Hegel's solution. We seem to have returned to the
historicist rhetoric and methodological pose of the philosophes, perhaps with a dash
of romanticism. Finally, it is not surprising that the latest literature reflects a concern
for how far analytic philosophers can be both realists and relativists at the same time
- how much can be conceded to relativism and still enable one to claim to subscribe
to 'realism'.62
Analytic Philosophy OjScience 65

To some there appears to be a liberalization in the way in which the analytic

conversation approaches science. One example of this is to be found in Holton's63
recommendation that we engage in a descriptive philosophy of science where the
activities of scientists are interpreted in terms of empirical content, analytic content,
and thematic content. A second example is in Toulmin's64 substitution of a
biological model for a geometrical model in trying to understand conceptual revision
in science. 65 The latest tendency in analytic philosophy of science is to turn to
biology because the only self-regulating natural systems we know are organic and
teleological. 66
What is missed in this apparent liberalization is the internal focus of the
discussion. All of these authors are trying to understand science as an isolable
institution that can be understood, in principle, apart from other institutions. Even
Toulmin, after all, substitutes one favored science for another. What is missing in
this liberalized literature is the recognition that science might not be intelligible as
a set of practices apart from other, perhaps more fundamental, cultural practices. It
is difficult to make sense of this internal perspective apart from some lingering
commitment to scientism.

Alternative to Scientism
To the extent that analytic philosophy of science is informed by the Enlightenment
Project it has failed. Specifically, it has failed to show that science is autonomous.
The important steps in the recognition ofthat failure include the following. (I) There
is the recognition that we cannot isolate experience from the interpretation of
experience, what we have called the 'Kantian Turn,' as reflected in such things as
Sellars exposure of the "myth of the given" and Hanson's claim of the theory-
laddenness of observation. (2) There is the further development of this point in the
recognition that scientific theories cannot be tested in isolation, or Quine's thesis of
ontological relativity. (3) Even the way in which science "progresses" by
substituting one theory for another cannot be justified in a realist and empiricist
fashion because of the presence of background features, identified by Kuhn as a
'paradigm' .
It is not science but scientism that is endangered by the failure of the
Enlightenment Project. Is there an alternative understanding of science that can be
extracted from the story of the gradual dissolution of the attempt to establish the
autonomy of science? We think there is, and it begins with one last analytic attempt
to discredit Kuhn.
A problem of incommensurability arises within Kuhn's discussion.
Because terms acquire different meanings within different scientific theories, the
same experimental evidence will mean different things or give rise to different
interpretations depending upon the particular theory a scientist employs. There does
not appear to be an external perspective from which any scientific theory can be
evaluated. Feyerabend's discussion of the tower experiment is a case in point. If
theories are incommensurable then there is (a) no empirical basis for choosing among
them, but also (b) no rational basis for choosing among them. We face here a radical
66 Chapter 2

Both Donald Davidson and Dudley Shapere 67 criticized Kuhn by pointing

out that if two or more scientists had completely different paradigms then it made no
sense to talk about the incommensurability of their theories. There would be nothing
in common about which their theories could be said to be incommensurable. Rival
theories are rivals only with respect to some commonality, and if there is
commonality then there is some external framework in terms of which we can in
principle judge rival accounts. The conclusion drawn by Davidson and Shapere is
that the concept of incommensurable views is inherently unintelligible. Hence, there
is some rational and objective basis for judging among rival scientific views. It
appeared as if scientism might yet be saved.
Davidson and Shapere are correct in insisting that rival views are only rival
views with respect to a common framework. Curiously, Kuhn, Davidson, and
Shapere all share one assumption and that is that paradigms are like scientific
theories in that each is an attempt to conceptualize the common framework, namely
the whole ofreality. This would reduce Kuhn's position to something like Quine's
notion of holism. This reflects another element of the Enlightenment Project within
analytic philosophy, namely the commitment to total conceptualization. By total
conceptualization is meant a theoretical account of everything, including the giving
of this and all other theoretical accounts. It is not a matter of giving an account but
of whether we can give a theoretical account understood as a scientific account of
everything. By their commitment to scientism, Quine, Davidson, and Shapere are
committed to total conceptualization.
There is an alternative view, and it arises out of a suggestion made by
Feyerabend, that a paradigm might be considered the whole of a culture. Perhaps
what we are talking about are rival cultures and not just rival scientific views. In this
sense, then, there is a common framework within a culture but not across cultures.
For his part, Feyerabend rejects scientism: science is not necessarily the best way to
engage the world, and the dogma of scientism is a threat even within western
culture. 68
Putting aside for the moment the issue of cultural relativism in the larger
sense (something we take up in Chapter Ten), let us take seriously Feyerabend's
suggestion that technical scientific discourse is dependent upon and presupposes a
pre-theoretical and pre-scientific frame of reference. This pre-theoretical frame of
reference is the whole of a culture with norms embedded in its practices. That is,
cultures are not attempts to conceptualize reality but to engage reality. Suppose
further that:
1. Cultures are not like scientific paradigms. Hence, a culture does not
structure our engagement with the world in the way that a scientific theory does.
Since cultures are not rigid structures, understanding a culture -- how it undergoes
transformation, self-criticism, and interaction with other cultures -- requires a
different kind of understanding. It is the positivist and analytic insistence upon
scientism and the unity of science that leads to cultural relativism, that is reading into
culture some notion of the rigid structure as the object of analysis.
2. This cultural framework is not itself in principle conceptualizable. That
is why it requires a different kind ofunderstanding. 69 The cultural framework is the
pre-theoretical ground of conceptualization.
Analytic Philosophy Of Science 67

3. Scientific theories are not accounts of a structure independent of us 70 but

instruments or practices created for engaging the world.
One of the clearest expressions of this view is to be found in the work of
Mary Hesse. 7 ! Her long-time study of the practice of science and the history of
science has convinced her that science cannot be understood in what we have called
the modem naturalist fashion. In order to understand science we require a broader
social epistemological background. So along with scientism and modem naturalism
she lumps together and rejects naive realism, a universal scientific language,
physicalism, and the correspondence theory of truth. According to Hesse, no public
language can function with just descriptive-observations. Any intersubjectively valid
language depends upon a background of communally accepted norms of
interpretation that relate the descriptions. There is here a strong echo of the later
Wittgenstein. Hesse argues that in science there is no convergence to an ideal
conceptual language but instrumental convergence in the form of greater control.
This convergence is itself limited to low level laws and predictions in one very tiny
fragment of the universe.
4. There is only one common pre-theoretical frame of reference, but there
can be many competing scientific theories that depend upon and operate within the
pre-theoretical framework.
5. ConfliCts among rival scientific theories cannot be resolved simply by
appeal to observation since what counts as a validating observation is relative to the
different theoretical frameworks. This is the sense in which it is true to say that
scientific theories are incommensurable. However, conflicts can be resolved by
appeal to something not experimental, namely to the norms inherent in the larger pre-
theoretical framework. 72
6. The resolution of such conflicts in the latter sense might be a temporal
process rather than an immediate one because there is no definitive formulation of
the pre-theoretical framework. Nevertheless, there could be a set of cultural practices
that allow us to operate in the absence of a definitive formulation. This makes more
sense of our capacity to operate with conflicting alternative views and with the grace
period on research programs.
7. The process of hypothesis formation would no longer be irrelevant or
shrouded in mystery but could be amplified and illuminated with regard to the larger
cultural framework. 73
8. Given our alternative list of suggestions, we can see the dispute between
analytic philosophers who support the Enlightenment Project and their critics as a
dispute about the larger context within which scientific institutions function rather
than a dispute about whether science is the truth. Analytic interpretations of science
would have to be judged both against their rivals and with respect to the larger
cultural context. It could be suggested, for example, that cultural practices are fertile
sources of adaptation somewhat like Wittgenstein's view of how rules evolve. We
might be led to ask if the practice of science is put at risk by claiming too much on
its behalf. We might be led to raise questions about the intellectual damage done to
our culture and to science by driving science in the direction of skepticism and
68 Chapter 2

We have shown that analytic philosophy of science is focused upon an evolving
series of questions; this series of questions is not internal to science itself but reflects
the kinds of questions that philosophers might ask about science. We have argued
that not all philosophers (e.g., Platonists and those who subscribe to the 'Copernican
Revolution in Philosophy') would ask those questions in the same way nor would
they expect the same kind of answers. Moreover, those questions become
unanswerable "problems" only if one asks philosophical questions about science
from a modern Aristotelian perspective. Why do analytic philosophers look at
science from a such a perspective? No argument has ever been offered to explain or
to justify this perspective. This is where history can help us to understand what is
happening. Analytic philosophers adopt the modern 'Aristotelian' perspective
because it is something they inherited from the Enlightenment Project. The
advocates of the Enlightenment Project adopted that perspective because that
perspective was the only one compatible with their program to make physical science
the ultimate basis of truth, the arbiter of all cultural values, and the foundations of a
social technology. ln short, the unanswerable "problems" of the analytic philosophy
of science exist only for those who subscribe to this ideology.
Our examination also establishes that science is not self-certifYing. The
intelligibility ofscience presupposes a larger cultural framework. It is, therefore, not
possible to account for the larger cultural framework in a "scientific" manner. This
dooms the Enlightenment Project from the start. Our discussion of that project
within the analytic conversation will serve to reinforce this conclusion.
Analytic Philosophy O/Science 69


1. "Analytical philosophy was stimulated and came into being through

science, particularly through the development of eighteenth-century botany,
chemistry, physics, nineteenth-century non-Euclidean geometries, and
above all mathematical logic" Skolimowski (1967), p. 8.

2. American universities were much more heavily influenced in the twentieth

century by the German model of a research institute than were British
universities. It is, therefore, not too surprising that the notion of analytic
philosophy as a technical discipline is much more endemic to the United
States than it is to Britain. The 1930s migration of positivists from
Germany to the U.S. is also relevant.

3. See the unpublished dissertation of Edward 1. Pitts, Penn State, 1979.

4. Unless we indicate otherwise, when we use the expressions 'analytic

philosophy' or 'analytic philosopher' with or without the qualification
'doctrinaire', what we shall mean are those philosophers who subscribe to
all or a significant part of the Enlightenment Project. Analytic philosophy
cannot be reduced to the Enlightenment Project, and some of the strongest
critics of the Enlightenment Project are in some broader sense analytic

5. Russell (1945), p. 834.

6. Sellars (1963), p. 173.

7. Dummett (1978), p. 438. Quine's statements that philosophy is continuous

with science are to be found in Quine (1969b) and (l969c).

8. Sacks (1990), p. 193,n.1.

9. Rorty (1982), p. 33.

10. "The dominant contemporary spirit ... [is one of] privileging facts about
the physical and seeking to understand statements about mind and
consciousness in its terms. This is known as physicalism, or less often
materialism (the word physicalism is preferred because physics itself asserts
that not everything that exists is material; the world includes such items as
forces and fields)" Blackburn (1996), p.68.

11. Castaneda (1980), p. 27.

12. Chisholm (1982), p. vii.

70 Chapter 2

13. RG. Collingwood (1957), p. 175: "[A] search for truth, and a search that
does not go unrewarded: but that natural science is not, as the positivists
imagined, the only department or form of human thought about which this
can be said, and is not even a self-contained and self-sufficient form of
thought, but depends for its very existence upon some other form of thought
which is different from it and cannot be reduced to it." Collingwood's
original critique of positivism and scientism, An Essay on Philosophical
Method, was first published in 1933.

14. "For the realist it is important that there is no residual reference to us (our
language, our sensibilities, our conceptual scheme) ... realists believe that
a good conceptual scheme 'carves reality at the joints'" Blackburn (1996),
p.71. Unambiguous expressions of this kind of realism are to be found in
Salmon (1984); D. Lewis (1983); Humphreys (1989); Salmon (1990);
Boyd (1993). For a discussion of Carnap as a scientific realist see Creath
(1985). There are other weaker senses of 'realism', senses which
increasingly reflect awareness of the inherent difficulties of the
Enlightenment Project. See Putnam (1987) for the distinction between
realism with a capital 'R' and with a lower case 'r'. Dummett (1978)
argues for 'antirealism' which turns out to be the anti-positivist position that
truth conditions are to be replaced by assertability conditions; sense
experience is not essential to the verification or assertability of a truth.

15. " ... in whatever ways the theories of science of Popper and Carnap may
differ, their common and decisive weakness lies in the fact that they
proceed generally in an unhistorical manner. And so it is with most of the
other contemporary proposals .... " Hubner (1983), p. 70.

16. A full blown history a/the philosophy a/science (as opposed simply to the
philosophy of science or the history of science) would show that modern or
post-Renaissance philosophers poured the new wine of seventeenth century
mechanical science into the old bottles of both Aristotelianism (Bacon,
Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke) and Platonism (e.g., Descartes, Leibniz, and
Berkeley) as well as theism (Newton) while some interpreted the new
science in terms of the Copernican view of philosophy (Hume and Kant).

17. For a description of the continuing importance of Aristotelianism in the

history and philosophy of science see Losee (1993).

18. For a discussion of contemporary debate about the nature of explanation in

Aristotle see Ruben (1990).

19. Toulmin (1972).

20. Hempel and Oppenheim (1948); Hempel (I 942).

Analytic Philosophy O/Science 71

21. Popper (1950), pp. 445-46.

22. The theory of evolution in biology "explains" but does not predict.
Analytic philosophers must either deny that the theory of evolution explains
or surrender the notion that explanation and prediction are symmetrical.

23. Hempel and Oppenheim (1948), p. 323.

24. Hempel (1965a).

25. Goodman (1947), pp. 149-51.

26. See Armstrong (1983).

27. In the controversy between Einstein's general theory of relativity and

Heisenberg's version of quantum mechanics, analytic philosophers have
tended to side with Einstein because Einstein's views are more compatible
with total conceptualization and the alleged symmetry between explanation
and prediction.

28. Capaldi (1975).

29. "It is an hypothesis that the sun will rise to-morrow: and this means we do
not know whether it will rise" Wittgenstein, Tractatus (6.36311).

30. Nagel (1961).

31. Nagel (1961) suggested that genuine scientific laws, as opposed to

accidental generalizations, are unrestricted in time and space. However,
this would rule out Kepler's laws of planetary motion (space), and
Newton's theory of gravitation (time). Nagel's book (1961) was a classic
statement ofthe positivist philosophy of science. Nagel extended Hempel's
account of scientific explanation to biology and argued that teleological
explanations could be eliminated. He also extended Hempel's account to
historical explanation.

32. Contemporary sub-atomic physics has made this issue even more
complicated by invoking entities such as quarks or properties of entities that
are in principle not isolable.

33. For a useful discussion of the Bayesianisn program in confirmation see

Papineau (1996), pp. 295-298.

34. Popper (1959).

35. Kneale (1949).

72 Chapter 2

36. "What we have here is the old commitment to transcendental idealism - the
world in itself is not the world of which we have empirical knowledge -
along with an empirical realist claim, that the world of which we do have
knowledge is constituted in part by the framework we apply to it, so that the
success of its application is not surprising. The difference being that
whereas Kant is concerned with the constitutive role of the mind, Quine is
concerned with that of language" Sacks (1990), pp. 183-84.

37. Braithwaite (1955).

38. This should help to explain the consternation of analytic philosophers of

science when faced with Heisenberg's contention of the existence of
probabilistic laws on the sub-structural level of quantum physics.

39. This development or transition from epistemological individualism to a

social view of knowledge acquisition will have important parallels in other
areas of analytical philosophical endeavor. It clearly parallels the transition
in epistemology from a focus on sense data to a focus on language.

40. Nagel (1961), pp. 336-37.

41. Although he attended some of the meetings of the Vienna Circle, Popper
was never considered a member, and he disagreed with Carnap on a number
of issues. For our purposes, however, we note the following: (1) whatever
their disagreements, Popper subscribed to scientism, to naturalism, and to
the anti-agency view of the human self; (2) Popper was always a classical
liberal, highly critical ofNeurath's Marxism and the widespread socialist
beliefs of the members of the circle.

42. Copernicus' heliocentric theory is not to be confused with the Copernican

Revolution in philosophy initiated by Hume and Kant. There is, however,
an historical connection in that Kant had Copernicus in mind when he
formulated the expression "Copernican Revolution in philosophy." See
Capaldi (1970).

43. Duhem (1954), p. 187.

44. Quine (1951).

45. Ibid., p. 43.

46. Feyerabend (1975).

47. Hubner (1983) argues that analytic philosophy of science"lack[s] an

understanding of the historical foundations of scientific progress, as this
Analytic Philosophy O/Science 73

relates to something which goes beyond the immediate framework of

science today" (p. 70).

48. Kuhn (1970), p. 206.

49. Lakatos and Musgrave (1970).

50. "resolution of scientific controversies often takes a long time - for example,
almost a century in the case of Copernicanism. .. All that traditional
naturalism needs to show is that resolution is ultimately achieved, in favor
either of one of the originally contending parties or of some emerging
alternative that somehow combines their merits" Kitcher (1992), pp. 97-98.

5l. Laudan (1977), (1984).

52. A similar argument is to be found in C.S. Peirce. For a trenchant critique

of this argument see Rescher (1978),especially pp. 250-52.

53. Worrall (1988), p. 274.

54. Rescher (1978), especially Chapter VIII.

55. Van Fraassen (1989) rejects the existence of law as a metaphysical notion
and advocates the instrumentalist view that science is a construction or set
of models to represent phenomena.

56. Popper (1950), pp. 234-35.

57. Einstein is not a perfect fit for Popper. When asked what He would have
done if Eddington's observations had failed to support his theory, Einstein
replied: "Then, I should have been sorry for the good lord, for the theory
is correct." Quoted in Holton (1970). Einstein is the favorite scientist of
analytic philosophers of science who adhere to the Enlightenment Project
because he was always a committed realist. On the other hand, one can find
twentieth-century scientific geniuses who are not realists and therefore
routinely ignored or dismissed by these same philosophers. Werner
Heisenberg is an example: "[T]he objective reality of the elementary
particles has been strangely dispersed, not into the fog of some new ill-
defined or still unexplained conception of reality, but into the transparent
clarity of a mathematics that no longer describes the behavior of the
elementary particles but only our knowledge of this behavior. . " Science
always presupposes the existence of man and we ... must remember that
we are not merely observers, but also actors on the stage of life"
Heisenberg (1958), p. 15.

58. Popper (1983), p. 13l.

74 Chapter 2

59. Popper (1962), p. 246.

60. Popper (1983), pp. 28-29.

61. Popper (1983), pp. 17-18.

62. Margolis (1986) and (1987).

63. Holton (1988).

64. Toulmin (1972).

65. See also Hull (1988) and (1989).

66. See Sober (1993).

67. Shapere (1983).

68. Feyerabend (1975), (1978), (1981).

69. This different kind of understanding we call 'explication' and contrast it

with both 'elimination' and 'exploration' as these function within the
analytic conversation. See Chapter Three for the beginning of the
deployment of this trio of concepts.

70. See van Fraassen (1980) and (1989).

71. Hesse (1974), (1980). See also Cartwright (1983) denying that unification
is necessary to science.

72. Stockman (1983), pp. 258-59: "If its [science] objectivity, its universality
and its necessity, cannot be grounded, as it seems on the basis of earlier
argument that it cannot, then the case for the 'autonomy' of science is
weakened, and the case for an alternative conception of scientific progress
bound to 'external' goals of the satisfaction of real human needs is

73. Hubner (1983) engages in a detailed analysis of Einstein's theory of

relativity in order to show that the analytic philosophical notion of
rationality is false, that analytic philosophy of science ignores history, and
that the historical context determines what the facts and fundamental
principles will be (p. 107). He also manages to do this without falling into
relativism (p. 116).

Analytic Philosophy· And Science

Philosophy as the Logic of Physical Science

If scientism were true, i.e., if science were the whole truth about everything, then
what would be the role or function of philosophy? If scientism were true then every
meaningful intellectual activity would be a science or a part of science. In order for
philosophy to be a meaningful intellectual activity, philosophy must be either itself
a science or a part of science. 2 As Russell expressed it:

The first characteristic of the new philosophy is that it abandons

the claim to a special philosophical method. . .. It regards
philosophy as essentially one with science, differing ... merely by
the generality of its problems, and by the fact that it is concerned
with the formation of hypotheses where empirical evidence is still
lacking .... The new philosophy ... is constructive, but as science
is constructive, bit by bit and tentatively. It has a special technical
method of construction, namely mathematical logic .... 3

Philosophy is not a science with a specific empirical subject matter. There

is no special domain of nature studied exclusively by philosophers. Nor can
philosophy be a meta-science, that is a science sitting in judgment on the other
sciences, passing on the coherence of their respective undertakings and the validity
of their methods and procedures. Philosophy cannot be this super or meta-science
within the Enlightenment Project because philosophy would then be in contlict with
the assumption of scientism. If scientism is true, i.e., if science is the whole truth
about everything, then there is nothing outside of science itself which can serve as
the standard of truth. Science is, among those analytic philosophers who subscribe
to the Enlightenment Project, the standard of truth, and therefore the standard for
judging everything else. As Ramsey put it in an often quoted remark, "there is
nothing to know except science."4 There is no standard outside of science by which
science could be judged. The whole point of the analytic philosophy o/science, as
we saw in Chapter Two, was to extract from science that very standard.
If philosophy is to have a role at all then it must be the moderate role we
have already indicated, i.e., the conceptual clarification of science or extracting from
science the standards of truth and meaning that one fmds in the sciences themselves.
One way of putting this is to say that philosophy is in a sense coextensive with the
philosophy of science, where the philosophy of science is understood as the activity
of revealing the logic of science. Philosophy is the logic 0/ science in that it tries to
lay bare the standards inherent in science itself through an examination 0/ the
structure o/science.

philosophy = philosophy o/science = logic o/science

76 Chapter 3

RudolfCarnap expressed this conception of the analytic enterprise in the forward to

Logical Syntax (1934), when he said that "philosophy is to be replaced by the logic
of science."5
As we saw in Chapter Two, there are serious difficulties with the analytic
philosophy of science, that is, with the analytical philosophical attempt to establish
the intellectual autonomy of the physical sciences. Hence, we should not be
surprised to discover that there are difficulties of a similar kind with respect to the
analytic enterprise of constructing a logic of science.
There are two distinct issues here. One issue is the attempt to establish the
autonomy of science as an intellectual enterprise; a second issue is the attempt to
articulate the structure of science. One can engage in the second activity without
believing that the first activity is possible. For those within the analytic conversation
who subscribe to the Enlightenment Project, both issues are crucial, and precisely
because they are engaged in establishing the autonomy of science, they will construe
the articulation of the structure of science in a particular way that reflects the
autonomy project. Hence there will be an obvious continuity in their treatment of
both these issues. At the same time, we note that as difficulties emerged within the
autonomy project greater and greater attention was paid to the second project of
articulating the structure of science as a means to overcoming those difficulties.
There is one obvious question to which this analytic conception of the role
of philosophy gives rise. Aren't scientists themselves in the best position to tell us
what the logic of science is? ]f so, then we do not seem to need philosophy, certainly
not a separate academic department of philosophy. Presumably the work involved
can be and must be done by scientists. To a large extent, some early analytic
philosophers argued precisely this point. Others got around this point by claiming
that in the interests of economy and consonant with the division of labor, a specialty
area had to be created within science where those with proper scientific background
and training could concentrate exclusively on the logic of science. As Arthur Pap put
it, "scientists employ concepts and principles which they could not, in due respect to
the rule of division of labor, be expected to clarify themselves."6 For the moment,
we shall pass over this rather extraordinarily patronizing claim that all along
scientists have been employing concepts and principles which at one and the same
time give us the whole truth about everything but which scientists themselves have
not had the time to clarify. Nagging doubts will remain about the precise intellectual
and cultural function ofphilosophy.7
For our present purposes it is sufficient that we have an intellectual function
specified for philosophy, namely, that it is to be the logic of science. Moreover, the
logic of science has to be understood, in general, as being the logic of physical
science. This follows from the further assumption made by analytic philosophers
that not only are the sciences unified but they are all reducible to the physical

What is Logic?
Before we can understand philosophy as the logic of physical science we must ask
the question, "What is logic?". Logic has had a rather long history in Western
Thought, and as with most things that have a long history there are controversies as
Analytic Philosophy And Science 77

to what logic comprises and what is the status of logic. 8 As we argued in Chapter
One, the Enlightenment Project is based upon a truncated version of Scholastic
Aristotelianism. Hence, when analytic philosophers talk about logic what they mean
is the Aristotelian conception of logic.
In order to understand Aristotelian logic we must see its integral relation to
Aristotelian metaphysics. For the Aristotelian, metaphysics is an examination of the
most comprehensive and general characteristics of existent things, that is, the
fundamental realities. Aristotelian metaphysics commences with the problems
generated by the special sciences and explores the implications oftheir leading ideas.
This clarification of the first principles of any particular science is to be distinguished
from the application of those first principles which is what the scientist does. Here
we are beginning to clarify what Pap had in mind.
We may distinguish then among three interconnected levels of intellectual
1. application of the first principles of "a" specific science, which is an
empirical scientific activity;
2. clarification of the first principles of "a" specific science, which is a non-
empirical but conceptual activity we can identify as the philosophy of "that"
specific science; and
3. clarification of the generic traits or principles common to all of the
sciences, i.e. philosophy in general (or metaphysics).
For Aristotelians, the fundamental realities are the common sense things we
experience in daily life. "Being", for the Aristotelian, is neither a thing itself nor a
property of any kind. "To be" (as opposed to "Being") means to be a subject of
thought or discourse and to have or to possess properties. Another way of putting
this is to say that "to be" is to be the subject of a sentence and never to be a predicate
of another subject. The fundamental reality was traditionaIIy referred to as
substance, but the perennial problem with substance is the difficulty of specifying
what a substance is other than by enumerating its properties. That is why
Aristotelians have traditionally used a logical (or grammatical) criterion for
identifYingfimdamental realities or substances.
Now we are in a position to specify a little more accurately what the
Aristotelian conception oflogic is. In the most general sense, logic, for Aristotelians,
comprises both epistemology and language. Logic is the structure of what we
abstract from our experience. It is the structure of our thought and speech about our
experience. It is, therefore, always grounded in what we take the experienced world
to be and what the special sciences tell us about that world.
Aristotelian logic is the study of the fundamental principles of our thought
(and speech) about the world. Aristotelian metaphysics is, on the other hand, the
study ofthe fundamental principles of the world. We can now add to our original list
of the three interconnected levels of intellectual activity, a fourth level:
4. clarification of the fundamental principles of our thought (or speech)
about the general traits or principles common to all the sciences. This is
If our thought (and speech) about the "real" world were identical to the
"real" world, or more accurately, if the structure of our speech were somehow
78 Chapter 3

identical to the structure of the world, then logic would be identical with
metaphysics. However, Aristotelians deny that there is a simple identity relation
between speech (or thought) and the world. For example, Aristotelians deny that
universal terms in speech refer directly to independently existing universal entities.
That is, Aristotelians deny the Platonic position of the independent existence of
"Forms." So, for Aristotelians, there are structural elements of our speech (and
thought) which do not mirror reality. These structural elements are deemed
meaningful and important but must be abstracted from reality. Another way of
putting this is to say that these structural elements can be distinguished within
thought and speech but not within our experience.
All of this leads Aristotelians to distinguish between two parts of logic.
There is, first, the concern with the structure of speech and language (i.e., with syntax
or "logic" in the narrow or technical sense), and, second, there is the concern with
semantics or how exactly we abstract the universal structures from our experience
(i.e., epistemology). It is assumed by Aristotelians that these two parts of logic,
namely syntax and semantics (epistemologically conceived), go together and are
continuous, but it has always been easier to talk about syntax than to talk about
semantics. The problem of relating these two parts of logic is epitomized in the
medieval controversy between conceptualists, like Aquinas who insisted on the
continuity, and nominalists, like Ockham who denied the whole epistemological
enterprise of abstracting the structure from experience. For the nominalists,
universals or linguistic structures are mere human contrivances that exist only in the
mind or thought.
There is, then, a perennial problem in Aristotelian logic about the
relationship between the structure of speech (and thought) and the structure of
reality. This problem was considerably exacerbated in the modern period. It is in
the modern period that we see a dichotomy between a physical world viewed as
mechanical and deterministic and a mental world viewed as teleological and
normative. Moreover, in the modern period, the structure ofthe physical world is not
directly visible. It became increasingly difficult to conceive of how the structure of
the latter could be abstracted from the structure of the former. Moreover, once norms
and standards in general were construed as purely internal in origin, it was impossible
to side step the question of the extent to which the structure of speech (or thought)
corresponded to the structure of the external world. All of this will form the focus
of our discussion of analytic epistemology in Chapter Five.
Analytic philosophy is also a reaction to the Copernican Revolution in
philosophy. The Copernican Revolution is best expressed in Kant's conception of
the synthetic a priori. Synthetic a priori truths, for Kant, exhibit the irreducible
functioning of the agency of the mind or self. Kant had singled out four distinct
areas which he identified as exemplifying the existence of synthetic a priori truths:
1. arithmetic
2. geometry (Euclidean)
3. principles in natural science like causality
4. morality
Moritz Schlick once epitomized positivism as the rejection of the view that
there are synthetic a priori truths. In each of the above cases there has been a
Analytic Philosophy And Science 79

characteristic response on the part of analytic philosophers. In the case of arithmetic,

analytic philosophers initially advocated logicism or the thesis of the reduction of
arithmetic to logic. Logicism was later buttressed and then replaced by the Tractatus
view that mathematical truths, like logic, were tautological. In the language of Kant,
these philosophers were arguing that all alleged synthetic a priori truths in
mathematics were at bottom "analytic"9 (i.e., true by definition).
In the case of geometry, much was made of the articulation after Kant's
death of non-Euclidean geometries. These alternative geometries were treated as
"analytic", i.e., as un interpreted formal calculi, and the question of which alternative
geometry applied to our universe was referred to empirical confirmation.
In the case of the principle of causality and other like principles, it was
alleged by analytic philosophers that such principles were either contingent empirical
truths or heuristic devices, i.e., "analytic" definitions. Finally, in the case of
evaluative norms, these were either assigned to the social sciences where they
functioned as a kind of alleged fact or the norms were declared to be non-cognitive.
In every case, the alleged synthetic a priori truth was eliminated by declaring it to be
either meaningless, or false, or purely "analytic" or purely synthetic.
Norms playa variety of very special roles in our lives. At various points
some sort of consideration must be given to them. Since the Copernican Revolution
in philosophy, one persistent strand in modern philosophy has argued that norms are
more fundamental than facts, and that norms can only be understood by reference to
an agent-self with a history. Analytic philosophy is opposed to this view, and it
castigates such a view as the fallacy of psycho log ism. Psychologism/ o is said to be
the confusion of logic with psychology, the illegitimate substitution of a
psychological account (made psychological by reference to an agent-self who is part
of a community with a history) for a logical account, which only makes reference to
objective structures independent of the human will. 11
Aristotelians insist that logic is the study of objective structures independent
of the subject. Logic is said to be a matter of entailment and not reasoning, for
reasoning has psychological connotations. 12 Bertrand Russell defined logic as
concerned with implication understood as a formal relation among propositions, a set
of rules independent of the rule user. Russell refused to define logic in terms of
inference, which connoted the psychology of thinking. Sometimes this view is
expressed in terms of the distinction between logic as normative and psychology as
descriptive. The thing worth noting about the analytic charge that psychologism is
a fallacy is that it exemplifies our contention that one of the defining characteristics
of analytic philosophy is its anti-agency view. To the extent possible, analytic
philosophy chooses to dispense with any explanatory role for human agents and
focuses instead on alleged objective structures.
An important logical issue to emerge in the last half of the nineteenth
century was a dispute among Aristotelian logicians, specifically a dispute between
idealist logicians inspired by Hegel, such as Bradley, and the forerunners of Russell's
analytic philosophical approach such as Boole. The dispute is an important one both
because it reminds us of long standing difficulties inherent within the Aristotelian
tradition and because it heralds a major difficulty with the analytic philosophical
concern for formal logical analysis.
80 Chapter 3

As we have already seen, the Aristotelian tradition in logic denies the

complete and absolute identity of logic and metaphysics, and yet, at the same time,
it asserts a continuity between the structure of thought (and speech) and the structure
of reality. The denial of the identity is necessitated by the Aristotelian insistence that
universals have no independent existence but rather are the structure of individual
things. So the problematic issue is the status of universals.
As the object became more elusive, Aristotelians began to talk about a
"thing" as a relation or set of relations between its properties. The traditional
subject-predicate distinction in Aristotelian syllogistic logic seemed too rigid. The
traditional concept of a "thing" began to look more and more like a heuristic fiction
to be replaced by a concatenation of relations. This point was expressed by saying
that the real subject is different from the grammatical subject of a sentence. What
seemed to be needed was a logic of relations. However, if we adopt a logic of
relations what is going to happen to our understanding of universals? What does a
universal affirmative statement of the form "All x's are y's" assert? The answer given
eventually and widely accepted by modem Aristotelian logicians was that universals
are conditionals (if x then y), that is, they assert hypothetical relationships rather than
categorical relationships.
The issue of relations was made central by Bradley in his Principles of
Logic, along with an attack on psychologism. Bradley was clearly in the Aristotelian
camp. But Bradley did not stop here, rather he went on to press his case against an
atomistic epistemology which he identified with 1.S. Mill. Bradley argued that
thought could not operate with particulars but presupposed some universals that
linked or related one fact to another. Bradley further distinguished between abstract
universals which can exist only in thought or speech (e.g., "red") and concrete
universals which he asserted to be individuals. Moreover, if everything is related to
everything else in a coherent universe, then we must terminate with one all-
encompassing individual, or a monism. Logic, according to Bradley, must be
supplemented in the end with a metaphysical monism. This he took to be the
inherent logic of modern Aristotelianism. 13
In Chapter One, we discussed how analytic philosophy originated in
Russell's revolt against Bradley's version of Hegelian monism. 14 In reaction to
Bradley's logic, Russell's logic appealed to the Boolean 15 version of the Aristotelian
tradition in logic. Whereas Bradley had made affirmation primary, the Booleans
made negation primary. Booleans believed that universal affirmative statements
could be expressed as conditionals understood negatively. Thus, "All x's are y's"
first becomes "if x then y" and, eventually, "x entails y," which is said to be true as
long as it is not the case that x is true and y is false [~(x&~y)]. As W.E. Johnson was
to show, the connectives "if' and "or" could be replaced by "and" (&) and "not" (~).
What looks here like a technical matter actually has serious philosophical
This a good point to remind ourselves what was behind Russell's rejection
of Bradley. As an advocate of scientism, Russell alleged that science progressed
through the discovery of individual truths that could be known from experience
atomistically. Methodologically this meant that parts could be known independently
of the whole and that the whole was constructed piecemeal from the parts. This is
Analytic Philosophy And Science 81

what was behind the idea of analysis, namely knowledge through reduction to
isolable component parts. Russell was, in short, reviving Lockean British empiricism
by supplementing it with new (i.e., Boolean) techniques in logic. Interpreting
universal affirmative statements as negative conditionals was just such a new
technique. 16
According to Russell, the statement "it is not the case that there is an x
which is not a y" [~(x&~y)] can only be established inductively by examining
individual x's. If so, then the truth of the universal is dependent upon the truth of
individually (i.e., analytically) established truths. By using Boolean logic, Russell
followed Boole's lead in maintaining that relations l ? could be encompassed by an
algebraic technique that explained relations or reduced them to formalistic
concatenations of individually true or false statements. This presupposes, of course,
that Boolean logic captures what we mean by a universal truth.
It is interesting to note that what later became Russell's logicist program was
already foreshadowed ifnot wholly anticipated by Boole in a statement he made in

The view which these enquiries present of the nature of language

is a very interesting one. They exhibit it not as a mere collection
of signs, but as a system of expressions, the elements of which are
subject to the laws of the thought which they represent. That these
laws are as rigorously mathematical as the laws which govern the
purely quantitative conceptions of space and time, of number and
magnitude, is a conclusion which I do not hesitate to submit to the
exactest scrutiny. IS

Now that we have discussed the competing alternative views of logic and the
historical background to these competing views, we are in a better position to
understand both the importance of the thesis ofiogicism for analytic philosophy and
the differences between Frege's logicism and Russell's logicism. It will be Russell's
version, not Frege's, that is crucial for analytic philosophy and for the contention that
philosophy is the logic of science. 19
Let us examine Frege first. Philosophically, Gottlob Frege was a Platonist. 20
As a Platonist, Frege subscribed to the view that the order of being (metaphysics) and
the order of knowing (epistemology) are the same. A logically perfect language
would reflect this identity. That is, a perfect language would reflect the identity of
thought with reality, although not in the idealist sense. Hence, Frege spoke of "The
True" as the reference of all thinking without any further elaboration.
Frege's primary intellectual activity was as a mathematician. His classical
Platonic orientation in mathematics led Frege to oppose Kant's treatment of
mathematical truths as synthetic a priori. 21 From Frege's point of view, Kant's
position was too subjective in invoking the activity of the mind or a role for the agent
in the explanation of mathematical truth. The rejection of this subjective element in
Kant was part of Frege's outspoken criticism of "psycho log ism." For Frege, thought,
or correct thought, was identical with reality. It must always be remembered that
82 Chapter 3

Frege understood this identity in a Platonic sense, for Frege specifically denied the
correspondence theory of truth. Consequently, he urged that the laws of logic must
be "rooted in an eternal ground."22
In order to demonstrate what he took to be the falsity of the Kantian view
and in order to exhibit the correctness of a purified Platonism, Frege proposed to
prove that the laws of arithmetic could be presented as a rigorous system wholly
derivable from the principles of logic. This is the logicist program in Frege.
While all Platonists would agree that the principles of logic are a priori,
only a radically pure Platonist like Frege would have urged that logic is analytic a
priori and capable of being presented as a consistent, coherent, and self-contained
body of truth. In 1879, Frege articulated his views of logic in his work Begriffichrifi,
giving an assessment of inference, the formal structure of judgments, and concept
formation. Frege made clear his belief that there are conceptual relations, understood
Platonically, that are expressed in all meaningful statements. The actual expression
of the conceptual relations, whether in mathematics or in another language, was
historically imperfect. The world of our daily experience is thus an imperfect
manifestation of its own underlying unity. Hence, Frege's objective is to design a
notational system that mirrors perfectly the conceptual content of any statement.
That is why the 1879 work is entitled "concept-script." As opposed to Lotze, Frege
thought that logic itself could be formalized; as opposed to Boole, the intuitionists,
and the formalists in mathematics at that time, Frege argued that logic is prior to
It is precisely because Frege was a Platonist that he thought logic must be
specified first and that only afterwards can mathematics be made rigorous and
coherent. Frege never proposed to derive or abstract logic from mathematics, which
is what a modern Aristotelian logician would do. This Platonic approach helps to
explain what would otherwise seem arbitrary in Frege's approach to mathematics.
Frege thought that mathematicians were not at all clear on what they meant by words
like "zero", and therefore he did not have to search for some kind of consensus on
what these concepts meant. Rather, Frege sought to tighten up mathematics by using
definitions which gave him the proof he wanted.
Even the details of Frege's logic bear a Platonic stamp instead of an
Aristotelian one. Frege developed a propositional logic in opposition to the
traditional Aristotelian class logic because, in Frege's view, a judgment is prior to a
concept. This is anti-empiricist and anti-inductivist. Again, in faithfulness to the
Platonic tradition, Frege rejected the subject-predicate distinction in favor of a
distinction between function and argument. The latter is a syntactical notion, not a
semantical one. In developing his logicist program, Frege defined arithmetical
concepts in his Grundlagen (Groundwork of Arithmetic), published in 1884. 23 In
1893 and again in 1903 he sought to carry out formally the derivation of arithmetic
from logic, most notably in his Grundgesetze (Basic Laws of Arithmetic). The
Grundgesetze represents the application of the notation developed in the
Begriffischrifi to the logicist program of the Grundlagen. As part of his
formalization of logic, Frege used the concept of a set, thereby presupposing that one
could have a formalized set theory. This proved to be the Achilles heel of logicism.
Analytic Philosophy And Science 83

Any collection of objects is a set. In mathematics, it is held that every

mathematical object can be interpreted as a set. A set can be specified either by
tabulating all its elements, e.g. {major philosophy graduate schools in the northeast,
the editorial policy of the Journal of Philosophy, etc.}, or by specifying a rule for
determining which things are part ofthe set, e.g., {all even integers greater than 13}.
However, it was soon discovered by Russell that not every description which seems
to be meaningful can be denoted as a legitimate set.
In reading Frege, Russell discovered an inconsistency which came to be
known as Russell's paradox. Briefly, Russell raised a question about what it means
to belong to a set. Some sets can seemingly belong to themselves, and some sets
cannot so belong. Russel\ then formulated the notion of a higher level set which
allegedly consists of all the sets that do not belong to themselves. Within such a
higher level set we discover a contradiction, namely, a set which is a part of a super
set only if it is not a part of that super set. The set both is and is not a part of the
super set. Technicalities aside, what this says is that within set theory we cannot talk
consistently about the existence of sets that contain themselves. If we cannot talk
about systems in terms of themselves, then we cannot have a consistent, coherent,
and self-contained frame of reference. This will eventually turn out to be, as we shall
see over and over again in the following chapters, a very special problem for analytic
philosophy. In the meantime, it was perceived as a disaster both for Frege's logicism
and his Platonism, and this perception subsequently caused Frege to abandon
logicism. 24
It is at this point that Bertrand Russell offered his own version of logicism,
one that reflected the defining characteristics of the Enlightenment Project:
scientism, Aristotelianism,25 and an anti-agency view. Russell's logicism begins with
the assumption of scientism, namely, that science is the whole truth about everything.

What I myself have had to say, whether about mathematics or

about physics or about perception or about the relation of language
to fact, has proceeded always by a certain method. Taking it for
granted that, broadly speaking, science and common sense are
capable of being interpreted so as to be true in the main, the
question arises: what are the minimum hypotheses from which
this broad measure of truth will result? This is a technical question
and it has no unique answer. A body of propositions, such as
those of pure mathematics or theoretical physics, can be deduced
from a certain apparatus of initial assumptions concerning initial
undefined terms. Any reduction in the number of undefined terms
and unproved premisses is an improvement since it diminishes the
range of possible error and provides a smaller assemblage of
hostages for the truth of the whole system. It was for this reason
that I was glad to find mathematics reducible to logic. Kronecker
said that God created the natural numbers and the mathematicians
created the rest: viz. fractions, real numbers imaginary numbers
and complex numbers. But the natural numbers themselves, on
this view, remained at an infinite set of mysterious entities. It was
84 Chapter 3

comforting to find that they could all be swept into limbo, leaving
Divine Creation confined to such purely logical concepts as or and
not and all and some. It is true that when this analysis had been
effected, philosophical problems remained as regards the residue,
but the problems were fewer and more manageable. It had
formerly been necessary to give some kind of Platonic being to all
the natural numbers. It was not now necessary to deny being to
them, but only to abstain from asserting it, that is to say one could
maintain the truth of pure mathematics with fewer assumptions
than were formerly necessary.26

Russell's logicism is Aristotelian as opposed to Frege's Platonism. Instead

of arguing that logic is prior to mathematics, Russell saw the reduction of
mathematics to logic as a process of abstraction in which we obtain by a process of
increasingly refined analysis a knowledge of the ultimate structure of the world.
Logic is the ultimate and final abstracted structure of reality. Rather than thinking
oflogic as a self-contained frame of reference, we may think of it as more analogous
to the periodic table of elements. The periodic table leaves lots of gaps, but it
provides both the frame and the connections that can aid in filling in the gaps. That
is why Russell's discovery of the paradox in Frege's system did not discourage him
as it did Frege. Like the discovery of grammar, logic tells us the structure of all
meaningful statements but not necessarily which ones are true. The latter notion of
truth depends on experience and future discovery in science. In the meantime,
philosophers can contribute by articulating the logic of science without ever having
to go near a laboratory.
Russell's logicism is also anti-agency or anti-Copernican in important ways.
If logic is abstracted from mathematics which in tum is abstracted from science, then
the Kantian contention that mathematics is synthetic a priori will have been
successfully undermined. 27 The "derivation" of mathematics from logic, or the
ability to express mathematical truths as deductions from logic, shows that the
fundamental principles of mathematics are not themselves mathematical. As even
Frege had made clear, there is a difference between a rule and the principle for
applying the rule. But whereas Kant had located the principles of application in the
mind of the subject,28 and whereas Frege had sought unsuccessfully to locate the
principles in a self-contained system, Russell saw those principles as ultimately
abstracted from our experience of the nature of the physical world itself.

Russell's logicism can be expressed in the following argument:

[Principia <---logic <--- mathematics <--- science <---reality


1. Science is the whole truth about reality.

2. Mathematics is the language of science. Hence, mathematics
is the language in which all truth is expressed or expressible.
3. Logic 29 is the structure or "grammar" of mathematics.
Analytic Philosophy And Science 85

4. Therefore, to understand logic is to understand the structure of all truth.

If one could fonnalize logic, then one would have the ultimate framework
in terms of which all truth is expressible. Knowledge of such a framework
would lay bare the architectonic of the universe and give us a powerful tool
for clarification and criticism.

This is the original reason why the techniques of Principia Mathematica or

formal logic are the official language in which analytic philosophers "do" philosophy
or express the logic of science. To this day, undergraduate philosophy majors are
required to take a course in logic that trains them in the use of these techniques. But
it is also true to say that such a logic is not a neutral method, rather it commits one
to a philosophical position.
In Chapter Two we examined the analytic philosophical attempt to establish
the autonomy of science, that is, step (1) of Russell's program. Here, in Chapter
Three, we are examining steps (2) and (3). Precisely because of the difficulties in
establishing step (1) we shall see difficulties in steps (2) and (3).
Russell's logicist program seemingly accomplished a number of objectives.
First, it gives a specific meaning to the notion of philosophy as the logic of
science and thereby provides for a substantive division of labor between scientists
and philosophers.
Second, it diffuses the ever present threat that the existence of mathematics
poses for Aristotelians. That is, rather than there being an alternative source of truth
that Platonists can fasten upon, mathematics is grounded in empirical science at one
end and domesticated by logic at the other end.
Third, in addition to undermining Platonism, the rejection of the Kantian
view that mathematics is synthetic a priori also serves to undermine the Copernican
Revolution in philosophY. That is, no reference need apparently be made to the
contributions of the agent to the knowing process. Mathematics has an abstractable
structure just like everything else.
Fourth, by actually specifying the ultimate structure of all meaningful
discourse as abstracted from mathematics and empirical science, Russell is
supporting the analytic philosophical program of a unified and total science. This
achievement, if successful, is not to be underestimated. Scientism is an article of
faith. In the initial euphoria that greeted the publication of Principia Mathematica
(1910-13) it was thought that here we had transfonned an article of faith into a
rigorous proof.
Fifth, by seemingly establishing scientism through logicism, Russell
maintained a traditional role for philosophy as final arbiter of the intellect and of
Finally, Russell provided philosophers with a powerful tool with which they
could carry out their research program.
Russell's logicist program for the reduction of mathematics to logic began
with the use of Peano's three undefined notions in mathematics: 'zero', 'number', and
'successor'. These notions were then defined by Russell as logical relations between
classes understood as sets. Russell, like Frege, continued to rely upon set theory.
Relations, in turn, were defined by reference to material implication (p > q).
86 Chapter 3

Eventually, material implication (», "if...then," was reduced to the undefined

notions of "or" (v) and "not" (-) which connected particular or atomic truths.
Two things are to be noticed about this use of material implication. First,
it relies upon the concept of negation derived from Boole and opposed to Bradley's
Hegelian understanding of conditionals. Second, the use of material implication
involves well known paradoxes (such as that a false statement materially implies
anything), but Russell was content to use it because it is the notion of implication
most compatible with an atomistic conception of truth. Analytic philosophy assumes
a world ofisolable factual truths capable of being discovered and understood on their
own and without any irreducible whole (Hegelian or otherwise). Any atomistic truth
can be related to any other in a purely formal and syntactic fashion without reference
to any other kind of truth or meaning. One consequence of conceptualizing inference
in terms of material implication is that it allows validity to be defined in terms of the
truth of individual atomic statements. An argument is said to be valid as long as it
does not have true premisses and a false conclusion. Again we are seemingly able
to avoid the Hegelian notion ofthe totality within which truths are locked together.
Principia Mathematica gives us a picture of a perfectly modem Aristotelian world
in which all truths are discovered empirically and related to each other in a
syntactical way without a semantic residue.
Unfortunately, no sooner had Russell presented this pure syntactical vision
than problems began to emerge. Since he too had used set theory, Russell had to
explain how his system managed to avoid the paradoxes that he himself had
discovered in Frege's version of logicism. Recall Russell's paradox:
1. Let S stand for a set consisting of all sets which do not
belong to themselves. [For example, the class of men is not itself a man, and
hence does not belong to itself. On the other hand, the class of non-human
things is itself non-human and therefore belongs to itself.]
2. Question: does S belong to S?
3. If S belongs to S, then it does not belong to S. If S does not belong to
S then it does belong to S. This is clearly a contradiction.

There is one way of avoiding this paradox that is of special interest to us.
One can rule out the paradox by asserting that everything belongs to one all-
encompassing consistent set. This way out is unavailable to Russell because it would
amount to accepting the very Hegelian position whose denial is the immediate origin
of analytic philosophy. Instead of taking the Hegelian route, Russell proposed his
theory of types. The theory of types invokes three principles, each of which is
highly controversial. One of these principles is an ontological one, that is, it makes
a claim about the fundamental nature of the universe. The ontological claim denies
the possibility of an all-inclusive set. We shall call this the anti-Hegelian principle.

You can lay it down [italics addedJ that a totality of any sort
cannot be a member of itself. That applies to what we are saying
about classes. For instance, the totality of classes in the world
cannot be a class in the same sense in which they are. So we shall
have to distinguish a hierarchy of classes. 3o
Analytic Philosophy And Science 87

The second principle is a semantic one which allows us to handle the issue
of how one set can belong to another by postulating a hierarchy of sets. Within the
hierarchy of sets, one set can belong to another only if the other set is of a higher
type within the hierarchy. This hierarchy is said to be infinite. The combination of
these two principles, a hierarchy without a final encompassing set, required Russell
to postulate a third principle. The third principle is the axiom of infinity in which it
is alleged that there are an infinite number of individuals.
There are two objections to Russell's theory of types, one external and one
internal. The external objection is in the form of a question. Ifthere is no closure,
where are we standing when we make statements, or what is the meaning of a
statement made about, an infinite hierarchy? Might the notion of a 'progressive
hierarchy' be an oxymoron? Surely such statements cannot be just one of the levels,
for if so, then there would be another level from which Russell could presumably
explain them. Ifthe statement cannot belong to one of the levels, then the statement
about an infinite hierarchy would be meaningless. It seems as if the fundamental
statements of Russell's logicism are either false, meaningless, or cannot be stated.
This lack of reflection would not be lost on Wittgenstein in his contemplations at the
end of the Tractatus.
The second or internal objection concerns the ad hoc nature of these three
principles. What is not so obvious is that Russell's picture of the perfect syntactical
Eden has managed to let in the semantic serpent. Russell's logicist program alleges
that "mathematics and logic are identicaL"3! More exactly, Russell said:

AIl [pure] mathematics deals exclusively with concepts definable

in terms of a very smaIl number of [fundamental] logical concepts,
and ... all its propositions are deducible from a very smaIl number
of fundamental logical principles. 32

There are three separate claims being made in the foregoing statement by
Russell. First, it is being claimed that every mathematical statement is translatable
into a logical statement. Second, it is being claimed that every logical statement
which translates a mathematical statement is a logical truth. Third, it is being
claimed that every mathematical truth is deducible from a finite set of logical truths.
As we shall see, Godel successfuIly challenged the third claim. Our interest
here is in the second claim. The semantic principle in Russell's theory of types and
the axiom of infinity are not pure logical principles or mere stipulations. Rather,
they make claims about the relation of Russell's theory of types to the world. Even
Russell's subsequent attempt to deal with these problems in his ramified theory of
types had to employ another non-logical and semantic principle, namely, the axiom
of reducibility. The logicist program failed to present a pure syntactical vision. This
in itself, quite apart from Godel, raises profound issues of what constitutes logic. As
it stands, Russell's logicism amounts to no more than the minimal claim that
mathematics and logic are inter-translatable, which simply means that one technical
language can be translated into another. The status of both of those technical
languages remains at issue. 33
88 Chapter 3

The problem created by the failure of Russell's logicist program is, at one
level, a problem for the analytic version of the Aristotelian conception of logic. It
appears that we cannot reduce or eliminate semantics in favor of a purely syntactical
view of logic. The reader will recall from our earlier description that Aristotelians
assume a continuity of semantics and syntax, and further they assume that the
clarification of syntax is a necessary prelude to dealing with semantical issues.
However, the failure ofRussell's logicist program reveals that the understanding of
syntax presupposes an understanding of semantics. 34
There is yet a second level at which the failure of Russell's logicist program
is important. Part of the purpose of the hoped for reduction of semantics to syntax
was to legitimate the piecemeal approach to truth that Russell championed as
opposed to the Hegelian view he opposed. Once we have to invoke semantic
considerations to account for syntactical distinctions it would appear that individual
truths are not identifiable in abstraction from some background interpretation. We
have already, in the previous chapter on the analytic philosophy of science, seen how
the analytic conception of incremental growth in scientific knowledge cannot be
sustained without employing historicist assumptions. Our brief examination of
Russell's logicist program shows us the same thing in a more limited or technical
domain. Logic, or the logic of science, cannot be abstracted in any straight forward
fashion from science via mathematics. The use of semantic principles shows that we
must appeal to something outside of science in order to understand science. Thus,
the failure ofRussel/'s logicism casts forther doubt on the notion of the autonomy of
At yet a third level, the philosophical ambition of analytic philosophy has
been shaken by the failure of Russell's logicism. It is the avowed purpose of the
Enlightenment Project within analytic philosophy to achieve a total conceptualization
of all knowledge as a form of scientific knowledge. That is, scientism is not only a
claim about science being the whole truth but it is also a claim about science being
the whole truth about everything. Everything is in principle conceptualizable, and
it is conceptualizable scientifically, or so it is alleged. Russell's attempt to exemplify
this in Principia Mathematica failed, and so we are left with two alternatives, both
of which are unpalatable. Either one would have to appeal to non-scientific
principles to explain science or one would have to opt for total conceptualization in
the Hegelian manner.35 Either way would require us to abandon the Enlightenment
Project within analytic philosophy.36
In retrospect, and without touching upon the metaphysical issues raised
(something we shall do in the next chapter), logicism can be viewed as an attempt to
give a definitive answer to the question of what philosophy would be ifit were the
logic of science. Given the optimism that pervaded science at the turn of the
twentieth century with its belief that the whole truth was almost at hand, given the
brilliant technical achievements in mathematics and mathematical logic, and given
a certain naivete about metaphysics, it is understandable that many analytic
philosophers were drawn to the idea that logic could be read off of or abstracted in
a neat fashion directly from science and mathematics. The failure of logicism closes
off one easy and direct route to answering the question of the role of philosophy as
the logic of science. The abandonment of logicism does not mark the abandoning
Analytic Philosophy And Science 89

of analytic philosophy, but it did require that a different conception of philosophy as

the logic of science had to be supplied.

From Positivism to the New Analytic Philosophy

Let us take stock of where analytic philosophy stands at the demise of logicism.
Scientism is still going to be maintained, and it will still be held both that
mathematics is the language of science and that logic is the grammar of mathematics.
However, it is now clear that the logic cannot be directly abstracted from the
mathematics. Just as analytic philosophers had to take a 'Kantian Turn' in
comprehending science, whose truth and development turn out to be far more
complicated affairs than previously suspected, so within mathematics it will be
necessary to recognize that the principles which guide it are not so easily identifiable
or specifiable. The non-trivial a priori elements (hence the phrase 'Kantian Turn')
that form the background to all forms of human intelligence are not easily identified
or explained. Rather than accept the alternatives that either no account is possible
or that their quest for an account is misconceived, analytic philosophers will
steadfastly maintain that at some other level an account of a priori thinking is
possible and that the account at that level is compatible with the scientism of the
Enlightenment Project.
In the meantime, logic can still be viewed as the grammatical structure of
mathematics and science. Since, however, our scientific knowledge is incomplete
(i.e., we do not know the whole scientific truth yet), and hence our understanding of
scientific knowledge is incomplete, and since afortiori our mathematical knowledge
is incomplete as well as our understanding of mathematical knowledge, our
understanding of logic is necessarily incomplete. Can one do anything in science
with an incompletely understood logic? The answer is yes if one is willing to
assume, as Russell had urged, that knowledge is acquired in an incremental process.
What we think that we presently know we may be said to know. The only question
is how to proceed from what we think that we presently know to knowing more and
ultimately to knowing all.
Philosophy is still the logic of science but of an as yet incomplete science.
What analytic philosophers must do now is to sketch a vision of what that logic must
be like in a manner compatible with scientism. Since scientific thinking is the
standard of all right thinking, one must approach this task of specifying logic in a
scientific way. The paradox here, which is obvious to us in hindsight, is that without
a prior consensus on what constitutes science we cannot give a consensual scientific
account of logic. The argument for the relationship between science and logic is
An important historical note should be added here. When the difficulties
with logicism were first encountered, during the first three decades of the twentieth
century, analytic philosophers were still not aware of the inadequacy of their vision
of science. The technical difficulties in logic were presumed to be merely technical
and technically solvable in the near future. At the same time, it was presumed that
a consensus on the nature of science existed and hence that it was still possible to
proceed. If analytic philosophers had been aware prior to the 1950s that there was
to be no clear and defensible consensus on what constituted science, they could not
90 Chapter 3

have proceeded as they did. There would have been no clear meaning to the notion
of philosophy as describing the logic of science.
Our concern here is with the conception of philosophy itself that emerges
within analytic philosophy as the result of its basic commitments, its notion that
philosophy is the logic of science, its modern truncated Aristotelian conception of
logic, and its recognition in the light of the difficulties of logicism that logic cannot
be abstracted mechanically from mathematical science.
1. Science is the whole truth about everything.
2. Philosophy is the logic of science.
3. Logic cannot be abstracted directly from mathematical science. This is
the result of the failure oflogicism.
4. Therefore, philosophers must give or presuppose some other account of
logic, presumably a "scientific" one.
5. Giving a "scientific" account of logic presupposes a certain conception
of what it means to be scientific. This is a preconception precisely because
their is no independent support for what it means to be "scientific." There
is no such independent support because of the failure of logicism and
because of the inability to demonstrate the autonomy of science.
Ultimately, the analytic attempt to give a "scientific" account of science
will turn out to be circular.
6. The analytic preconception of what it means to give a scientific account
of anything is that we must explore a hypothesis about the hidden structure
of what we are explaining. What we have here, in Quine's words, is "a
strategy for the scientific study of scientific method and evidence."37
7. Scientific explanations are, therefore, either eliminative reductions or
exploratory hypotheses about hidden sub-structure.

Where did this preconception of what it means to give a scientific account

originate? The answer to this question is an historical one, namely the previous
historical models available to analytic philosophers and the reasons why some of
these models are more attractive to them than others. There were, or are, three prior
models of explanation available, the first two of which are borrowed directly from
the practice of physical science itself. Those three models are elimination,
exploration, and explication. The distinction among these models and the
relationships among them are crucial to understanding and critiquing analytic
Elimination. When we theorize from an elimination point of view there is
an explicit substitution of new ideas for old ideas. All forms of reductionism are
forms of elimination. Elimination is most characteristic of physical science and
technological thinking. Some examples would be the elimination of Ptolemy's
geocentric view of the universe and its replacement by Copernicus' heliocentric view
of the universe. Another example would be the elimination of traditional theories of
disease by the discovery of microbes. Elimination is a form of technological
thinking which seems to make sense if there is some prior agreed upon framework
in terms of which we can judge that a new theory is better than an old theory.
Analytic Philosophy And Science 91

The early history of analytic philosophy, especially in its positivistic phase,

can be viewed as subscribing to the view that all correct thinking is eliminative
thinking. Certainly in the early Russell and in the positivism of the Vienna Circle
one sees an optimism about how science is the successful elimination of superstition
and nonsense and how philosophy is the overseer of the transition period to a totally
scientific world view.
The major difficulty with elimination is one that we have already touched
upon, and that is that there must be some independent criterion in terms of which we
can judge an elimination to be successful. Analytic philosophers, because of their
commitment to scientism, believed, originally, that science bore the mark of its own
validity. Therefore, in order to decide when one theory has successfully eliminated
another we can look to science itself. Within physical science we find examples of
"successful" reductions of one theory to another or eliminations of one theory in
favor of another. So it would seem to be a simple matter of extracting the criteria for
such success. Unfortunately, as we saw in Chapter Two, this turned out not to be the
case. Instead of being a minor technical problem of specifying when reduction-
elimination was successful, it turned out that there was no consensus on when
elimination was successful. J8 It is not sufficient to borrow a form of reasoning from
the practice of physical science if that practice rests upon a prior framework which
is not itself either autonomous or internal to physical science.
Russell's Principia Mathematica and Wittgenstein's Tractatus are the high
water mark of the notion that philosophy as the logic of science is to be a form of
elimination. The failure of logicism and the results of GOdel's theorem show the
impossibility of carrying out the kind of reduction and elimination that analytic
philosophy originally thought possible. In logic, mathematics, and science there are
a priori elements (semantic notions, conventions, appeals to common sense or to
intuitions, etc.) which cannot be eliminated in a straightforward and unambiguous
fashion. Hence, if philosophy is to be the logic of science, it must appeal to some
other version of scientific thinking.
Exploration. In exploration we begin with our ordinary understanding of
how things work and then go on to speculate on what might be behind those
workings. An exploration is a speculative hypothesis about the hidden structure of
how things work. In time, we come to change our ordinary understanding. The new
understanding does not evolve from or elaborate the old understanding, rather it
replaces it by appeal to underlying structures. The underlying structures are
discovered by following out the implications of some hypothetical model about those
structures. Exploration, then, stresses the search for structure rather than for
meaning, the search for the formal elements underlying the everyday world rather
than believing that the everyday world can constitute its own level of understanding.
There are two versions of exploration. In one version, our ordinary
understanding is a necessary but temporary scaffolding to be taken down when the
construction is completed. In a second version, our ordinary understanding is
indispensable but revisable in the light of the clarification of underlying structures.
Exploration is and has been a primary mode of thinking found in the
physical sciences since the sixteenth century discovery of objects either too small
(e.g., microbes) or too far (e.g., the moons of Jupiter) to be seen with the naked eye.
92 Chapter 3

In this sense the technological development of instruments like the microscope and
the telescope had momentous consequences even for the conception of scientific
explanation. This mode of thinking is exemplified, most famously, in the atomic
theory. For example, we explain chemical behavior or the behavior of gases by
reference to molecular and atomic particles.
Exploration is also preeminently the mode of thought of academic social
science. By alleged analogy with physical science, the social sciences have
persistently sought to discover the hidden structure behind the everyday
understanding of social activities. From Durkheim to Marx, Freud, the functionalists,
Chomsky, etc., social scientists have persistently sought to reveal a structural level
of which we are not immediately aware.
The single most important development in the evolution of analytic
philosophy is the transition from the view that philosophy is elimination to the view
that philosophy is exploration. The failure of logicism made it impossible for
philosophy to be an integral part of physical science, and consequently that failure
made it impossible for philosophy to be a form of eliminative thinking. Another way
of putting this is to say that the radical elimination of philosophy, alluded to in our
earlier discussion of the relation of philosophy and science, could not be carried out.
A more moderate position had to be taken.

Philosophy as the Social Science of Science

To construe philosophy as aform ofexploration is to construe it as aform ofsocial
science. Let us review how this came about and what it means.
a. If scientism is true then every meaningful intellectual activity must be a
science or part of a science.
b. Philosophy cannot be the logic of science because of the failure of
c. Philosophy must be the task of giving a "scientific" account of the social
practice of science.
d. Therefore, philosophy can only be the social science of science.
e. Philosophy formulates scientific hypotheses or models which speculate
on the hidden structures which underlie our cognitive activities. That is, if
our cognitive activities cannot be cashed out directly in a straight
elimination, then there must be another level, presumably hidden, which
both accounts for the cognitive activity and is itself amenable to scientific
f. The hidden structure cannot be accounted for in solely sociological terms
because the unity of science thesis requires that social scientific
explanations be themselves explained by or reduced to reference to
structures totally independent of human nature. 39
g. The obvious candidates for such a science are cognitive psychology and
Iinguistics. 40 We shall examine this development in Chapters Six and
h. If philosophy is a form of exploratory pre-social science then it can be
extended to deal with that level of phenomena that has hitherto been a
stumbling block to scientism, namely the level of consciousness where
Analytic Philosophy And Science 93

norms seemingly operate. We shall examine this development in Chapters

Eight, Nine, Ten and Eleven.
i. The foregoing conception of philosophy as an exploratory social science
allows philosophy to fill an important cultural role as the herald and
defender of the scientism of the Enlightenment Project until the independent
social sciences can operate on their own. According to some analytic
versions of the philosophical history of culture, philosophy is an early form
of science, and specific sciences eventually become independent.
j. The problems we encountered in Chapter Two with the analytical
philosophical attempt to establish the autonomy of physical science led to
the postulation of an historical view of theory progression. That historical
view can now, in retrospect, be viewed as an exploratory hypothesis.
Hereafter, programs in the analytic philosophy of science will be
rechristened as programs in the history and philosophy of science.

The widely hailed rejection o/positivism is the symbol o/this transitionfrom

philosophy as eliminative physical science to philosophy as exploratory social
science. Symptomatic of this transition is the emphasis on the continuity of science
and common sense. 41 Of course, we must be careful to keep in mind that
"continuous" is being used here metaphorically, and we shall have to specify it more
carefully. To explore is to begin with common sense and then to transcend it by the
use of science. It is this further requirement that common sense ultimately be
transcended that distinguishes the main stream of analytic philosophy, as defined
here, from ordinary language philosophy. Ordinary language philosophers had
always opposed the reductive eliminativism ofthe positivists, and for a while joined
hands with the view that we must explore the structure of common sense or ordinary
usage. Moreover, ordinary language philosophers fully expected that structure to be
objective and realist in an Aristotelian and anti-Copernican sense. However,
ordinary language philosophers resisted the notion that the hidden structure was
scientistic, opting instead for structures that could be expressed in ordinary language
itself.42 At best, ordinary language philosophers prevaricated by espousing
compatibilism or, at worst, evaded coming to terms with the status of their own
analyses. In any case, ordinary language was ultimately superseded by scientistic
The paradigm case of exploration in analytic philosophy had been suggested
early on by Bertrand Russe1l 43 himself in his theory 0/ descriptions. 44 This theory
was originally developed to account for the meaning of expressions which refer to
non-existent objects. For example, we have the sentence "The present King of
France is bald," articulated today (or in 1905) when there is (or was) no King of
France. According to Russell's analysis, we must distinguish between the meaning
ofthe statement and the truth ofthe statement. More important, we must distinguish
between the grammatical form of the statement, which is immediately observable,
and the logical form of the statement, which is its hidden structure. By employing
these distinctions and the tools of his own modem logic, Russell claimed to have
discovered the hidden structure of the foregoing statement.
94 Chapter 3

(1) Ex [i.e., there exists an x] such that

(2) x is the King of France, and
(3) x is bald.

Once the hidden structure is exposed, we can conclude that the sentence is
meaningful because of (2) and (3) but false because of (1).
The theory of descriptions is an exploration because it begins with our
ordinary understanding and then proceeds to reveal the hidden structure behind our
ordinary understanding. Once exposed, the hidden structure leads us to change our
understanding. Revelation of the hidden structure avoids misunderstandings,
puzzlement, and confusions endemic to naive ordinary understanding and goes on
to replace it with clear and precise formulations in the language of logic. Further,
what makes this an exploration and not an elimination is that Russell assumed that
our ordinary understanding was a starting point to be clarified and then replaced by
an analysis of the hidden structure. A totally eliminative approach would have begun
simply by dismissing ordinary language as non-scientific.
It would also be instructive here to point out how Russell's exploration is
'Aristotelian'. Before Russell, Frege had distinguished the meaning of a concept
from the reference of a concept. According to Frege, we can grasp the meaning of
a concept without knowing its reference. Frege concluded that if some names in a
sentence did not refer, then while the sentence was meaningful the sentence was
neither true nor false. Russell's interpretation insists that such sentences are both
meaningful and have a truth value. Platonists can accept meanings without
reference, but Aristotelians cannot. "The real aim of 'On Denoting' was to safeguard
the non-linguistic nature of the analysis of propositions by the elimination of
denoting concepts."45 Finally, it should be noted that Quine has refined Russell's
analysis in Quine's article "On What There Is".46 Quine treats statements about non-
existent objects as follows: ~(Ex) Fx. In Quine'S ontology "to be" is to be the value
of a bound variable; historically, this is the contemporary analytic counterpart to
Aristotle's original contention that "to be" is to be the subject of a sentence.
The transition from elimination to exploration clarified the role of the
analytic philosopher as a kind of social scientist. ''''Now [analytic] philosophers
prefer to think of themselves as quasi-scientists, collaborating in a research
programme."47 It is a research program that focuses on concepts. "Philosophy is a
much more purely verbal activity than any of the sciences: verbal discussion is the
laboratory in which the philosopher puts his ideas to the test."48 The hypotheses
formulated by the philosopher are hypotheses about the meaning of concepts, not the
everyday surface meaning but the underlying structural meaning. The end result of
a successful hypothesis is that we change our ordinary understanding. "A useful
definition - one which helps to solve real problems will always be", according to
Popper, "an eliminating definition, rather than an explicating one."49 The end result
of exploration is the same as elimination, namely, the replacement of everyday
notions with more precise ones. However, in exploration we must arrive at precision
by elaborate hypotheses about the hidden structure behind everyday notions.
'Precision' is understood here by reference to structure.
Analytic Philosophy And Science 95

One of the clearest contemporary expressions of the analytic philosophical

program of exploration is to be found in Donald Davidson:

I view formal languages or canonical notations as devices for

exploring the structure of natural language. We know how to give
a theory of truth for the formal language; so if we also knew how
to transform the sentences of a natural language systematically
into sentences of the formal language, we would have a theory of
truth for the naturallanguage. 5o

George Romanos maintains that both Quine and Davidson are engaged in "an actual
analysis of the underlying 'deep structure .. .' of a given fragment of a more
encompassing naturallanguage."5J
In addition to Russell, Carnap had also suggested an early form of
exploration in the Aujbau. In that 1928 work, Carnap developed the notion of
constitution or construction theory. In construction theory, one set of sentences is
transformed into another set where the latter explains the former but is not identical
to it. This version of exploration will later inspire the neo-Carnapians, Montague and
So far we have discussed one important continuity between the eliminative
phase of analytic philosophy and the exploratory phase of analytic philosophy. The
element of continuity is that both elimination and exploration eventually replace our
ordinary understanding. A second element of continuity is the continued use of the
notational system of symbolic logic originally developed by Russell in Principia
Mathematica. The abandonment of logicism was not followed by the abandonment
of formal logic. Of course, logic is now, in the case of exploration, understood
somewhat differently. Whereas in the case of elimination logic was alleged to give
us a formal picture of the ultimate structure of reality and our speech about reality,
and therefore solving the problem of the relation between the two, in the case of
exploration logic is a tool for theory exploration.

Formal logic became a serious science just a hundred years ago,

ach ieving its renaissance at the hands of Gottlob Frege. A striking
trait of scientific philosophy in subsequent years has been the use,
increasingly, of the powerful new logic. This has made for a
deepening of insights and a sharpening of problems and solutions.
It has made also for an intrusion of technical terms and symbols
which [while serving the investigators well,] tended to estrange lay
readers. 52

The question remains as to whether the logic originally developed by

Russell in Principia Mathematica, however subsequently modified, is the correct tool
for theory exploration. Here we must distinguish between two questions. First, is
formal logic, in general, an adequate tool for theory exploration? Second, is the
formal logic of Principia Mathematica as subsequently modified sufficiently
adequate as the tool for theory exploration?
96 Chapter 3

It is easier to answer the first question than it is to answer the second one.
If science is in the end the whole truth about everything, then whatever is the
language of science is of necessity the language in terms of which the exploration of
hypotheses must be carried out. The language of science in the history of Western
Civilization has always been mathematics. Therefore, whatever the logic of
mathematics is, that becomes the formal logic for theory exploration.
The answer to the second question, namely, is the formal logic of Principia
Mathematica and its derivatives sufficient for all of the purposes of theory
exploration, is much more elusive. The failure of logicism and the incompleteness
proof of Godel, demonstrate that mathematics cannot be completely and consistently
formalized in one system. At the very least, some concatenation or hierarchy of
systems would seem to be necessary. However, even if a hierarchy of systems is
necessary, we would not know if that hierarchy is sufficient. That is, it might be
necessary to supplement mathematics with additional non-formal principles that are
non-mathematical and non-scientific, or at least not directly abstractable from
mathematical science. This in itself would not be a problem for either scientists or
for mathematicians, but it is a problem for anyone whose philosophical commitment
is to scientism. Within mathematics itself there are competing views, i.e.,
philosophical positions including Platonic ones (e.g., by Godel and Wang) and a
Copernican one (e.g., Wittgenstein). Given controversies within mathematics itself,
and given Wittgenstein's contention that "there is no such thing" as philosophic
logic,53 no appeal to mathematics can settle the issue.
One way of evading these difficulties is to argue that there is much more to
mathematics than is necessary for science. That is, many branches of mathematics
have no application or no conceivable scientific application. The truth of scientism
or the assumed truth of scientism requires only that some mathematics is necessary,
not all of it. It may, therefore, be the case that whatever mathematics turns out to be
the final, correct and comprehensive language of scientism will lend itself to being
systematized and that the final systematization, whatever its form, will give us all the
formal logic we need.
This way of evading the difficulty of the ultimate logical formalization of
mathematics and its adequacy for purposes of philosophical exploration faces
additional problems of its own. It amounts to saying that (a) we do not yet have the
final scientific truth, and therefore (b) we do not yet have the final sufficient
mathematics, or at least we cannot be sure that present mathematics as we know it
is the final sufficient mathematics. It could very well be that all of our present
mathematics is analogous to Descartes' analytic geometry prior to the development
of calculus by Newton or by Leibniz. This very real possibility might mean that all
of our present formal logic is hopelessly inadequate and that everything we do, every
exploration in which we now engage, is doomed to failure and at best will be viewed
as of purely antiquarian interest by future generations. The view of a piecemeal
approach to the growth of scientific knowledge that was initiated by Russell gives us,
at least, pieces of the puzzle, but it does not give us a substantial clue to what the
formal frame will be like. Under these circumstances, namely, the failure of logicism
and the unsupported nature of exploration, the continued use of our present forms of
Analytic Philosophy And Science 97

formal logic is (a) at best an act of faith, or (b) a misguided anachronism, or (c)
totally wrong-headed.
Serious questions have been raised about whether technical advances in
logic help to solve philosophical problems.

If Principia Mathematica had been successful, it would have been

a wonderful example ofthis. But it was not successful, so why has
symbolic logic remained as one of the characteristic features of
analytical tradition? Unlike the position in Principia, the technical
tricks oflogic are not often essential and symbolic arguments are
prone to conceal rather than illuminate. Who is the beneficiary,
for example, of the clarification of the way in which Peano's
axioms in first order fail to be categorical, that is, fail to
characterize their subject matter up to isomorphism, when first
year mathematics undergraduates are routinely taught an 'easy'
proof that they are? Perhaps since Principia Mathematica only the
1930 paper of Godel has been a really convincing example of the
power of symbolic reasoning. 54

Exploration with the logic of Principia Mathematica and its derivatives as

the tool of formal analysis cannot be divorced from a substantive view. The
substantive view of analytic philosophy comprises scientism, modern
Aristotelianism,55 and an anti-agency conception (i.e., "anti-psychologism" and anti-
Copernican). Hence, formal analytic explorations employ the techniques deemed to
be consistent with the mathematical-physical views of the universe one finds in
"current" science, along with the assumption that these scientific views will
eventually cover everything, including human beings, and that the progress of
science will not lead to radical reconstructions of our conception of scientific
knowledge. These assumptions are breathtaking, but they remain an act of faith. As
should now be clear, the problem of what is the final and correct mathematics, and
therefore the final and correct logic, would have been a problem even without the
failure of logicism. All of this reinforces the extent to which analytic philosophy
subscribes to a kind of epistemological atomism, an epistemological atomism which
was Russell's way of trying to avoid the conclusions of Hegel in particular and the
Copernican Revolution in general. In the light of what we have seen in the previous
chapter on the philosophy of science and in view of what scholarly studies in the
history of science continue to reveal, we can begin to appreciate just how traumatic
for analytic philosophy was the challenge to the classic but simplistic empirical
account of the evolution of scientific knowledge that we encountered in Chapter

Explication as the AIternative 56

So far, we have discussed elimination and exploration, and we have identified
exploration, with formal logic as its tool, as the mode of thinking which best
characterizes the method of the new (post-positivistic) analytic philosophy. Let us
now turn to the third mode, explication, because in discussing explication we shall
98 Chapter 3

by contrast be able (a) to reinforce further the extent to which analytic philosophy
engages in exploration, (b) to highlight the difficulties of exploration, and © to
introduce what we take to be an alternative and more productive direction for the
analytic conversation.
In explication we try to clarify that which is routinely taken for granted,
namely, our ordinary understanding of our practices in the hope of extracting from
our previous practice a set of norms which can, reflectively, be used to guide future
practice. Explication presupposes that efficient practice precedes (both temporally
and logically) the account ofpractice. Explication attempts to specify the sense we
have of ourselves as agents and to clarify that which seems to guide us. We do not
replace our ordinary understanding but rather come to know it in a new and better
way. Explication seeks to arrive at a kind of practical knowledge which takes as
primary that human beings are agents.
Advocates of explication reject the perspective of exploration in any area
beyond the inorganic world. To engage in exploration about human beings is to
perceive them as purely thinking subjects facing an objective world and performing
a purely theoretical task. On the contrary, social practices, including the practice of
science, involve human beings who are engaged in an ultimately practical task.
Explication seeks to mediate practice not from an external theoretical perspective but
from within practice itself. Explication is anti-reductive.
Critics of explication are apt to charge that in explicating we must pick and
choose "key" practices but that the choice cannot be justified by an appeal to
anything other than an intuition about our practice. The defenders of explication
respond by saying that there is no coherent alternative. That is, advocates of
explication maintain that while human acts can be understood such acts cannot be
explained, especially when explanation is conceived along eliminative or exploratory
lines. We can give an account of what we understand but such an account is not an
explanation in the sense in which we explain non-human things.
Moreover, the defenders of explication will then tum around and charge the
proponents of exploration with incoherence. In order to theorize, that is in order to
explore a hypothesis about the hidden structure behind our practice, we must first
identify the object of analysis, i.e., one must first identify the practice. Therefore,
one must already possess an intuitive common sense understanding of practice before
it can be analyzed. The theoretical analysis is forever parasitic upon the intuitive
understanding and can never go beyond it. In examining any social practice,
including our cognitive or linguistic or logical practices, we are not really observing
an independent object as the physical sciences presumably do, rather we are
examining what we mean by what we are doing. It is therefore logically impossible
to explore the hidden structure of our practice because there is no such structure!
To put this in analytical terms, exploration commits the error of providing the
explanans without having an explanandum. This is the crucial difference between
practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge.
The most significant point to be made in the debate between exploration and
explication is the charge by advocates of explication that exploration on its own is
inherently incoherent. This incoherence can be seen on two levels. First, before one
can investigate the alleged hidden structure of a social practice one must clearly
Analytic Philosophy And Science 99

identify the social practice itself. No analysis can proceed unless there is a clear
conception of the fundamental entities that are the subject matter of analysis.
However, a social practice is an intersubjectively sharedframework of norms within
which what we are doing has an interpretation. In order to identify the social
practice, therefore, one must specify clearly the intersubjectively shared framework
of norms. To identify the practice is to identify the social norms. Since the
framework is intersubjective no specification of the framework is legitimate that does
not accord with previous historical practice. In short, one must already have engaged
in explication before one can engage in exploration. Exploration always presupposes
explication. 57
This is precisely where the incoherence arises. What would be the point of
exploration in the light of a given consensus on explication? Exploration (and the
thesis of scientism outside of the realm of physical science) was designed and
introduced as a way of overcoming disputes. In the presence of a consensus on
explication, an exploration, if it were possible, is redundant at best. If there is no
consensus on explication, what would be the function of an exploration (i.e., an
hypothesis about the alleged hidden structure) of our social practice? An exploration
in the absence of a consensus on explication could only be either (a) a form of
advocacy for one version of explication or (b) an attempt to discredit rival
explications. But it is difficult to see how we can judge between rival explications
of a social practice without appeal to a consensus explication on another (higher)
level. It is equally difficult to see how we could tell the difference between an
outright elimination or radical replacement and an exploration that operates in the
absence of consensus on explication and that is intended to discredit its rivals.
If the foregoing argument is correct, then those who claim to engage
exclusively in exploration are doing something that is intellectually incoherent,
analogous to pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps, or they are doing
something that is disingenuous, introducing a radical replacement disguised as a
contextual clarification.
The exploratory view ofthe function of philosophy is sometimes expressed
as the view that philosophers are "underlaborers" (borrowing the Lockean
expression) to scientists. In order to carry out this function analytic philosophers
must have the correct understanding of science. As it turns out, physical science is
a social or communal enterprise. Hence, one must already possess a philosophy of
the social sciences in order to be sure that one has correctly understood physical
science. Where does this philosophy of the social sciences originate? Ifit is based
on a preconception about physical science along with the assumption that social
science must be consonant with physical science, then analytic philosophers have
surreptitiously introduced into their account a preconception about physical science.
Hence, the analytic philosopher who subscribes to the Enlightenment Project is not
a modest underlaborer but an advocate with an agenda. It is precisely this
disingenuousness that infects any naturalized epistemology.58
The entire argument59 about the incoherence of exploration can be
articulated at an even higher level. No technical form of thinking (including logic,
mathematics, and physical science) can itself be understood except by appeal to
something which is pre-technical (e.g., common sense). Technical thinking, no
100 Chapter 3

matter how valuable within its limited sphere, can never replace pre-technical
thinking. Rival hypotheses in technical discourse must ultimately be judged by
appeal to pre-technical norms. Nor can one develop a technical account of pre-
technical reasoning, for, on pain of incoherence, there would be no possible way to
judge the adequacy of the proffered technical account.

Explication vs. Exploration

The distinction between exploration and explication can be used to clarify the
relationship between philosophy and science. We begin by distinguishing among the
1. science
2. the history of science
3. the philosophy of science
4. the history-and-philosophy of science
5. the philosophy of the history of science

The Enlightenment Project in the analytic philosophy of science can be

viewed, in retrospect, as the attempt to construe philosophy as the logic of science.
The logic of science was initially understood as a form of elimination, i.e., as the
attempt to extract the structure of scientific reasoning in a timeless and contextless
fashion [3]. This project failed. Moreover, those positivists who were eliminativists
refused initially to consider issues of the social practice of science. How could they
use social science without having established what physical science is? Moreover,
many believed that when a definitive account of physical science was provided the
social scientific account would be rendered superfluous. Instead of talking about
these issues, they chose to remain silent.
Other analytic philosophers took the failure more seriously. They
supplemented the logic of science with an historical thesis about theory articulation
and replacement [4]. This is when the philosophy of science became the history-and-
philosophy of science. However, [4] was construed as an exploration. That is, the
history-and-philosophy of science was still understood in terms of an objective but
initially hidden structure that could at another level be explained in terms of timeless
elements without reference to human values. Analytic philosophy of science can be
conceptualized as beginning with how scientists think of their practice but then goes
on to provide a theory of what is really behind that practice. From this point of view,
analytic philosophers are exploring the hidden structure of scientific practice rather
than explicating scientific practice.
The immediate difficulty with reconceptualizing analytic philosophy of
science as an exploration is that it raises the question of what legitimates exploratory
thinking. Analytic philosophers must first be correct about the structure of science
before they can use exploratory thinking. Hence, it would be begging the question
for analytic philosophers of science to use exploratory thinking in order to establish
their interpretation of science.
Much of analytic philosophy of science is attempting to give a theoretical
account of what it takes to be theoretical knowledge. It had been hoped that physical
science would present us with an unambiguous and incontrovertible example of self-
Analytic Philosophy And Science 101

justifYing knowledge. That program has failed to materialize. Analytic philosophers

cannot turn to other sources such as practical knowledge or metaphysics or religion
or history, etc. without abandoning the Enlightenment Project. The 'Kantian Turns'
in analytic philosophy represent a dawning awareness that formal undertakings
presuppose some kind of framework so that no formal analysis can be made
intelligible without reference to that framework. But committed as they are to the
exploratory mode of thinking, the only possible response from within analytic
philosophy is to offer a hypothesis about the framework itself.
Explication, on the contrary, understands the philosophy of science as [5].
That is, the philosophy of science is the explication of the evolving human values
that have informed and continue to inform the practice of the scientific community.
Moreover, since these values are part of something more fundamental than the
practice of science, philosophy deals with issues more fundamental than science.
Philosophy is not pre-science or an early version ofscience but the study of the pre-
conceptual domain upon which the intelligibility of science itself depends.
The explicator's case can be seen in five ways. First, history is important
because it is no accident that science as we know it arose in the West as opposed to
other historic cultures. Second, one important item in that history, an item with
religious roots, is technology. Technology is not the mere application of theoretical
science to practical problems, rather technology is an integral part of the practice of
science. Third, it was not mathematics that was reduced to logic in Russell's
logicism, rather it was really the mathematicization of logic. This mathematicization
of]ogic failed to capture all the norms in our logic. Instead it ended by identifying
rationality with only one aspect of scientific practice, not unlike the error of trying
to reduce rationality in scientific practice to empirical observation. 60 Fourth, the
claim made by some analytic philosophers that there is a fallacy of psycho log ism is
a reflection of the analytic denial that parts need to be understood by reference to a
larger whole.
The analytic contention that analysis can proceed in a presuppositionless
way ironically reflects a whole host of anti-Copernican philosophical
preconceptions. 61 Traditionally, analytic philosophers dismissed issues of the
background context or the origins of a hypothesis on the grounds that an hypothesis
can eventually be confirmed. However, as we saw in the previous chapter, the
confirmation process itself presupposes other background features. If so, then we
can never transcend the background. It is in this sense that explication is primary.
Fifth and finally, the key issue is the relation among philosophy, common
sense, and science. Starting with Russell and continuing through Quine right down
to the present it is held that common sense and science are "continuous." The
question is what is meant here by "continuous". After all, Jonah and the Whale were
continuous, so it comes down to who is swallowing whom. For those analytic
philosophers who subscribe to the Enlightenment Project, the continuity is construed
as meaning that common sense is a truncated version of science. Hence, philosophy
as a science is an attempt to amend common sense in order to bring it into line with
physical science. We cite as a recent example of this view the statement by Fodor
that "language learning is a matter oftesting and confirming hypotheses."62 So what
Fodor is suggesting is that exploration is how we actually think all the time whether
102 Chapter 3

we are aware of it or not. Karl Popper has argued that common sense in the form of
ordinary usage can be formulated as conjectures about things, i.e., as a form of
hypothetical thinking.63 What this all boils down to is that common sense is
something that these philosophers can fall back upon to handle the pre-theoretical
context of hypothesis exploration when it is convenient to do so, but at the same time
they reserve the right to ignore or to amend common sense when it conflicts with
their philosophical preconceptions about science.
There is a continuity between science and common sense but it is a
continuity in which the former depends on the latter for its intelligibility; in which
common sense is explicated but not explorable; and in which all conflicts are
resolved in favor of common sense.
We would contend that many analytic philosophers of science fail to offer
an adequate account of science because their interest is in establishing a certain
(realist) vision of the world, not in understanding the social institution of science.
Further, we would contend that analytic philosophers of science cannot understand
science as an institution because they cannot, in general, understand any institution.
The reason that they cannot understand any social institution is that the perspective
they adopt is an "I Think" one in which they presume to be totally external
observers. 64 We would urge instead a "We Do" perspective that is both social and
focused on practice from the point of view of engaged and responsible agents. The
norms of any institutions, including the concepts of science, cannot be interpreted as
timeless spatial structures. 65 Analytic philosophers thus fail to see the sense in which
concepts in science have a historical development such that structural transformations
become part of the meaning of the concept. We hope to bring out these points in our
subsequent chapters, including our discussion of social science and history.
Defenders of the Enlightenment Project in the analytic philosophy of
science will not agree with what we have just said about the explication of science.
They will see explicators as offering an alternative, and to their mind mistaken,
account of science. In fact, they will see explicators as holding a rival exploratory
account of science. Explorers think explicators are mistaken because values are non-
cognitive. To believe that "facts" depend upon "values" would require the
abandonment of the Enlightenment Project.
Unfortunately, there is no independent way to choose among these alleged
rival exploratory accounts of science, and that is why there will be alternative
historical accounts of what "really" happened and happens in science. The stories
about Galileo, for example, will be understood in different ways. Unable to dismiss
the explicatory account out of hand, the defenders of the Enlightenment Project in
analytic philosophy must move to another level. They will first agree that some
important decisions within the scientific community reflect human values, but they
will then go on and argue that these values can be explained by reference to an
objective structure at some other level. Unable to establish the autonomy of science
directly and unable to provide a consensus account of the logic of science, they will
pursue their project on the level of epistemology. We shall turn to this pursuit in
Chapter Five.
Our discussion of explication has revealed a fundamental conflict between
philosophy viewed as exploration and philosophy viewed as explication. Much of
Analytic Philosophy And Science 103

post-positivistic analytic philosophy, as we have shown, is a particular variety of the

genus of exploration. We urge, instead, that the analytic conversation move in the
direction of explication.
In addition to revealing the fundamental conflict between exploration and
explication, we have offered a critique of exploration that claims that there is both
a series of flaws in exploration and a crucial incoherence. The other great danger of
adopting the exploratory mode with formal logical analysis as its tool is that analytic
philosophers are caught up in an intellectual framework which inhibits ifnot actually
proscribes them from reexamining their own starting points. Putnam has expressed
this problem as follows:

I think there is a unity to philosophy, even though it has different

aspects, both disciplinary and geographic. The Germans ...
emphasize the salvific aspect. Then there is a scientific aspect,
which analytic philosophers emphasize, a literary aspect, and so
on. But these are, I think, aspects of one thing. I think that when
one tries to cut philosophy up, to isolate one of these aspects in the
way that analytic philosophy has tried to do with the scientific
aspect, then philosophy behaves like a neurotic individual. And
you get all the typical symptoms of neurosis: fantasy and
compulsion, repetition, and, finally, the return of the repressed. 66

This shall be our starting point for the next chapter.

104 Chapter 3


1. Again, we caution the reader that when we use the expressions 'analytic
philosopher' or 'analytic philosophy' without qualification we intend to
designate only those analytic philosophers who subscribe to the
Enlightenment Project.

2. In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein suggested how philosophy would disappear

into natural science. See 4.11,4.111. 4.1 12,6.53, and 6.54.

3. Russell (1928). See also Searle (1996), p 13: " ... philosophy is now seen
by most analytic philosophers as being adjacent to and overlapping with the

4. Ramsey (1925), p. 287.

5. Carnap (1934), p. xiii.

6. Pap (1949), p. 478.

7. "The threat of a philosophy with no task to perform is expressed by Frank

P. Ramsey: 'I conclude that there really is nothing to discuss; and this
conclusion corresponds to a feeling I have about ordinary conversation also.
It is a relatively new phenomenon, which has arisen from two causes which
have operated graduaIIy through the nineteenth century. One is the advance
of science, the other the decay of religion; which have resulted in all the old
general questions becoming either technical or ridiculous ... .' Ramsey
says that what Russell believes about the world is really physics and that
what he believes about ethics is really psychology. For Ramsey,
Wittgenstein may be right that philosophy is nonsense, but wrong if he
thinks it 'important nonsense'." Eames (1989), p. 226.

8. We have identified three major competing philosophical approaches,

namely, 'Platonic,' 'Aristotelian,' and 'Copernican.' To each of these there
corresponds a different conception ofiogic. The Platonic view is reflected
in the work of Frege, although its 'Platonic' dimension was not recognized
until recently. The Copernican conception of logic is best reflected in the
twentieth century in the work of pragmatists like Schiller and Dewey. The
standard analytic philosophical history of logic is William and Martha
Kneale (1962). In that text, the names of Bradley, Schiller, and Dewey are
never mentioned.

9. Kant's use of the term' analytic' , as in the distinction between' analytic' and
'synthetic' statements, is not to be confused with our use of the term
Analytic Philosophy And Science 105

'analytic' to designate philosophers who, following Russell, engage in

analysis and subscribe to the doctrines of' analytic philosophy'.

10. Husserl, like Frege, made a strong anti-psychologism case in his Logische
untersuchungen (1900). Husserl was a continental phenomenologist, the
founder of the movement. Whenever analytic philosophers want to express
a positive attitude toward continental and phenomenological thought, they
praise Husserl. Heideggarians, who are beyond the pale as far as analytic
philosophers are concerned, refer to Husserl as the "continental analyst".
Monk (1996), p. 11, perceptively notes that "Frege, Russell, Husserl and
Meinong are all on the same side of the border, while Wittgenstein lies
outside. And thus the opposite of 'analytical' is neither 'continental' nor
'phenomenological' but rather 'Wittgensteinian.'"

11. Quine considers Hume and Kant to be "psychologists." See Quine (1981a),
p. 19l. In discussing Kant's views on the transcendental deduction,
Strawson comments (1975), p. 32, that the work is " ... also an essay in the
imaginary subject of transcendental psychology."

12. The nineteenth-century British Aristotelian tradition and its critique of

psychologism can be traced back to George Boole, a mathematician whose
work Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847) stated that logic was a non-
quantitative algebra which expressed the necessary operations of thought.
Boole, by the way, also advocated the use of probability theory as a way of
enabling social scientists to make predictions on the basis of statistics. W.E.
Johnson (1892) argued that logic dealt with propositions which expressed
truth or falsity, not judgments which expressed an attitude of mind.

13. C.S. Peirce also argued that atomic items were connected by relations that
ultimately had to be understood in terms of the Hegelian triad (firstness,
secondness, and thirdness). This Hegelianism in Peirce is a continual
source of frustration or embarrassment to those analytic philosophers who
have sought to appropriate Peirce to their tradition.

14. One of the main themes of the history of modern philosophy is that the
inherent logic of adopting modern Aristotelianism is a move toward
monism (Hegelian). In the domain of logic this would make Bradley's
version of modern Aristotelian logic correct and Russell's wrong. As we
shall see in our discussion of metaphysics in Chapter Four, the concept of
negation will prove to be philosophically problematic for analytic
philosophers rather than a mere technical innovation. Eventually, analytic
philosophers will be forced to define truth as the absence of non-being
(double negative), and this will only make sense in the presence of a
totalizing or monistic system. By the time they have arrived at this position,
analytic philosophers will have abandoned analysis and be forced to adopt
some version of Hegel. In short, technical issues in modern Aristotelian
106 Chapter 3

logic create a momentum that will drive analytic philosophers into

accepting some version of Hegel, and the irony of the history of analytic
philosophy is that it originated in an attempt to avoid Hegelian monism.

15. See Kneale (1948).

16. There is a connection between this view of logic and Popper's notion of

17. "Boole's success in constructing an algebra which included all the theorems
of traditional logic led some logicians to assume that all logic must be
capable of presentation in algebraic form. and attempts were made in the
next generation to work out a logic of relations in the same fashion as the
logic of classes... , [T]he original idea and most of the interesting
propositions were first suggested by Peirce .... " W. & M. Kneale (1962),

18. This statement appeared in Boole's "Calculus of Logic" originally

published in the Cambridge and Dublin Mathematical Journal in 1848. It
is quoted in W. & M. Kneale (1962), pp. 405-406.

19. A strong case for the difference between Frege and Russell is made by
Hylton (1990b), pp. 137-172.

20. For a convincing and insightful presentation of this interpretation of Frege

see Sluga (1980). See especially Sluga's criticism of Dummett's
interpretation, pp. 105-107. Burge (1990) stresses the extent to which Frege
understood science in terms of mathematics and "not natural science as it
is for the positivists, Carnap, and Quine" (p. 58 n.15). Sainsbury (1996),
p. 674, concludes his comparison ofFrege and Russell by noting that "The
question would then remain: do we need sense as well as reference to
explain the working of the simple expressions? It is essential to anything
like Frege's view that the answer should be affirmative, and to anything like
Russell's view that it should be negative."

21. Frege agreed with Kant that geometry was synthetic a priori.

22. Frege [189311903 (1962)], vol. 1, pp. xv-xvi.

23. Frege (1959).

24. In an important sense, Frege is not necessary for the history of analytic
philosophy. The attempt to make mathematics rigorous and the debate
which surrounded that attempt were already part of the late nineteenth-
century background to analytic philosophy. Russell developed his logicism
before he even knew ofFrege's attempt, and Russell would have discovered
Analytic Philosophy And Science 107

the paradoxes even without seeing them in Frege's work. The paradoxes
continued to plague Russell's own views. What is immediately important
about Frege is that Russell showed the flaws in Frege's system. Initially
and even long afterwards, this was interpreted as the triumph of an
Aristotelian conception of logic over the Platonic conception of logic. In
the later history of analytic philosophy, when analytic philosophy was
forced to make its "Kantian Tum" and syntax was seen to require
supplementation by semantics, Frege's semantics came back into vogue.
However, following a pattern which will become familiar to readers of this
book, Frege's semantics will allegedly be superseded by a sophisticated
Aristotelianism. See, e.g., Hintikka (1981).

25. Once again, we remind the reader that when we speak of 'Aristotelianism'
without qualification we mean the truncated version of Scholastic
Aristotelianism that emerged in the Enlightenment Project.

26. Russell (1959a), p. 219.

27. Quine's contention that even the distinction between the analytic and the
synthetic must be surrendered is already implicit in this line of argument.
All levels of thought are ultimately anchored in and abstracted from initial
experience. It is merely a matter of levels or of different distances to the
core. "Russell's logicism was originally intended as part of some kind of
argument against Kant, and post-Kantian idealism .... " Hylton (1990b), p.

28. Wittgenstein will locate the principles in the social context of a way of life
of agents.

29. Hylton (1990b) puts this as Russell's belief that logic was presuppositionless
(pp. 148, 154).

30. Russell [191811919 (1956)], p. 264.

31. Russell [1903 (1937a)], p. v.

32. Ibid., p. xv.

33. " ... what symbolic logic achieves is anything but logic, i.e., a reflection
upon logos. Mathematical logic is not even logic of mathematics in the
sense of defining mathematical thought and mathematical truth, nor could
it do so at all. Symbolic logic is itself only a mathematics applied to
propositions and propositional forms. All mathematical logic and symbolic
logic necessarily place themselves outside of every sphere of logic, because,
for their very own purpose, they must apply logos, the assertion, as a mere
combination of representations, Le., basically inadequately. The
108 Chapter 3

presumptuousness of logistic in posing as the scientific logic of all sciences

collapses as soon as one realizes how limited and thoughtless its premises
are" Heidegger (1967), p. 156.

34. Hylton (1984) has made the following case: "Russell can offer no coherent
account oflogical forms. . .. Given Russell's conception of an object, the
potentiality, or lack of potentiality, which two objects have for combining
into a proposition cannot be explained simply in terms of the features of
those objects: we have to invoke the notion of logical form. But if the
potential for combination which the objects have cannot be explained in
terms of features of those objects, then neither can the fact that the pair of
objects stands in the appropriate relation to a logical form. The introduction
of logical forms, or of further objects, is simply irrelevant to the task of
explaining why certain groups of objects can be combined to form
propositions, while other groups cannot. The 1913 theory is thus no better
able to explain this than was the 1910 theory." (pp. 388-90).
Hylton also quotes (p. 390) the following letters by Russell. The
first letter is to Lady Otto line Morrell in May 1913: "I showed him
[Wittgenstein] a crucial part of what I have been writing. He said it was all
wrong, not realizing the difficulties -- that he had tried my view and knew
it wouldn't work. 1 couldn't understand his objection -- in fact he was very
inarticulate -- but I feel in my bones that he must be right, and that he has
seen something I missed." A second letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell on the
same subject was written in 1916: "His [Wittgenstein's] criticism ... was
an event of first-rate importance in my life, and affected everything I have
done since. I saw he was right, and I saw that I could not hope ever again
to do fundamental work in philosophy."

35. It has been suggested by Consuegra (1996) that Russell's work after 1919
was a movement away from atomism toward 'holism'.

36. As it turns out, the analytic movement was to show great resilience in the
face of the failure of Russell's logicism. As we shall see in our discussion
of epistemology in Chapter Five, Quine will attempt to circumvent the
failure of Russell's logicism by denying altogether the special status of
analytic truths in logic and mathematics. Moreover, as we shall see in
Chapter Six on the philosophy of language, an attempt will be made to
conceptualize semantics itself.

37. Quine (1975), p. 75.

38. Nagel (1961) specified both formal (pp. 345-358) and "informal" (pp. 358-
366) criteria for successful reductions.

39. That is why the work of Bloor (1976) and others in formulating the "Strong
Programme" [see Brown (1984)] to provide a social-causal analysis of
Analytic Philosophy And Science 109

scientific developments is rejected by analytic hard-liners. Marxists, and

others argue that the social causal factors are independent of human nature.
Very often disputes of this kind reflect different political agendas.

40. "Accepting this view of the world, and the obvious capacity of empirical
science to cope with the investigation of it, the philosopher ... was clearly
made redundant. . .. Rather than opposing or evaluating the scientific
enterprise ... analytic philosophy accepted natural science as paradigmatic,
and retreated to the linguistic, to ask what language must be like if it is to
be adequate to the scientific task" Sacks (1990), p. 174.

41. Quine, "I think ofphilosophy as continuous with science, even as a part of
science", quoted in Magee (1982), p. 143.

42. 1.L. Austin was in the awkward position of sometimes using "ordinary"
language expressions that he invented to express alleged structures for
which there was not already a term. These new terms were ordinary only
in the negative sense of not being scientistic.

43. Some readers may be surprised to find that Russell is the source of
exploration given that we have identified his logicism as the model of
elimination. Several comments are in order here. First, the positivists, who
were uncompromising eliminativists, were much more doctrinaire about
logicism than Russell himself. Second, we believe that neither Russell nor
any other major analytic philosopher was as self-conscious about the
analytic enterprise as we are capable of being in retrospect. Hence, it is
possible for several versions of the analytic enterprise to co-habit the mind
of a single thinker. Third, eliminativism was a phase that gave way to
exploration as the result of the recognition of difficulties in earlier phases.
Fourth, there is, as we shall show and have already indicated briefly, a kind
of continuity between eliminativism and exploration. Russell's practice of
exploration explains, in part, his hostility to the later Wittgenstein's
explication of ordinary language. This is what prompted Russell to write
a preface for Gellner's notorious book, Words and Things (1959), a satire
on ordinary language philosophy. Russell identified Wittgenstein as the
initiator of that movement. In Chapter Six, we shall discuss the relation of,
and the difference between, Wittgenstein and ordinary language.

44. Russell (1905). We are not offering a comprehensive account of "On

Denoting" but indicating a line of thought suggested within it. This
particular paper has had a long and 'mythical' history within the analytic
conversation. For some indication of its continuing importance see Griffin
(1996) and Noonan (1996).

45. Monk and Palmer (1996) p. xi on Noonan's (1996) interpretation.

110 Chapter 3

46. Quine (1953), pp. 1-19.

47. Passmore (1985), p. viii.

48. Alston (1967a), p. 387.

49. Popper (1983), p. 275, note 18.

50. Davidson (1977), p. 247.

51. Romanos (1983), p. 154.

52. Quine (l98Ia), p. 191.

53. Wittgenstein in a letter to C.K. Ogden dated 4 April 1922., p. 20 of von

Wright (1973). The full text reads as follows: "As to the title I think the
Latin one is better than the present title. For although 'Tractatus logicus-
philosophicus' isn't ideal still it has something like the right meaning,
whereas 'Philosophic logic' is wrong. In fact I don't know what it means!
There is no such thing as philosophic logic (unless one says that as the
whole book is nonsense the title might as well be nonsense too.)"

54. Kilmister (1996), p. 282.

55. There are two senses of Aristotelianism in analytic philosophy that are
relevant here. First, analytic philosophy is 'Aristotelian' in the previously
defined sense of believing that the world explains itself (naturalism), that
there is an objective structure which includes human beings as a part and
that the structure is apprehended by abstraction from experience
(empiricism). Second, the growth of scientific knowledge is asserted to be
cumulative, but in the absence of a known final vision "cumulative" has to
be understood as teleological so that the end is already contained in the
beginning. This implicit assumption of teleology is what allows analytic
philosophers to be confident that present formal logic is a piece of the final
true logic. Curiously, even though teleology has been banned ontologically
by analytic philosophers, it nevertheless reappears in any account of the
growth of human knowledge.

56. Our use of the term 'explication' follows von Wright (1989): "[T]he
philosopher's enterprise is not so much a reconstruction of the logic of
language -- either in the deep or in the surface sense -- as an explication of
conceptual intuitions. . .. This is how I would understand Wittgenstein's
words in the investigations that 'philosophy may in no way interfere with
the actual use oflanguage' and 'that it cannot give it any foundation either'"
Analytic Philosophy And Science 111

57. This is a central insight of Gadamer's hermeneutics (1975) and Apel's

"transcendental pragmatics" (1975).

58. Kitcher (1993) is an example.

59. For a similar argument see Rescher (1985b), especially pp. 170-172.

60. "This thesis can be summed up in a single, deeply held conviction: that, in
science and philosophy alike, an exclusive preoccupation with logical
systematicity has been destructive of both historical understanding and
rational criticism" Toulmin (1972), p. vii.

61. " ... the answer to large problems is to be derived from thorough analyses
of particular and detailed sub-problems. In this respect analytical
philosophy is a philosophy without presuppositions" Skolimowski (1967),

62. Fodor (1975) p. 59.

63. Popper (1983), p. 210.

64. Recognition of the limitations of what we here are calling the "I Think"
perspective has been persuasively articulated by Donald Davidson in his
critique of Quine: "I think his [Quine's] epistemology is still starting out
from a subjectivist point of view. . .. His concept of data is purely
subjective, and that's why I call him a Cartesian. . .. [T]hinking
presupposes intersubjectivity. This will remain an irreconcilable dispute
between Quine and me" Borradori (1994), pp. 53-54.

65. Polanyi (1958).

66. Borradori (1994), pp. 68-69.


Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy

In Chapter One, we identified the metaphysics of the Enlightenment Project as a
modern truncated form of Aristotelianism. The purpose of this chapter is (1) to
elaborate upon our identification of that metaphysics as a modern and truncated form
of Aristotelianism, (2) to show how much of analytic philosophy is informed by the
metaphysics of the Enlightenment Project, (3) to argue that the only coherent form
of "modern" Aristotelian metaphysics is Hegel's,' and (4) to show that although
analytic philosophy is by virtue of its embrace ofthe Enlightenment Project opposed
to Hegelianism, analytic metaphysics is often and inevitably driven in its pursuit of
coherence and comprehensiveness in the direction of Hegelianism. What emerges
in the metaphysics of analytic philosophy is a constant and unresolved tension
between what it wishes to say and what its pursuit of coherence forces it to say.2

What is Metaphysics?
Any survey of the history of the term 'metaphysics' will show not only that there
are conflicting metaphysical positions but there are conflicting views about what
metaphysics itself is. Even the meaning of the term 'metaphysics' is difficult to
divorce from substantive metaphysical positions. Although this is an obstacle, it also
tells us something important about the attempt to abstract form from substantive
In an endeavor to start with a more generic sense ofthe term 'metaphysics',
let us begin by noting that, from its inception in ancient Greece, philosophy has
always striven to provide a comprehensive or total vision of the world. The belief
in the possibility of doing so is part of the original definition of philosophy. There
are, of course, conflicting visions both of what the total picture is and of what
constitutes a comprehensive vision. When we use the term 'metaphysics' here what
we shall mean is (1) what one identifies as the fundamental truths, (2) the status of
these truths, (3) the referent ofthese truths, and (4) how the philosopher understands
his relationship to those alleged truths.
Three generic metaphysical traditions 3 have emerged within the history of
Western thought. 4 Those traditions can be labeled as Platonism, Aristotelianism, and
Copernican ism.
Platonic Metaphysics: In the Platonic tradition (e.g., Plato, Plotinus,
Porphyry, Augustine, Descartes, Leibniz, and Frege, to mention just a few), it is
claimed that how we understand ourselves is different from how we understand the
world and that how we understand ourselves is fundamental whereas how we
understand the world is derivative. Hence, the world of everyday experience cannot
be understood on its own terms. As a consequence, a distinction is introduced
between the world of appearance (or everyday experience) and ultimate reality.
Platonic metaphysics is marked by a series of derivative dualisms.
In its modem form, it is claimed within Platonism that although science can
account for the world of appearance, science cannot account either for itself or for
ultimate reality. Hence, metaphysics is a kind of non-empirical pre-science.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 113

Ultimate reality is conceptual or logical, (consisting of forms, ideas, or universals,

etc.), not a system of physical objects. The conceptual entities that comprise ultimate
reality are related to each other in logical fashion. Platonism, moreover, rejects any
distinction between a thing and its properties. A thing is a particular set of properties
(ideas, forms, etc.). Platonists do distinguish between essence (meaning) and
existence (reference) as well as insist upon the irreducible and fundamental nature
of meaning. The distinction between meaning and reference is derivative from the
distinction between ultimate reality (which is conceptual) and the world of everyday
experience. Finally, Platonists insist upon the dualism of subject and object, a
dualism in which the subject's knowledge of itself is more fundamental than the
subject's knowledge of objects.
Aristotelian Metaphysics: In Aristotelianism (e.g., Aristotle, the Stoics,
Aquinas, Spinoza, Locke, Hegel, Russell, etc.), we understand both ourselves and the
world in the same way. Hence, Aristotelianism is monistic.
For Aristotelianism in its secular variants, the everyday world of experience
is self-explanatory. As a substantive view, this kind of metaphysics is known as
naturalism. Metaphysics is thus no more than the most comprehensive and most
general characterization of existent things. As a form of knowledge, Aristotelian
metaphysics is arrived at by abstraction from the specialized sciences. Hence,
metaphysics is a kind of empirical super-science.
One consequence of this naturalism is that modern secular Aristotelians do
not speak so much of metaphysics but prefer to speak about ontology. The question
of ontology, namely what constitutes the most general features of reality, is tied in
Aristotelianism to epistemology, understood as the study of the basic categories or
concepts used for describing and explaining the everyday world.
Reality is said to consist of individual or particular things or substances. A
substance (thing) is something more than its properties, and it is ultimately, though
problematically, identified grammatically as the subject matter of discourse. In
Aristotelian metaphysics there is a tendency to reduce meaning to reference. It is in
this sense that Aristotelians approach their metaphysics through epistemology.
We can understand Aristotelianism as the denial of Platonism. In secular
Aristotelian metaphysics there is a denial that there is a transcendent realm over and
above the empirical sciences and thus a denial that the first principles of the special
sciences need to be deduced from or explained by a transcendent or transcendental
realm. Rather than being a distinct and logically self-contained body of knowledge,
metaphysics is an examination of the most comprehensive and general characteristics
of existent things. Like all forms of metaphysics, Aristotelianism has a
comprehensive vision, but its comprehensive vision is a totalization in which all parts
of the system flow into each other in homogeneous fashion.
Copernican Metaphysics: s The Copernican Revolution in philosophy, as
introduced by Hume and Kant, offers a third or alternative vision of metaphysics.
According to this view of metaphysics, the ultimate source of reality and
intelligibility is neither the experience of external physical objects nor a
supersensible conceptual world. Rather, the source is the everyday pre-theoretical
world constituted by the interaction of human beings with their environment.
114 Chapter 4

Copernican ism can be understood both as a rejection of modem Aristotelian

realism and as a humanizing of Platonism. For example, Copernicans do not equate
metaphysical realism with epistemological realism. That is, while Copernicans can
recognize that there are objects independent of human beings (this meaning of
realism is unobjectionable), Copernicans deny that knowledge is the abstraction of
an external structure. Unlike Aristotelianism, Copernican ism sees discourse (and
epistemology) as conventional in the sense that it denies that structure can be
explicated apart from the agent. As in Platonism, Copernican metaphysicians insist
upon the distinction between, and the irreducibility of, subjects to objects; but, unlike
Platonism, the subject is seen as rooted in the pre-theoretical world of everyday

Modern Aristotelian 6 Metaphysics

In Chapter One, we established that the Enlightenment Project in analytic philosophy
was based upon a truncated or modem form of Aristotelian metaphysics. By
'truncated' we meant that Aristotle's naturalism was combined with mechanism and
shorn of its organic teleology. In this section of the chapter we shall outline the
special nature and the special problems that are faced by Aristotelian metaphysics in
its modern, truncated, and secular form.
All versions of modem philosophy face a special problem. That problem
is the newly opened gap between the human world and the physical world. This gap
was initiated by modern physical science, and it can be seen in a number of ways.
First, there is an epistemological gap. Modem science attributes to the world a
structure that is hidden from the naked eye. Our conceptualization of the structure
ofthe world, then, does not refer to what is directly perceivable. Second, there is an
ontological gap. The structure of the world according to modern physical science is
mechan ical and deterministic, whereas our awareness of ourselves is still traditionally
organic, personal, and teleological. Third, there is an axiological gap. Since the
external physical (now mechanical and deterministic) world can no longer serve as
the locus of norms, it thereby loses its direct and immediate continuity with the
human world.
Modem philosophy, commencing with Descartes, was born out of the need
to overcome these gaps. There are different ways of trying to reconstruct the
relationship of human beings to the world. Modern philosophers did not respond to
this gap in a uniform way nor did they conceptualize the problem of that gap in a
uniform fashion. Rather, modern philosophers responded by refurbishing traditional
metaphysical models. Modern "Platonists" beginning with Descartes had less
difficulty dealing with this gap since some form of dualism is inherent in Platonism.
Nor are modern Platonists especially concerned by the fact that modern physical
science conceptualizes the world by means of abstract structures not directly rooted
in experience.
Copernican metaphysics is a distinctively modem response, but it is also a
response that is based upon an explicit rejection of traditional Platonic and
Aristotelian approaches. That is why both Hume and Kant commence with attacks
on traditional metaphysics. For Copernicans, the gap is closed by construing our
knowledge of the physical world as ultimately a reflection of the human world.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 115

The gap is much more problematic for modern secular Aristotelian

metaphysicians. We can begin to appreciate why this is so by noticing the difference
between the classical and modern versions of Aristotelian metaphysics.
Classical Aristotelian metaphysics does not face this special problem. That
is because classical Aristotelian metaphysicians subscribed to both a teleological and
organic world view. Hence, when classical Aristotelians avow a monism in which
subjects and objects are treated the same, the avowal does not appear to them as
either noteworthy or problematic because the normative and agency features of
subjects are easily accommodated within a teleological and organic perspective.
Because classical Aristotelianism has an enveloping teleology in the totalization,
there is no problematic difference in kind either between subjects and objects or
between theoretical discourse and pre-theoretical discourse. That is, in Aristotle
there is an obvious continuity between our ordinary way of speaking and
understanding and how things are understood in the special sciences. It would be
easy to think that this problem was avoided simply because classical Aristotelians did
not have to concern themselves with mechanism. But Aristotle explicitly rejected
mechanism; moreover, some twentieth-century cosmologists from Alexander to
Whitehead subscribed to organicism.
But for modern secular and mechanistic Aristotelians the problem takes on
a special character necessitated by their adherence to a monism in which the subject
and object must be understood in fundamentally the same way. The modern
Aristotelian takes our knowledge of nature to be fundamental. Nature in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had come to be understood as a mechanism and
not as an organic whole. If nature is a mechanism, and if human beings are to be
understood in the same monistic way as we understand physical nature, then human
beings must be understood as mechanisms. This development was resisted for two
reasons. First, everyone continued to conceptualize human beings in the traditional
common sense way, that is in personal, organic, and teleological terms. Second, the
process by which knowledge of the physical world was itself explained continued to
be itself understood in personal and organic terms.
Given the special nature of Aristotelian metaphysics, specifically the link
between ontology and epistemology, the problem appeared to modern Aristotelians
in the following way. Our conceptual apparatus is directly linked to the world so that
our conceptual apparatus can clue us in on how the world is. When the world was
innocently believed to be exactly the way it appears there was no special problem.
But the triumph of modern science is precisely its ability to go beyond and challenge
our common sense view of things. If the world is so very different from our common
sense conception, then how do we know that our conceptual apparatus is a clue to
how the world really is?
One way of trying to deal with this new gap, a gap between our conceptual
apparatus and the world as it is in itself is to turn to Platonism or to deny that there
is such a thing as the world in itself. The latter solution is the Copernican turn. Both
of these ways out are rejected by the Aristotelian. Another way is to use the new
mechanistic science to offer a mechanistic account to close the gap. In this endeavor,
our conceptual apparatus is treated as an isolable part or set of parts and the physical
world is treated as a set of isolable parts. An account is then offered of how these
116 Chapter 4

parts interact. This account exists as an item within our conceptual apparatus. So,
from within our conceptual apparatus we offer an account of how our conceptual
apparatus is a map of the real world The obvious problem is that we can never get
out of our conceptual apparatus in order to check the reliability of our conceptual
It is important to stress that this is a problem for modern secular
Aristotelianism. It is not a problem for classical Aristotelianism; it is not a problem
for Platonism; it is not a problem for Copernican ism; and it is not a perennial
philosophical problem. It is, to repeat, a special problem for those who operate with
a particular set of assumptions, specifically for those who have tried to conceptualize
modem science from a modem, secular, and mechanistic Aristotelian point of view.
This is also why it is important to get the history of modern philosophy right. It is
crucial that we see figures like Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, etc. not as trying to solve
the modern Aristotelian problem but as dealing with a more generic issue from a
variety of different points of view. Failure to see this surreptitiously introduces the
modern secular and mechanistic Aristotelian framework as if it were the only
possible way of understanding the generic issue of how to accommodate modern
To sum up, the major issue for modem Aristotelian metaphysics is to close
the gap between the subject and the object. The subject-object distinction keeps
reemerging in three distinguishable but related ways.
First, there is the linguistic or grammatical distinction between subjects and
Second, there is the psychological or epistemological distinction between
self-knowledge or self-consciousness and knowledge of things.
Third, there is the crucial philosophical distinction between the pre-
conceptual or pre-theoretical framework and our actual conceptualizations or
theoretical construals of the world.

Hegelian Metaphysics
Hegel's modernized Aristotelian metaphysics is, in the fITst instance a response to the
epistemological problems of modern Aristotelianism. 8 There is an intimate
relationship within Aristotelianism between metaphysics and epistemology.
Aristotelian epistemology is concerned, in part, with the process of knowledge
acquisition. If human nature is completely continuous with physical nature, then
whatever account is given of the physical world supplies a basis for any account of
the process by which human beings acquire knowledge. Likewise, whatever account
is given of the process by which human beings acquire knowledge supplies us with
an account of nature itself.
The modern epistemological predicament:
Modem Aristotelian epistemology, in the light of the scientific revolution,
has to confront a situation in which we as subjects and knowers do not have direct
contact with objects. Unlike classical thinkers who believe that knowledge is the
direct grasp of some external structure, modem thinkers all believe that knowledge
involves an internal processing procedure. Instead of the classical concern of
whether the mind mirrors nature, the moderns are concerned with whether the
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 117

internal processing of the mind accurately models nature. It is a question of

modeling because modem science does not pretend to give us a static snap-shot
conception ofthe world; rather, modern science gives us a dynamic process account
that cannot be reduced to a series of static snap-shots. As a consequence, no model
can itself be reduced to a mirror of a snap-snot or series of snap-shots.
Although we are in one way conscious of how our minds work and of the
norms generated within the conscious mind about how the external physical world
works and is to be both understood and managed, we still do not know how the
physical world generates the conscious mind. There is, in short, no physiological
account available. Moreover, and this is what Hegel realized clearly, even if such an
account were available that account would itself be a model. We would still then be
left with a higher-order model that faced the same problem, ad infinitum. We can
never be sure either of the continuity of mind and physical world or whether the
intellectual and moral norms generated within the conscious mind accurately models
the physical world.
In adopting the Copernican view that structure is what the subject
imposes on the object, Hegelian metaphysics is in opposition to classical Aristotelian
epistemology. At the same time. Hegelian metaphysics Aristotelianizes the
Copernican Revolution by construing the process of becoming within the subject as
somehow identical with a changeless actuality. It attempts to do this by postulating
an identity between the subject (Absolute) and the world as object. Hence, Hegelian
metaphysics maintains the world as self-explanatory by maintaining the principle of
intelligibility within the world and maintaining a monistic identity of subject and
object. That is, the object is collapsed into the subject. In this respect, Hegel's
idealism is able to save modern Aristotelian epistemology9 by claiming that in a
special sense the subject is still grasping the structure ofthe object. There can be no
gap, then, between how we think about the world and how the structure of the world
really is. Finally, the recognition of this identity is a temporal or historical process
construed teleologically.
Hegel's view is thus in an important sense Aristotelian, monistic, and it
explains itself. Precisely because he does not lose the self, Hegel was able to provide
an account of self-reference; and because he could account for self-reference, Hegel
could make some sense of totalization. Hegelian metaphysics also differs from other
modernforms ofAristotelian metaphysics like analytic metaphysics by (a) taking the
Copernican tum in epistemology, (b) collapsing the object into the subject, ©
embracing teleology, and (d) extracting truths from the sciences broadly understood
instead of embracing a physicalistic scientism. Hegelian metaphysics is the only
modem form of Aristotelianism that succeeds in achieving totalization. It does so by
providing for the consistency and coherence of ontological and epistemological
In the light of the above, it is misleading or at the very least insufficient to
characterize Russell's rejection of Hegel as a rejection of idealism. Everything
depends upon how one understands idealism. Russell had distinguished between
idealism and realism, arguing that idealism asserts that objects exist only when
perceived, and realism asserts that objects exist even when not perceived. This way
118 Chapter 4

of making the distinction is epistemological, and it tends to obscure important

metaphysical points.
Idealism, more accurately, collapses the subject-object dichotomy in favor
of the subject. In addition, philosophical idealists assert that to be real is to be a
member of a rational system such that the parts of the system can only be understood
when the system as a whole is understood. Idealism, in Hegel's sense, can just as
easily be construed as a form of metaphysical realism.
What Russell rejected was (a) a specific feature of the doctrine of a total
system when he insisted that individual truths could be known prior to knowing their
role within a comprehensive system. What Russell did not and could not reject was
the existence of a total system. As a subscriber to scientism, Russell subscribed to
the existence of a world order. So what Russell rejected, in part, was an
epistemological view and not a metaphysical view. Further, what Russell rejected
was (b) the collapsing of the subject-object distinction in favor of the subject, for
Russell wanted to collapse the distinction in favor of the object. We may summarize
our discussion so far by saying that what Russell rejected was both Copernican
metaphysics in general and Hegel's version of modern Aristotelian metaphysics; and
that what we have here is a family squabble among different versions of modern
Aristotelian realist metaphysics.
What Russell, in particular, and analytic philosophy, in general, confuse is
phenomenalism (an epistemological doctrine) with idealism (a metaphysical
doctrine). How does this confusion arise? This confusion is endemic because of the
close connection between metaphysics and epistemology in the Aristotelian tradition.
In Aristotelianism, ontological realism is identical with epistemological realism.
However, for analytic philosophy, ontological realism is construed as the belief in
a world independent of human beings (discovered by and best understood through
physical science), and hence epistemological realism must be the position that
knowledge is the abstracted structure ofthat independent world. If all knowledge has
to be an abstracted external structure then self-knowledge has to be knowledge of an
abstracted external-like structure. Hence, we see the analytic rejection of any agency
view of the self.
The only alternative to epistemological realism, so conceived, is
phenomenalism understood as the view that what we know is a non-representative
mental entity rather than an externally physical one. 10 If epistemological realism
were identical to ontological realism, and if someone rejects the analytic version of
epistemological realism, then analytic philosophers conclude that ontological realism
has been rejected as well. Therefore, when any philosopher (like Hegel) suggests
that our knowledge is not an abstraction of an external physical structure and that
self-knowledge is not knowledge of an external-like structure and that self-
knowledge is both primary and agency-oriented, analytic philosophers construe this
as a rejection of realism as a whole. But it is just as true for Hegel as it is for analytic
philosophers that epistemological realism and ontological realism are identical. For
Hegel the movement from self-knowledge to knowledge of the Absolute is no
different in principle from the analytic movement from knowledge of external
objects to the knowledge of the self as a thing-like (i.e., physical) structure. By
having collapsed the object into the subject, Hegel guaranteed that the structure of
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 119

self-knowledge was identical to the structure of what was taken to be the external
object world. Hegel is just as much an Aristotelian realist as any analytic
philosopher. The issue is how we construe the "real."
It is important to keep emphasizing that idealism is not to be confused with
phenomenalism and that what is crucial to idealism is the belief that to be real is to
be part of a system. Hence, if we are correct about analytic philosophy being a
modern form of Aristotelianism, and if we are correct in assuming that idealism so
understood is the logical consequence of "modern" Aristotelianism, then inevitably
analytic philosophy will have to subscribe to the view that to be real is to be part of
a system. If that is so, then analytic philosophy cannot be a rejection of idealism.
It is the main argument of this chapter that the only possible direction of analytic
metaphysics is to embrace idealism, something that it cannot for other reasons do.
Analytic philosophers came, in time, to reject epistemological
phenomenalism, and they continued to subscribe to the notion of a total system in
which eventually no ultimate distinction can be made between subjects and objects.
At the risk of being unduly paradoxical one can say that analytic philosophy never
abandoned idealism. However, it would be more accurate to say that analytic
philosophy's totalization is different from Hegel's in being scientistic, materialist,
and anti-agent. Analytic philosophy thus rejects certain features of Hegel's
metaphysics but not all of them.
The Hegelian moment in analytic metaphysics is intimately related to what
we have call the 'Kantian Turns' in every branch of analytic philosophy. When
Russell rejected Hegel it was the Hegel to which he had been introduced by way of
Bradley and McTaggart. What Russell did not fully grasp was the extent to which
Hegel was responding via the Copernican Revolution to difficulties in the
Enlightenment Project that originated in the secularization of Locke's epistemology.
That Russell did not fully grasp the major developments in Western Philosophy is
abundantly revealed in Russell's exposition of the history of Western Philosophy.
Failing to see what Hegel was responding to, Russell and his followers were doomed
to repeat the progression from:

Locke -----> Kant -----> Hegel.

Throughout this book we shall see that analytic philosophers begin with a
Lockean empiricist program as modified by the Enlightenment Project. Then,
finding themselves unable to carry out that project without a 'Kantian Turn,' they
endeavor to make the 'Kantian Turn' consistent with an empirical naturalism, thus
approaching a Hegelian position. For obvious reasons, analytic philosophers cannot
fully embrace the Hegelian resolution and thereby remain suspended.
Perspective on this contention can be gained by examining Whitehead.
Whitehead was as much the author of PrinCipia Mathematica as Russell, and
Whitehead was just as concerned with science. In working out his own metaphysics
in response to the challenge of modern science, Whitehead was led to a version of
Hegelianism, and by his own admission without a serious knowledge of Hegel. What
this shows is that a non-doctrinaire attempt to develop a metaphysics for modern
science that is realist, naturalist, and organic leads to some form of Hegelianism. As
120 Chapter 4

we shall see, it is the presence ofthe Enlightenment Project that militates against an
organic conception of science and in favor of a mechanistic one.

The Hegelian argument can be presented as a progression through ten

1. There is a mUltiplicity of objective truths.
2. This multiplicity of truths forms a coherent system (S).
3. a. Any statement about S is, if true, a part of S.
b. Our understanding of S is, if true, a part of S.
4. Statements of the kind (3a) and (3b) cannot be established by
correspondence because we, the establishers, would have to be outside of
the system (S) in order to use correspondence. Nothing can be outside the
5. Therefore, the fundamental explanatory principles (3a) must be
established in some other way, by coherence understood organically - or the
way in which an organism reflects unity.
6. Coherence alone is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. It is a
mere formal requirement. Any suggested (3a) is a hypothesis to which
there are alternatives.
7. We cannot tell which version of coherence is true by correspondence
(see step 4) or by any other extra-systemic means.
8. Therefore, there must be a final all-encompassing system which includes
the correct understanding of itself. It must also account for the how and the
why of alternative expressions of (3a).
9. How can a system know itself? This is only possible ifthere is a unity
of thought and being.
10. Since we cannot now articulate this unity of thought and being, it
follows that we are at one stage of a process undergoing development
toward self-articulation. This explains why and how we relate to the
Absolute (3b).

Does Analytic Philosophy Have a Metaphysics?

We distinguish the question "What is the metaphysics of analytic philosophy?" from
the question "How are metaphysical issues dealt with in the analytic conversation?"
When we ask the former question what we have in mind is the programmatic way in
which metaphysical issues are addressed by those who subscribe to or are heavily
influenced by the Enlightenment Project. Our aim is not to show that all
metaphysical issues in the analytic conversation are always and everywhere dealt
with programmatically; but that the program is much more ubiquitous than realized.
An important part of the analytic community has come to reject the program, and
hence the need to identify what the program was and still is for some.
"What kind of metaphysics does analytic philosophy have?" There are
several obstacles to answering this question. One obstacle is the terminological one
of how the term 'metaphysics' is to be understood. Given the broad way in which
we have defined metaphysics, any philosophy, including analytic philosophy, has a
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 121

A second obstacle is the assertion made periodically by major philosophers

throughout the modem period of the history of philosophy that the very idea of
metaphysics or the possibility of doing or of having a metaphysics is to be rejected.
What these philosophers are doing, we contend, is attacking the metaphysical views
of other philosophers or denigrating the word 'metaphysics' because the word has
taken on a meaning to which they object. We should not be surprised therefore to
find the assertion among some analytic philosophers that all metaphysics is to be
rejected or that analytic philosophy has no metaphysics. This assertion partly reflects
a view of what metaphysics is that can be obviated by clarifying terminology. This
assertion also reflects, in part, a rejection of specific alternative views so that what
is being denied is some other version of metaphysics.
In this section we shall remove the obstacle that reflects what analytic
philosophers were against in previous versions of metaphysics. In the next section
we shall spell out in a positive way the metaphysics of analytic philosophy.
The most notorious episode in the history of the role of metaphysics in
analytic philosophy was the positivistic "rejection" of metaphysics. The word
'rejection' is in quotes in order to signify that it, like 'metaphysics', has a very
special set of meanings.
To begin with, analytic philosophy is the twentieth-century version of the
Enlightenment Project. It was during the Enlightenment, as we argued in Chapter
One, that the notion of an anti-systematic philosophy was first propounded by figures
such as Condillac. Hence, the positivist-analytic rejection of metaphysics is the
reassertion of the Enlightenment's anti-systematic philosophy. One reason behind
the anti-systematic approach of the Enlightenment was the perception that scientific
research was impeded by imposing non-scientific preconceptions on that research.
A second, and related, reason was the espousal of scientism or the view that science
was an intellectually autonomous discipline.
One can agree that scientific research is sometimes impeded by the
imposition of either non-scientific or scientific preconceptions upon that research
without having to agree that science can proceed in the absence of all
preconceptions. Some critics of analytic philosophy will contend that analytic
philosophy is itself such a non-scientific impediment. The real issue is whether
science is autonomous. In Chapter Two we showed how it has come to be
recognized that science is not intellectually autonomous. Hence, some sort of non-
scientific preconception is necessary.
The fundamental non-scientific preconception of analytic philosophy is one
that also has its roots in the Enlightenment, namely a providential history without
God. As we saw in Chapter Two, analytic philosophers were forced, finally, to
defend a view of how later scientific theories are more true than and superior to
earlier scientific theories by appeal to a view of historical progress. That is,
following the Enlightenment lead, analytic philosophers sought to construe certain
philosophical positions as scientific hypotheses. Unfortunately, the view of historical
progress could not itself be substantiated as a scientific theory in its own right.
Although analytic philosophy leads to Hegel, analytic philosophy began
with Russell's rejection of Hegel's metaphysics. It is, therefore, not possible to
understand the metaphysics of analytic philosophy unless one has some conception
122 Chapter 4

of Hegelian metaphysics and what Russell rejected in it. Specifically, what Russell
rejected was Hegel's contention that the subject was primary and the object
derivative. Hegel's insistence on the priority of the subject is related to his notions
that the whole is prior to the parts and that the whole has to be understood as a
SUBJECT. We have already noted Russell's critique of Hegelian holism and
Russell's advocacy of analysis.
It is significant that analytic philosophers single out Hegel because analytic
philosophy shares certain features of Hegel's metaphysics, specifically its monism.
The monism is a reflection of a common Aristotelian inheritance. The retention of
core elements of Aristotelian metaphysics helps to explain some important
differences between analytic philosophers like Russell on the one hand and the views
of philosophers like Frege and Wittgenstein. Frege was a Platonist. Like Lotze
before him, Frege denied that the pre-theoretical could be conceptualized as when
Frege said that the relation of a thought to truth is not describable. I I Platonists handle
totalization by employing a metaphysical dualism. Wittgenstein, in the enigmatic
last section of the Tractatus, and in his notebooks, seriously considers Hegelian
totalization but comes down in the end against it. More important, Wittgenstein goes
on in his later work to reject analytic philosophical totalization and to reject any
attempted discursive characterization of the pre-theoretical. 12 For Wittgenstein, pre-
theoretical discourse is a level of understanding that is not in principle eliminable.
There is an implicit comprehensive vision in Wittgenstein, but it is Copernican and
not Aristotelian. On the contrary, the scientism in analytic philosophy entails the
view that everything is in principle knowable and conceptualizable, that the subject
can be conceptualized in exactly the same way that we conceptualize objects.
Russell, Frege, and Wittgenstein all reject Hegelian totalization. That is
why it is so easy for analytic readers to lump these philosophers together. At the
same time, we should note that Frege's comprehensive metaphysical vision would
be dualistic Platonism, Wittgenstein's comprehensive metaphysical vision would be
Copernican, and that both of these philosophers would reject the kind of scientific-
naturalistic vision toward which Russell in particular and analytic philosophy in
general are inclined.
To summarize, the positivist "rejection" of metaphysics can be understood
as meaning all of the following.
1. The positivists reasserted the Enlightenment view of an anti-systematic
philosophy but ultimately had to buttress it with a providential history. What must
never be lost sight of was an inability on the part of some positivists to understand
that the philosophical claim to possessing some kind of ultimate truth or a method
that leads to such truth (i.e., scientism) requires a total conceptualization. 13
2. Positivists rejected Platonism and Copernicanism; more generally they
rejected any view that there is something beyond physical science that is required to
make sense of science itself.14 In the minds of positivists, a belief in scientism was
identical to the denial of any kind of metaphysics, insofar as metaphysics is taken to
be the view that the natural world, scientifically understood, is not self-explanatory.
(Frege and Wittgenstein would obviously part company with the positivists on this
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 123

3. There was an early optimism, soon to be surrendered, about the progress

and immanent finality of science that encouraged the belief that traditional
metaphysical issues could all be reformulated as issues about the logic of science.
Science is the whole truth, and when the specific sciences have delivered all their
truths the remaining problems are all problems of the clarification of the language of
science. Positivists thus construed the philosophy of science as a substitute for
metaphysics. As we have broadly defined it, this is still an Aristotelian conception
of metaphysics and not the rejection of all metaphysics.
4. Positivists rejected Hegel's version of totalization; this does not, as we
have argued, preclude the necessity for some other kind of totalization. Whether a
non-Hegelian totalization is actually possible for analytic philosophy is precisely the
question of this chapter.

The Modern Aristotelian 15 Metaphysics of Analytic Philosophy

Analytic philosophy exhibits an "Aristotelian" metaphysics in the following general
1. Analytic philosophy is a form of naturalism. The fundamental truths are
truths about the natural world, not truths about a supernatural or supersensible or
purely human world. These truths about the natural world are self-explanatory.
2. Analytic philosophy is monistic. It assumes that we understand both
ourselves and the world in the same way. (However, analytic philosophers insist that
how we understand the world physically is also how we understand ourselves.)
3. Analytic philosophy also has an Aristotelian metaphysics in the sense that
fundamental realities are always identified by the use of epistemological or
grammatical criteria (e.g., in Quine and Kripke as we shall see shortly).
4. Analytic philosophy arrives at a comprehensive vision by abstraction
from the truths of the specific empirical sciences. It rejects any transcendent or
transcendental system beyond the empirical sciences. Metaphysical truths are
equivalent to the ontological structure revealed by the philosophy of science.
We have characterized the metaphysics of analytic philosophy as "modern"
as well as "Aristotelian." The qualification is important. By "modern" we mean the
I. The modern view is to be understood both negatively and positively.
Negatively, the modern view is a rejection of the classical view, where the latter is
understood to mean that ultimate explanatory principles exist objectively, i.e.,
independent of human beings; that our primary intellectual goal is to grasp those
principles; and that the secondary moral problem is to conform to the principles once
they are grasped.
2. Positively, the modern view means a turning inward in the search for
ultimate explanatory principles. Hence, the norms, both intellectual and moral, are
now alleged to be internal to us. Once the norms are construed as internal this
renders problematic both the primary intellectual goal and the secondary problem of
how to conduct ourselves. The primary intellectual goal is to confirm that what we
apprehend internally maps what is external. The secondary moral problem is also
altered. If norms are internal, then obeying internal norms implies the transformation
of the external physical world to better reflect those norms.
124 Chapter 4

The Enlightenment Project is a form of modernity. As such it seeks to

create a social technology based upon objective principles that will permit the
transformation of the world and of human beings. To the extent that the
Enlightenment Project informs analytic philosophy, analytic philosophers seek to
establish a realist epistemology and metaphysics in the service of social technology.
Analytic philosophers stress the difference between theoretical discourse
and ordinary or common discourse. In the previous chapter we saw that, rhetoric
aside, analytic philosophy is a program to replace (however problematic) those
elements of common discourse that "conflict" with science. At the same time,
analytic philosophers are committed to some kind of totalization. Hence, it is
necessary for analytic philosophers to argue either that (a) common discourse is in
principle eliminable or (b) replaceable, in time, by appeal to a theoretical hidden
structural level which it is the job of analytic philosophy to explore. Most of the
technical problems in analytic philosophy are reflections of this metaphysical agenda.

The analytic metaphysical agenda, then, has three points ofstress:

1. Is there the possibility of a coherent totalization within analytic
philosophy? [This question is the primary focus of this chapter].
2. Can analytic totalization collapse the subject (the pre-theoretical) into
the object (understood theoretically)? In short, can analytic philosophy do away
with the subject? Another way of putting this is to ask if analytic philosophy can
make sense of self-consciousness. [These questions emerge in many guises in every
chapter but most especially in the chapter on philosophical psychology].
3. Can analytic totalization succeed without covert appeal to historicism in
the form ofa naturalized but providential history? [This is another ubiquitous issue
but one of special concern in our later chapters that deal with axiological questions].

Quine as Modern Aristotelian Metaphysician

The major goal of modern Aristotelian metaphysics is to achieve totalization by
collapsing the subject into the object. Put another way, the major objective is to get
rid ofthe 'subject'. In a now famous essay, "On What There IS,"16 Quine eliminated
the concept of a subject, or more specifically he eliminated the category of subjects.
Building on Russell's theory of descriptions in which nominative phrases like "The
present King of France" were reinterpreted as predicates (there is an x, x is the
present King of France, etc.), Quine goes on to eliminate all singular terms, even
proper names! Only predication remains, so that a proper name is a unique
descriptive predicate. Instead of asking, "What particular things exist?", we must
now ask, "What things satisfy predicates with which the signs for quantified
variables are coupled?". "To be" is to be the value of a bound variable. [We note in
passing the typical Aristotelian maneuver of using logical or grammatical criteria to
identity basic entities.]
By doing away with subjects, Quine does away with essences. Essences had
traditionally been used in the Aristotelian tradition to capture the identity of subjects.
By doing away with essences, Quine cuts out the metaphysical ground from under
analytic statements. Without appeal to an essence of some sort, there is no non-
question-begging way to specify the difference between an analytic statement and a
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 125

synthetic statement. Every statement, Quine concludes, is thus synthetic in some

sense or to some degree.
One of the things for which Quine is best known is his rejection of the
distinction between so-called analytic statements or truths and so-called synthetic
statements or truths. This was first discussed in the now classic article "Two Dogmas
ofEmpiricism."17 The rejection of the distinction is intended specifically to deal with
the "Kant ian" elements in science. Quine is intent on assimilating all truths to the
synthetic. Not only does he deny that there are traditional analytic truths, but he
implicitly rejects the notion that synthetic a priori truths exist. IS
Let us keep in mind why analytic philosophy must reject the idea of Kantian
"analytic"19 statements. "Analytic" statements in the Kantian sense are statements
that, for whatever reason, are alleged to be true independent of experience. No
analytic philosopher, and no Aristotelian metaphysician, can grant the existence of
such statements. If ultimate reality is given to us in the world of everyday
experience, then all truths must in some sense be dependent upon experience; i.e.,
meaning must depend upon reference.
Further, ifthere are no such things as analytic statements, it follows that no
two statements are strictly synonymous. If no two statements are strictly
synonymous, then there is an inherent linguistic indeterminacy. One can never
specify in a definitive fashion the necessary and sufficient conditions for the meaning
of a specific statement. This linguistic indeterminacy gives rise to Quine's doctrine
of ontological relativity, namely, no statement has a meaning or specifiable truth
conditions independent of its membership in a system of statements.
We may summarize the progression to Quine's doctrine of ontological
relativity, that is the importance of membership in a system, as follows:
I. Russell's Theory of Descriptions-->
2. Quine's views on predication-->
3. Denial ofsubjects with essences-->
4. No analytic statements-->
5. No synonymy-->
6. Linguistic Indeterminacy-->
7. Ontological Relativity.
Quine expressed his ontological relativity in a now famous physicalist

Total science is like a field offorce whose boundary conditions are

experience. A conflict with experience at the periphery occasions
readjustments in the interior of the field. Truth values have to be
redistributed over some of our statements. Reevaluation of some
statements entails reevaluation of others, because of their logical
interconnections -- the logical laws being in tum certain further
statements of the system, certain further elements of the field.
Having reevaluated one statement we must reevaluate some others,
which may be statements logically connected with the first or may
be the statements of logical connections themselves. But the total
field is so underdetermined[20] by its boundary conditions,
126 Chapter 4

experience, that there is much latitude of choice as to what

statements to reevaluate in the light of any single contrary
experience. No particular experiences are linked with any
particular statements in the interior of the field, except indirectly
through considerations of equilibrium affecting the field as a
If this view is right, it is misleading to speak of the
empirical content of an individual statement -- especially if it is a
statement at all remote from the experiential periphery of the field.
Furthermore it becomes folly to seek a boundary between
synthetic statements, which hold contingently on experience, and
analytic statements, which hold come what may. Any statement
can be held true come what may, if we make drastic enough
adjustments elsewhere in the system. Even a statement very close
to the periphery can be held true in the face of recalcitrant
experience by pleading hallucination or by amending certain
statements of the kind called logical laws. Conversely, by the
same token, no statement is immune to revision. Revision even of
the logical law of the excluded middle has been proposed as a
means of simplifYing quantum mechanics; and what difference is
there in principle between such a shift and the shift whereby
Kepler superseded Ptolemy, or Einstein Newton, or Darwin

There are many important things that can be said about Quine's holism, that
is, his view that empirical truth is not a property of individual statements but a
property of their position in the whole system of statements. The unit of significance
is now to be the whole of our knowledge. First, holism is in standing opposition to
Russell's insistence that science proceeds piecemeal and that we can know individual
truths to be truths on their own, one at a time. If analytic philosophy were to be
understood simply as the insistence on the knowability of the part prior to the whole
then it could be said that after Quine there is no analytic philosophy! Such a
paradoxical conclusion ignores the important elements we have identified as
fundamental to analytic philosophy: scientism, modern Aristotelianism, and an anti-
agency view. Quine continues to subscribe to all three elements and therefore
remains squarely at the heart of analytic philosophy.22 What we are witnessing is an
attempt to deal with an important tension within analytic philosophy.
Second, it should be clear that Quine is attempting to salvage scientism in
an Aristotelian fashion by making the whole of our knowledge synthetic, i.e., testable
by reference to experience. Quine's solution solves a number of problems that have
continually plagued the modern secular Aristotelian (i.e., modern empiricist) account
of knowledge, including problems having to do with intentional discourse, modal
discourse, and discourse involving dispositionals and subjunctive conditionals. For
example, in denying the existence of essences, Quine denies the need for modal
categories. That is, by rejecting necessity, including physical necessity, he rejects
any hard and fast distinction between laws and accidental generalizations.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 127

Third, Quine's holism shows that some form of Hegelianism is inherent in

analytic metaphysics. It would seem as ifno modern Aristotelian (as opposed to a
classical Aristotelian) can avoid the Hegelian resolution. Try as they might, when
analytic philosophers attempt to solve the problems generated by their initial set of
assumptions they are inexorably driven to embrace some version of Hegel. What
still remains to be decided is what version and whether the result is palatable.
Holism, or the move toward Hegelian totalization, has always been an
implicit feature of the analytic program even when analytic philosophers are busy
denying it.2J Long ago, Mure pointed out that Russell's idea of logical analysis is
designed to reduce empirical content to some sort of membership in a logical system.
Against Russell's own intention, the bare empirical particular becomes a class
member and "particulars which are nothing but class members are themselves an
element oflogical form."24 This is reinforced by Quine's version of quantification.
Doing away with particular subjects is also perfectly compatible with their being one
all-inclusive subject, namely the' system as a whole (Bradley's argument for
Hegelianism!). Not surprisingly, Quine's holism was already suggested by Carnap
in 1934 in Logical Syntax of Language. In Carnap's version, an empirical "test
applies, at bottom, not to a single hypothesis but to the whole system of physics as
a system of hypotheses (Poincare, Duhem)."25 No statement, for Camap, is anything
but provisional, "laid down with the reservation that they may be altered as soon as
it seems expedient to do SO."26 Even in the case of mathematical rules, Carnap
agreed that "there are only differences in degree; certain rules are more difficult to
renounce than others."z7
The implicit holism can also be seen in the way that the issue of negation
is handled by Quine. Quine's version of quantification not only is designed to
eliminate subjects but it leads to a redefinition of negation.
Quantification is a form of affirmation about concepts (predication).
Concepts do not have contraries. How then are we to understand negation?
Negation, according to Quine, is the denial of existence when it occurs together with
a quantifier. What this does is to rob negation of substantial meaning by denying that
negation is a predicate. Negation cannot be a predicate because existence is not,
according to Quine, a predicate. "What is" has no contrary as can be seen by the fact
that the copula is interpreted as the bearer of existence (as well as identity and
predication). By making negation a formal feature instead of a substantial one, we
are left only with affirmation, a totalizing affirmation. "To exist" is to be part of a
system. With total knowledge, negation would disappear. Once more we confront
shades of Hegel.
There are two consequences to the elimination of negation under holism.
First, it becomes unclear what affirmation means or how it would be possible in the
absence of negation. Second, and this is another way of making the same point, by
subscribing to the view that there is no opposite to being, this kind of holism denies
the possibility of a pre-theoretical or pre-conceptual context. Ifthere seems to be a
pre-theoretical domain, then it is a kind of illusion or temporary phase that will be
eliminated or superseded by total knowledge.
We can now begin to appreciate how Quine's various positions, quite
impressively, are all of a piece. The serious commitment to scientism is a
128 Chapter 4

commitment to totalization, to denying that there are substantially different kinds of

statements, like analytic and synthetic, or fundamentally different levels of discourse.
But ifthere are no fundamentally different kinds of discourse then there can be no
real distinction between science and philosophy. If there is no real distinction
between science and philosophy, then philosophical statements are exploratory
hypotheses. So the question, for example, "Are there universals?", is a kind of
existential question, and the answers are all hypotheses to be confirmed or
The notion that rival hypotheses are to be confirmed or disconfirmed
reflects the modern Aristotelian (empiricist) commitment. However, if rival
philosophical positions were alternative conceptual schemes then there would seem
to be no Archimedean point for judging them. Quine must here confront the
relativism of Kuhn and Feyerabend. In order to avoid this relativism one would have
to argue, as Quine's disciple Donald Davidson has, that there cannot be rival
conceptual schemes only alternative accounts of a common conceptual scheme. The
common conceptual scheme, for Quine, cannot be construed as one which itself
defies definitive conceptualization28 or totalization (as in the later Wittgenstein); nor
can the common conceptual scheme be understood as a Platonic ideal mirrored
imperfectly by our rival systems. There is and must be a total and final correct
accounting. In the final accounting, the alternative philosophies, if they were ever
at all meaningful, must all be seen as varying approximations to the truth, and that
is Hegel again! In short, the commitment to scientism and to Aristotelianism lead
either to denying the meaning of philosophy or to embracing a version of Hegel. 29

Kripke as Modern Aristotelian Metaphysician

As we have seen in previous chapters, the eliminative phase of analytic philosophy
(now known as logical positivism) failed. What succeeded it was the movement
toward exploration. Difficulties discovered in the eliminative phase drove analytic
philosophers to a more self-conscious recognition of their metaphysics.
The two most general features of the eliminative (positivist) phase are
closely related. First, in the philosophy of science, analytic philosophers came
increasingly to recognize a priori (i.e., conventional, pre-theoretical, or pragmatic)
elements in scientific theorizing. Second, in the aftermath of the failure of logicism,
analytic philosophers came to recognize the role of semantic constructs in our
understanding even of syntactical notions. In general, what we see is the gradual
acceptance of a 'Kantian Turn' and a retreat from naive empiricism. Short of
abandoning the fundamental commitment to Aristotelian metaphysics, what can we
expect analytic philosophers to do? It is stilI necessary to achieve totalization if
scientism is to be maintained, but now it is more problematic as to how we are going
to collapse the pre-theoretical (subject) into the theoretical (object).
Let us formulate the problem of relating the pre-theoretical to the theoretical
by distinguishing two kinds of talk.
Talk J is what science says about the world.
Talk2 is what analytic philosophers say about science.
That is, Talk2 is about Talk J• What, we may ask now, is the status of Talk 2? Analytic
philosophy is committed to totalization (via scientism) and to the thesis that Talk2 is
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 129

just like Talk1 (via Aristotelianism). If Talk2 is just like Talk1 ,then one of two
general possibilities exists: either Talk2 is in some sense eliminable, or Talk2 has to
be reinterpreted as a special form ofTalk 1. Quine accomplished this by collapsing
the distinction between analytic and synthetic truths and embracing a form of holism.
Not everyone is happy with Quine's approach to Talk2. An alternative way
of trying to deal with Talk 2, while at the same time showing that it is a version of
Talk 1, emerged with the development of modal logic. Instead of eliminating Talk2
altogether, as the positivists proposed, and instead of ignoring it with the help of
promissory notes about the future development of science (as Quine proposes), the
following two part hypothesis is introduced and explored:
a. Talk2 itself has a hidden formal structure, and
b. Talk2's hidden formal structure can be seen as a kind of Talk 1 ,by
introducing a new theory of reference. That is, realism is now treated as an
exploratory hypothesis.
This hypothesis is to be explored through the use of modal logic. Modal
logic, in its present form, was developed by C.1. Lewis, in 1918, because of Lewis'
dissatisfaction with Russell's notion of material implication. C.l. Lewis (not to be
confused with David Lewis) felt that our intuitive conception of implication was
meaningful but not captured by Russell's analysis. In the 1940s, Lewis' student,
Ruth Barcan Marcus, extended Lewis' work to the predicate calculus and to
quantification theory. By the 1950s, modal logic was being used to explore
chronological, deontic, and epistemic discourse. The most important developments
came in the 1960s with the development of modal theoretic semantics by Kanger,
Hintikka, and Kripke and their use to explain intensional discourse.
The key concept in modal logic is the quantifier. Back in 1879, Frege had
introduced the quantifier in order to represent arguments in mathematics. Instead of
distinguishing between a subject and a predicate,3° Frege distinguished between a
function and an argument. This accomplished two things. First, quantification could
deal with relations; second, it could deal with higher level functions. The quantifier
is a concept which applies to other concepts and is thus itself a second or higher level
According to Quine's so-called objectual interpretation of the quantifier, to
quantify is to presuppose the existence of the objects in the domain over which one
quantifies. As we have seen, for Quine, variables involve ontological commitment.
The variables acquire this capacity because of the elimination of singular terms. This
effectively precludes second order quantification because second order concepts are
intensional and not names. We cannot state identity conditions for intensional
notions in a clear (i.e., Aristotelian-empiricist) way. Objects can be named and
characterized by a structureless expression, says Quine, but properties cannot be
specified without reference to "our"31 mode of characterizing them.
According to Marcus, Kripke, et al., and in opposition to Quine, we can
employ what is called a substitutional interpretation of the quantifier. 32 This
interpretation permits the use of logical apparatus to roam over non-denoting singular
terms, expressions of other syntactic categories, and modal predicate logic. The issue
raised by modal predicate logic is the metaphysical status of the roaming. What
exactly is modal predicate logic talking about? If there is no extensional grounding,
130 Chapter 4

how do we know that modal predicate logic is an adequate exploration of our

intensional discourse? This question is made more acute by the existence of
alternative modal logics depending on how modal semanticists interpret words like
"necessary" or "possible".
Now we are in a position to appreciate the importance of the second part of
the hypothesis introducing a new theory of reference. Without a new theory of
reference, modal predicate logic would be an unanchored exploration, as Quine
steadfastly accuses it of being. Saul Kripke attempted to provide the new theory of
reference. If successful, Kripke would achieve a highly symbolic victory not only
over Quine and those analytic philosophers who stop short of dealing with semantics
but most especially over all of those critics of analytic philosophy who persistently
dwell on analytic philosophy's inability to deal with Talkz, the semantic level of
discourse, and then go on to claim that this inability in particular signifies the failure
of the entire analytic program.
What Kripke attempts to do in his theory of reference is to provide an
exploratory account of the hidden structure in nature that gives rise to our most
theoretical modeling ofthe world It is a way of trying to solve the central problem
ofmodern Aristotelian metaphysics ofproviding a natural-physical grounding ofour
conceptual system. It is a model ofmodeling. 33
Kripke returns to Quine's contention that second order quantification is
unacceptable. Quine maintained this, the reader should recall, because Quine thinks
that variables involve ontological commitment. The variables acquire this function
because singular terms (e.g., proper names) were eliminated in favor of definite
descriptions. What Kripke does is to insist on a difference between proper names
and definite descriptions. If there is a difference, then this will restore the
ontological and epistemological importance ofproper names (singular terms) and
the traditional Aristotelian subject.
Kripke is not retaining the common sense grammatical subject, rather he
begins with the common sense subject and then speculates on the hidden structure
behind it. The hidden structure will be given in Kripke's causal account of naming.
This is an exploration, not an elimination, and in that sense it starts off from common
sense but is not required to retain all of its features. Kripke is not a reductivist or
behaviorist like Quine, but neither is Kripke an opponent of scientism. 34 Although
Kripke restores the formal importance of the subject, he also reinterprets it so as to
do away with it in its common sense form. Kripke thus continues the modem
Aristotelian metaphysical agenda of getting rid of the subject.
In his seminal article, "Naming and Necessity" (1972), Kripke objected to
the view that proper names need to have associated with them specific criteria or
definite descriptions in order for a given object to be recognized as the referent of the
name. Instead, Kripke distinguishes between proper names and definite descriptions.
A proper name is a rigid designator, one that refers to the same object in every
possible world in which that object exists. How do we know when a name is a rigid
designator? Kripke's answer is that the details of its origin furnish every object with
a set of necessary properties or essence. This origin is construed as a causal process.
A causal theory of naming claims that the object named is the meaning and that the
effects of the object (under normal or clear conditions) are what gives it its meaning.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 131

Keep in mind that exploration is intended, ultimately, to modify our ordinary

understanding, which is pre-theoretical, by showing it to be a reflection of a hidden
structure of the Talk J variety.
Necessity has, by this argument, been shown to be a property of things and
not a feature of discourse. "Necessity" is an important semantic concept which has
in a special sense been located in reality and not merely in discourse. This directly
contravenes Quine's position that necessity is in our speech (de dicto) and not in
things (de re), and it contravenes Quine's contention that Talk2 is ultimately
In our earlier chapters we maintained that 'necessity' was considered an
important feature of scientific explanations by those who argued for the superiority
of scientific explanations over other kinds of explanation. Quine and some other
analytic philosophers are willing to forego the claim to 'necessity' in order to
mitigate some epistemological and metaphysical difficulties. Other analytic
philosophers are not willing to surrender 'necessity'.
Before discussing the merits of Kripke's approach, something should be
said of its metaphysical pedigree. The appeal to elements of traditional Aristotelian
metaphysics should come as no surprise in the light of the persistent claim that we
have made in this book that analytic philosophy is a modern form of Aristotelianism.
Moreover, some kind of essentialism would seem to be implicit in any view that aims
at total conceptualization. Not only must that conceptualization account for
"Everything," it must also account for why we have one particular version of
"Everything" as opposed to other potential versions of "Everything." Most
important, the causal process which generates necessity or essence appeals to the
traditional Aristotelian identity of efficient and formal causes. That is, this alleged
identity of efficient and formal causes guarantees that our thinking gives us a direct
grasp on the world so that proper names have a denotation but do not have a
connotation or sense (i.e., a meaning).
Given this metaphysical pedigree, where do we go from here? There are
two implications. First, Kripke's move toward essentialism may have moral, social,
and political consequences. It encourages the view that either human beings or social
institutions have essences or built-in-ends. This is an issue that will be pursued in
our discussion of analytic social and political philosophy. Second, if modal logic is
to be extended to the whole range of semantic concepts hitherto ignored, then it
would have to be extended to tense and mood. When modality is combined with
tense we seem to be committed to temporal determinism. This was already apparent
in Spinoza. However, a temporal determinism combined with essentialism is
tantamount to historical teleology. That is, once we add final cause to the identity
of formal and efficient causes, and once we apply this to historical time, we have
arrived at Spinoza's successor, namely Hegel! In short, once more we have arrived
at some form of Hegelianism as the terminus of analytic philosophy's implicit
Having outline Kripke's views and having briefly discussed its metaphysical
pedigree and implications, we must now raise the question of how successful his new
theory of reference has been. There are three serious shortcomings to Kripke's
theory of reference. First, neither Kripke nor anyone else has ever explained the
132 Chapter 4

causal process by which proper names acquire necessary properties. This failure is
an instance of the fact that since Aristotle himself no one in that long epistemological
tradition has ever been able to explain exactly how we "abstract" form from matter
in our experience. As we shall see in the next chapter, analytic epistemology is part
of this continuing historical failure.
Second, Quine's misgivings that attempting to formalize Talk2 obfuscates
what exactly we are quantifying over (which, in analytic jargon, is the problem of the
transworid identity of possible individuals) seems justified. There is no
epistemologically independent way of specifying what modal locutions are about
which does not at another level presuppose the very semantic concepts it attempts to
explain. In short, the inability to ground these explorations makes them subject to
the objection we raised against exploration at the end of the previous chapter. What
we are given are explorations without criteria for judging when the explorations are
confirmed. It will do no good to tell us that there are further alternatives to Kripke's
views 35 because each and everyone of these alternatives is also an exploration
without criteria. The only way out of this impasse is to grasp at Hegel.

... but we do not know what it would mean for Nature to feel that
our conventions of representations are becoming more like her
own, and thus that she is nowadays being represented more
adequately than in the past. Or, rather, we can make sense of this
on)y if we go all the way with the Absolute Idealists, and grant
that epistemological realism must be based on personalistic
pantheism. 36

The third criticism to be made of any analytic exploration, including modal

logic, is that it fails to capture our common sense understanding and leaves us with
no way of deciding when common sense is to be overruled or modified. Analytic
philosophers such as Kripke begin by exploring our common sense intuitions and
then attempt to structure them by appeal to a variety of criteria (unity, coherence,
etc.). The question is whether these criteria themselves are part of our common sense
intuitions. If they are not, then what we still have is elimination. Moreover, what are
the norms, intellectual or pragmatic, to which we can justifiably appeal when we
eliminate or replace whatever it is in our common sense intuitions that resists
inclusion in the exploration? Is it the common sense that is wrong or is it the
exploration that fails to capture what we are about? Only those already committed
to scientism would think that rigorous formalistic constraints are intrinsically
valuable or bearers of their own truth. They render the entire enterprise of
exploration question-begging.

Self-Reference as the Achilles Heel of Analytic Metaphysics

The key to understanding the failures of analytic metaphysics is its inability to deal
with self-reference. Self-reference did not seem to loom as such a serious problem
in the eliminative phase of analytic philosophy, but elimination failed. Self-reference
then emerged as a serious problem for exploration, especially when we began to
confront explorations without criteria for choosing among them. However, a brief
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 133

look backward will show that self-reference has always been lurking as a problem
in analytic metaphysics. Remarkably, the failures of Quine and Kripke were
foreshadowed in the previous analytic tradition.
In the discussion of logicism, we mentioned Russell's paradoxes. Those
paradoxes ostensively dealt with whether a class could be a member of itself. It is
our contention that those paradoxes deal with whether a system can talk about itself,
i.e., whether we can have Talk2 at all. Russell understood what the implications of
Hegel's system were, and Russell's own program was a deliberate attempt to avoid
those implications. Russell's ramified theory of types ruled out the application of a
property to itself. Here was established the prototype of how analytic philosophy
attempts to deal with self-reference. Instead of dealing with the "whole", analytic
philosophy attempts to interpret all problems as analyzable into smaller units. This,
after all, is what 'analysis' means. That is, the "whole" is construed as merely the
sum a/its parts. Analytic philosophers establish a series oflevels in which each level
can speak about the level below it. Hence, self-reference is treated as a relative
technical problem of the relation between higher and lower levels.
There is a serious question that can be raised about splitting the whole up
into a series of levels. How many levels are there? It would seem that we would
need an infinite number in order to prevent the issue of self-reference from emerging
in a fashion that could not be dealt with in this way. Can we really make sense of an
infinite number of levels of conceptualization? In the drive toward total
conceptualization that is explicit in scientism, we must be able to conceptualize the
existence of a potentially infinite number of levels. Where would we be standing
when we say that there are an infinite number of levels? Is this itself another level?
Is this new level outside of or different from the other levels? Failure to answer or
to deal with these questions threatens the intelligibility as well as the total
conceptualization of analytic metaphysics.
Russell's multiple levels approach was deemed inadequate almost from its
inception because although it blocked some paradoxes it could not block all of them.
Russell's approach could not block paradoxes such as the Epimenides or Liar
Paradox. Specifically, what Russell's approach could not block were semantic
paradoxes that involved concepts dealing with meaning and truth. Alfred Tarski's
celebrated "Semantic Conception of Truth" (1931) attempted to solve the Liar
Paradox again through the use of multiple levels. It is not simply a matter of
overcoming a logical paradox. It is a matter of trying to overcome a serious barrier
to self-reference and to semantic theorizing in general. Moreover, it is a matter of
overcoming it in a way that is consistent with both scientism and Aristotelian realism.
Tarski's semantic conception of truth seemed to do all of these things. Critics,
however, continued to find new ways of reconstituting the paradox. 3?
The Liar Paradox, or the Epimenides Paradox as it is sometimes called, is
one more example of the problem of self-reference. It can be represented in the
following statement:
(SI) "This sentence is false."
We next proceed to raise the question: Is (SI) true? If it is true, then it is false; and
if it is false, then it is true.
134 Chapter 4

According to Tarski's treatment, the word 'true' is to be understood as (1)

an adjective (2) that applies to or modifies sentences in a language (L), but (3) from
the perspective of a meta-language (ML). Tarski then goes on to generalize his
results to argue that all semantic terms occur only in a meta-language, not in the
language to which they apply. Self-reference ceases to be paradoxical because it is
treated as part of the potentially infinite series or hierarchy of meta-languages. Truth
is now to be understood to be a property of expressions rather than a relation between
expressions and objects. At the same time, Tarski's semantic conception of truth
maintains its ties with the correspondence theory38 ofthe Aristotelian epistemological
tradition through the use of the concept of satisfaction. 'Satisfaction' performs the
function of denotation or relating the open sentences (i.e., sentences with a free
variable) of a language to objects. "For every sentential function x, x is a true
sentence if and only if x is a sentence and for every sequence of classes f, f satisfies
Tarski does not actually establish what 'satisfaction' is, rather his discussion
takes for granted the prior judgments about truth in the language under study. This
use is, however, carefully tailored to avoid semantic primitives that would conflict
either with the unity of science or of the supposed truth of physicalism.
The two obvious criticisms of Tarski's treatment are (1) that the use of the
concept of 'satisfaction' merely evades and postpones the problem of how language
and thought relate to reality, and (2) that the language in which Tarski himself works
when he formulates the semantic concept of truth is a super-meta meta-language.
Consequently, there is always going to be some background language or framework
in which 'truth' and other semantic constructions remain undefined and
The objection to having an unanalyzed background language if one is going
to remain an analytic philosopher is that it blocks a satisfactory solution to the issue
of totalization in general and self-reference in particular. Analytic philosophers can
evade the paradoxes of self-reference on anyone level but only at the cost of being
unable to account for their own work on some other level or for the system as a
whole. Put another way, the existence of an infinite number of levels seems to be a
fact that transcends all of these levels. Hence, while analytic philosophers use this
super level, they are unable to explain or to justify it. 39
Additional light can be shed on this problem of self-reference by examining
GOdel's proof. G6del's proofis significant for a number of reasons, not the least of
which is that it calls attention to the problem of self-reference. GOdel's
incompleteness theorem destroyed forever the dream of logicism by showing that it
is impossible to derive even elementary arithmetic from any consistent set of axioms.
Mathematics cannot be formalized (and therefore not totalized) because any
mathematical system which includes elementary arithmetic will have unprovable
statements. Echoing points already implicit in Cantor's theory of sets, GOdel showed
that in any classification there are going to be more classes than things to be
classified. The reason for this is the ever present possibility of self-reference. No
system of classes can contain itself. Given this circumstance, it is not at all surprising
that only the first order predicate calculus has a decision procedure. At every
subsequent level the issue of self-reference arises.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 135

More precisely, what GOdel tried to do, and then showed could not be done,
was to define the axioms of arithmetic by use of internal rules. This enterprise bears
a distinct analogy to Wittgenstein's Tractatus. But the project is according to Godel
hopeless. What we would need would be a set of internal relations (Hegel, again!).
Russell's paradoxes, Wittgenstein's Tractatus, the intuitionist critique of the concept
of the 'infinite', and GOdel's proof all exhibit the problem of self-reference.
Being a serious Platonist, GOdel saw the significance of his own proof as
showing the illegitimacy of certain kinds of totalization, not just Hegel's but analytic
philosophy's as wel1. 40 According to Godel, there are pre-theoretical principles
governing all rational activity such that these principles cannot be definitively
articulated. We are not to confuse these principles with invariant meta-rules that are
difficult to state (contra Chomsky, Fodor, Kripke, etc.). Rather, these principles
place limits on self-understanding. There is a clear conflict between our intuitions
of the non-finite character of mathematics and Quine's holism or any totalization in
analytic philosophy.41
The problem of self-reference, and its relation to the issue of infinity, can
be expressed as follows. 42 There is a difference between an infinite number offacts
and an infinite fact. Analytic philosophers attempt to treat semantic categories in
particular and Talk1 in general as if they are dealing with facts in the same manner
as Talk l . Talk2 , that is talk about factual talk, is construed as just another kind of
factual talk. Syntax is seen as a second order physical property; or semantics as
supervenient on syntax. However, any statement about the whole or the entirety of
an infinite number of facts, which includes our recognition of that whole and
accounts for our recognition of the whole at the same time, is an infinite fact or a fact
about the infinite. It is not an infinite number of facts. By its commitment to
totalization, analytic philosophy must deal with this infinite fact, but it persistently
misconstrues this as an issue of an infinite hierarchy or number of facts. The
confusion between the two is analogous to the fallacy of composition, i.e., a
confusion of the properties of the parts with the properties of the whole 43
Part of the reason for the confusion is that analytic philosophy has been
unable to collapse the subject (mind) into the object (body), and hence any attempt
it makes to capture the awareness of the totality, i.e., to capture the subject's part in
all of this, fails. The problem of self-consciousness is a version of the problem of
self-·reference. Analytic philosophy can only construe such awareness as itself an
object. But if awareness were an object then there would have to be another subject
aware of that awareness. So to the infinite fact is added another "fact."
Unfortunately, the added "fact" belies the existence of the original infinite fact which
was supposed to be all encompassing.
Analytic philosophers who recognize this problem are apt to respond that
there is nothing viciously circular about the appeal to meta-levels. They are certainly
correct in that there is nothing viciously circular about it. But what is at issue is not
the consistency of the appeal to meta-levels, but whether such an appeal is coherent.
To use meta-levels is to respond to every challenged analytic exploration by appeal
to yet another exploration. However, there is no way of judging either the
correctness of particular explorations or the very intelligibility of an endless series
of explorations, or an exploration about the endless series of explorations.
136 Chapter 4

Quine's attempt to avoid the self-reference issue which arises with Talk2
leads to the colJapsing of the analytic-synthetic distinction. Once we eliminate
analytic statements in general, Talk2 statements in particular never arise. Quine
concludes from this that everything is packed into one-big synthetic statement. But
further development ofthat dire remedy leads to a double relativism in which "both
our understanding of the world and our understanding of that understanding are
equally underdetermined" [italics added}. ~~ If everything is underdetermined, then
how do we distinguish between a world in which analytic statements are absorbed
into synthetic statements and a world in which synthetic statements are absorbed into
analytic ones? What would the latter world be like? It would be a world with
competing explorations among which we have no way of rationally choosing. This
is Quine's world. Despite his objections to modal semanticists, Quine's world is
indistinguishable from theirs.
What will it be like if Quine's view of the final fruition of science actually
comes about? What would it be like to know all true and meaningful sentences?
Wouldn't this have to include not only a knowledge of all true sentences but the
additional true sentences of our reaction to knowing all true sentences? Would the
latter kind of true sentences be like the former kind of true sentences? Most certainly
this would be different from the present state of both believing that we know some
true sentences and trying to discover the rest. What, if anything, would be the
function of an exploratory hypothesis if all of the facts are known? Perhaps we
would not need exploratory hypotheses. If so, then the state of total know ledge is a
completely different kind of state of knowledge from one in which theories are
instruments for discovery and use. Moreover, if the two states are different, then we
cannot use the present state of underdetermined understanding as a model for talking
about the total state. If Quine's views are at all intelligible they certainly fail to be
coherent in any obvious philosophical sense. What we end with in Quine is a silence
about the really fundamental metaphysical questions.
We can locate the failure of Quine's and Kripke's metaphysical programs
by referring back to the Hegelian Argument above. Quine and those analytic
philosophers who subscribe to elimination stop at step (2). They are willing to move
to holism and they embrace, implicitly, a teleological view of progress in science.
But, Quinean holism remains unintelligible because it cannot make sense of self-
reference; and, it cannot make sense of self-reference because it has discarded the
subject. Quineans refuse to talk about talk about the world, that is, they refuse to
discuss the status of what we have called Talk2.
Other analytic philosophers do attempt to discuss step (3), notably the neo-
Carnapians, like Kripke, who subscribe to exploration. However, from the point of
view of the Hegelian argument, Kripkefails to understand step (4), that is Kripke's
attempt to provide a new theory of reference is an attempt to establish (3) by a kind
of correspondence theory of truth. He expected to do this by reconsideration of the
movement from step (I) to step (2) in his theory of reference. In this special sense,
Kripke's metaphysics is retrogressive.
To put the Hegelian point succinctly: there cannot be a definitive
exploratory model of modeling because there is no way to choose among such super-
models. However, if the alternative super-models were stages in an historical
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 137

development toward one all-inclusive super-super model then our problem would be
solved. Without the essentialist-historicist thesis and the reduction of objects to a
super-subject a la Hegel this cannot be done. The rhetoric of scientific progress, in
the meantime, serves as a kind of rhetorical mask for the inability to deal with this.
In Chapter Six we shall see a shift in the vocabulary of analytic philosophy
from the use of psychological and mathematical metaphors to linguistic metaphors.
We suggest that this shift can be explained as an attempt to circumvent the issue of
self-reference and to blunt the impact of GOdel' s proof. Although admitting GOdel
to be in principle correct about mathematics, it will be presumed without argument
that mathematics is just part of or an extension of language in general. One might,
if one were an analytic philosopher averse to Quine's particular solution, still hold
out for a total formalization of language (i.e., conceptualizing the pre-theoretical) in
the way that the later Carnap, Montague, and Kripke try. A syntax for modal logic
requires a language which can talk about itself, at the very least by naming its own
expressions. Self-reference then is a key element of any attempt to make Talk2 a
formalized version of Talk\. Construing Talk2 as a version of Talk\ is an attempt to
achieve total conceptualization by showing that the pre-theoretical (subject) can be
absorbed into the theoretical (object). Having to achieve total conceptualization in
this way was necessitated by the transition from elimination to exploration in analytic
philosophy, and this transition was necessitated by the failure of positivist
However, we note that the very notion of formalization is itself borrowed
from mathematics, and if mathematics cannot be formalized, what reason is there to
believe that formalization can be applied or extended to language as a whole? The
recent popularity of cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence can be seen as
the search for some alternative scientific model. Are there non-mathematical notions
of formalization? What would they be like, and are they compatible with the rest of
analytic phiiosophy?4S
To engage in philosophy at all one must subscribe to the view that
everything is in principle intelligible. This is perfectly compatible with their being
conflicting views of what constitutes intelligibility and substantive alternative
accounts. What this is not compatible with is an ultimate explanation that does not
explain itself. One cannot complain that this is an open question, namely whether
ultimate explanations must explain themselves, for in order to debate this point one
would have to assume an ultimate framework of intelligibility. To give a complete
and coherent account of everything means accounting for one's own account as part
of the picture, to indicate what a total picture would in principle be like. To the
extent that analytic philosophy misses this intellectual demand it fails to be
philosophical at all. To the extent that analytic metaphysics fails to do this it is
engaged in an evasion of intellectual responsibility.46 Claims that one's personal
analytic research program has more limited goals are not expressions of intellectual
modesty but a failure to think the program through. Limiting metaphysics to
ontology, for example, is just such an evasion. If scientism is supposed to be true,
then it must explain itself.47 The problem is that it does not and never has. The
inability or unwillingness to grasp this point is precisely what we mean by the loss
ofphiiosophical consciousness.
138 Chapter 4

It is important to distinguish between inconsistency and incoherence.

Inconsistency is a logical notion and is exemplified by the existence of two
individual statements both of which cannot be true at the same time. Analytic
philosophers are
concerned about inconsistency, but this concern is a concern for how individual parts
interact with each other. It is not a concern for how individual parts fit into a whole.
Incoherence is a much wider notion. It has both a logical and a natural
meaning. Logically speaking, a statement or position is incoherent if it does not fit
into the system understood as a whole. The metaphysics of analytic philosophy is
incoherent because it cannot be stated in analytic terms in a way that permits it to be
measured against the whole. This is due to the fact that analytic philosophers either
do not state what the whole is, cannot state what the whole is, or for any number of
reasons evade stating what the whole is.
From a natural point of view, actions can be incoherent as well as
statements. As a set of practices or actions, analytic philosophy is incoherent. It is
incoherent because it is incapable of stating how a certain part of its actions fit into
a larger whole. For example, analytic philosophers take specific hypotheses
seriously but they refuse to investigate why they take these hypotheses seriously.
Stock rhetorical flourishes are introduced such as saying that "the origin of a
hypothesis is irrelevant to its validity." Hypotheses are thus treated as isolable units.
Often, it is claimed that the question of why these hypotheses or stances are taken is
the subject matter of social science not philosophy. However, before social science
can investigate these stances it must model itself after physical science. Ifwe then
raise the question of why the social sciences must model themselves after the
physical sciences, we are told that physical science is the paradigm of truth. If we
then inquire on what basis physical science is alleged to be the paradigm oftruth(i.e.,
scient ism), no answer can be forthcoming.
It will not do to say that science best epitomizes what we mean or
traditionally have meant by a good explanation, so that the demands oftotalization
may be safely ignored. To begin with, this view is historically false. Second, this
view presupposes that traditional standards are somehow inherently correct.
Unfortunately, this presupposition is in conflict with the whole point of scientism,
which, since the time of the Enlightenment, has been to dispose of tradition and
replace it with something else. The only way of reconciling the appeal to tradition
with the claims that current science best captures what the tradition was aiming at is
to embrace an historical teleology embodying a final synthesis, and that is Hegel
It will also not do to say that unexplained explainers at the end of a regress
of explanations imply no ultimate absurdity. To be sure it is not absurd. But it is still
philosophically incomplete and intellectually evasive. Unexplained explainers may
meet the norms, or perhaps not violate the norms, of rationality in science, but they
certainly do not meet the norms of rationality in philosophy. To substitute the nonns
of science for the norms of philosophy begs the fundamental point with which we
started. In order to evaluate the claims of the meaning and utility of scientific
discourse we must translate that discourse back into the terms of prescientific
discourse and experience, which is both its genesis and arbiter. Analytic thinkers use
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 139

or assume exploration as a way of thinking because they think it is "scientific," but

this merely reinforces our claim that the entire discussion for many ofthem is guided
by a commitment to scientism that is never explained or justified. Even when
analytic philosophers concede the 'Kantian Tum' and admit that background and
context serve as the genesis of explorations, still, in their practice they develop
abstract models that do not spell out their own contextual grounding. There is an
implicit assumption that background is just background, not internally part of the
exploration, and ultimately a ladder to be thrown away.
In desperation one might be led to distinguish between different or
competing views of philosophy and what is required by each. This distinction would
then require that there be a meta-philosophical level at which we try to understand
these differences. What would we use as an adjudicatory framework? The claim that
competing conceptions of philosophy are so many different explorations is once
more a q)Jestion-begging reflection of the analytic construal of issues. Unfortunately,
as we have seen, there is no way of choosing between competing explorations
without criteria. This resolution has resulted in a fragmentation of the discipline in
which it no longer becomes necessary to speak to anyone except the people with
whom one already agrees.
Analytic metaphysics has been shown so far to be guilty of one or more of
three counts. First, it is evasive; second, it has a tendency to become historicist;
third, when fully self-conscious, it leads back to Hege1. 48 All three of these points
can be seen in Goodman,49 Putnam;O and in Robert Nozick's Philosophical
Explanations. 51

The Hegelian Moment in Analytic Metaphysics

Analytic philosophy began with Russell's rejection of Hegel's metaphysics. What
was inaugurated was a realist, foundationalist, anti-psycho logistic enterprise. This
enterprise has failed to achieve its goals, and we are now in a period of reassessment.
Robert Nozick's Philosophical Explanations is the clearest example of that
reassessment and the clearest example of a return to idealism. The return to idealism,
here understood as the belief that to be real is to be a member of a rational system,
where members are only understood when the system as a whole is understood, is
signaled by Nozick's conception of a self-subsuming explanation.
The Hegelian background to analytic philosophy can be expressed in terms
of three intertwined themes. (1) There seems to be a gap between how we
understand ourselves (self-consciousness) and how we understand the world, a gap
accentuated by scientistic, reductive attempts to subsume the former under the latter.
(2) It does not seem possible to reconcile science as the study of a non-teleological,
fixed, lifeless external structure with the human striving for value. (3) The attempt
to construe the logic of explanation in purely formal (mathematical) terms
independent of the subject who does the explaining renders meaning unintelligible.
Nozick's task is expressed in terms of(3), but it is also motivated by (1) and
(2). This is the whole point behind the desire to replace argument by explanation.
Some expressions of that motivation are the following.
140 Chapter 4

It is ironic that one of the most glorious achievements of the

modem mind, science, seems to leave no room for its own glory;
that the reduced image of man toward which it seems inexorably
to lead -- a mean and pitiable plaything of forces beyond his
control -- seems to leave no room even for the creators, and the
creation, of science itself. 52... [T]hose who deny value sometimes
see as itself valuable their tough-mindedness in refusing to
succumb to (what they view as) the illusion of value, this comfort
is not legitimately available to them.53

Just as Hegel developed a dialectical logic to overcome the dualism of

thinking and being, so Nozick develops an organic as opposed to a mechanical
paradigm of logic in the form of self-referentiality and self-subsumption. But
whereas Hegel solved the first problem, the gap, by reconceiving the phenomenal
world as the self-presentation of the noumenal world, Nozick is content with a mere
formal analogy between self-consciousness and the world in terms of self-subsuming
explanations. By arguing for the analogy between reality and self-articulating
reason, Nozick's enterprise is Hegelian but with a refosal to follow it through to the
Absolute Spirit.
There are two specific metaphysical issues upon which Nozick focuses. The
first is the identity of the self. The second is the question: "Why is there something
rather than nothing?"
According to Nozick, the self is an entity with the essential "capacity for
reflexive self-reference," somewhat analogous to Fichte's notion of self-positing. 54
The self is created by a primordial act of self-reference which is also a decision about
what to be. This primordial act is self-reflexive (when seen from the inside) and
refers to itself at the same time. "The self which is reflexively referred to is
synthesized in that very act of reflexive self-reference,"55 and it is also described as
a "reflexive act of craftsmanship."56 This conception of the self satisfies the original
impulse to engage in philosophy, which, according to Nozick, is to explain how we
are valuable. 57
The foregoing account of how reflexive self-knowledge is possible now
becomes a paradigm of all explanation. 58 It is a self-subsuming explanation in that
it both refers to itself and justifies itself.

Self-subsumption is a way a principle turns back on itself, yields

itself, applies to itself, and refers to itself. If the principle
necessarily has the features it speaks of, then it necessarily will
apply to itself. This mode of self-reference, whereby something
refers to itself in all possible worlds where it refers, is like the
Gtidelian kind ofthe previous chapter. There we also discussed an
even more restrictive mode of self-referring, reflexive self-
referring. Can the fundamental explanatory principle(s) be not
merely self-subsuming and necessarily self-applying, but also
reflexively self-referring?59
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 141

Nozick treats the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?",
as an issue of explanation. Philosophy is an attempt to explain everything. But as
we all know, the attempt to push explanation to its outer limits seems to present us
with the following paradox:

Explanatory self-subsumption, I admit, appears quite weird -- a

feat of legerdemain. When we reach the ultimate and most
fundamental explanatory laws, however, there are few
possibilities. Either there is an infinite chain of different laws and
theories, each explaining the next, or there is a finite chain. If a
finite chain,. .. the endmost laws are unexplainable facts or
necessary truths or the only laws there can be ifthere are laws of
a certain sort at all (the fact that there are laws of that sort is
classified under one of the other possibilities) - or the endmost
laws are self-subsuming.60

Given the traditional and seemingly intractable problem of justifying first principles
within a deductive explanation (and given, we might add, the inability of analytic
philosophers to anchor science in experience without appeal to other unanchored
explanatory principles as we saw in Chapter Two), we are brought back to self-
subsumption as the only way out. What we need, according to Nozick, is a
fundamental explanation of the totality of reality in which that explanation loops
back onto itself without circularity and without an unexplained residue of brute fact.
Nozick does not claim that all self-subsuming statements are true or
acceptable proofs. Being self-subsuming is a purely formal characterization. Nor
does Nozick deny the possibility of a multiplicity of alternative self-subsuming

Still, won't there be many different equally coherent and unified

worlds? If each is equally in accord with a principle of organic
unity, why then does one hold rather than another? (This question
parallels the familiar one put to coherence theories of truth) ....
I see no reason to think there is only one self-subsuming organic
unity principle capable of generating other facts within a structure
of high organic unity undistinguishable in fundamentalness; so the
question would remain of why one particular one holds, baring a
reflexive account. 61

One obvious solution ofNozick's problem of a plurality of self-subsuming

explanations is to suggest that all of the alternative explanations are themselves
moments within one great organic unity, all being reinterpreted in the way that the
self recasts itself in Nozick's own view. Nozick refuses to complete the picture in
this way. The reader, of course, will have noticed that the suggested solution is the
Hegelian view. Nozick has gone further than any other analytic philosopher by
raising the question of the status of such explorations. But Nozick stops at item (6)
within the Hegelian argument (see above). He refuses to discuss how we choose.
142 Chapter 4

As an analytic philosopher not satisfied with just deductive argument but who wants
a self-subsuming explanation, Nozick is engaged in a total conceptualization of
reality. That is, he is taking his philosophical responsibility seriously. In order to
accomplish this, knowledge must not only explain but be like the world. Ultimate
reality and self-articulating reason must be identical. In some way we must explain
that logic is derivative from self-consciousness (self-reflexivity in Nozick's
terminology). What this boils down to is a dialectic or thought process that annuls,
preserves, and elevates. Since thinking so construed is a developmental activity, not
a static one, an explanation of thought must itself be developmental. Once the
explanation of thinking is based on the movement of thinking then the explanation
must itself be subject to movement. This would explain pluralism and maintain the
possibility of absolute truth.
Despite his penchant for evolutionary epistemology, Nozick will not go that
far. Hegel can envisage saying everything (a final synthesis) whereas Nozick is left
with a plurality of self-subsuming explanations. Nozick fails in the end to reconcile
his stated commitment to objective truth with this plurality. Self-subsumption or a
coherence theory of truth understood organically can on Iy be successful ifthere is
a single organic whole of mind and reality and ifit is undergoing a self-development
that finds ultimate consummation. Hegel understood that. Short of that, Nozick is
going to be left with an implausible or incomplete historicism. As it now stands,
Nozick's self-subsuming explanation is no more than another ungrounded or
ungroundable exploration.
Nozick's views, when fully spelled out, are indistinguishable from
historicism. Suppose there are two philosophers, Nand H. N believes or says that
he believes in an absolute and objective truth, but he is also totally open to new ideas,
new hypotheses, radical paradigm shifts, and so on. At the same time, N refuses to
commit himself to any specific criteria by which we can tell that later is better or that
we are ever closer to the absolute truth. H, on the other hand, either denies the
existence of an absolute and objective truth or refuse to be drawn into a debate about
it. Instead, H argues that later thought evolves out of earlier thought but is not in any
objective sense closer to "the" truth. H even seizes upon and welcomes N's point
that all thinking involves speculative assumptions or starting points that cannot
themselves be objects of proof.
How would we be able in practice to distinguish between Nand H? What
difference is there between Nozick's quasi-Hegelianism and an out and out
historicist? The answer is that there is no difference without an act of faith.62
Alternative self-subsuming theories become just so many incommensurable
discourses. It is never explained how we are to choose or compare or to coordinate
those alternatives.
What Nozick shows us is that fully selfconscious analytic philosophy must
embrace its nemesis, Hegelianism. 63 It must embrace Hegelianism if it is to close the
gap between knowledge of the subject and knowledge of the object. We want to
conclude this chapter by raising the question of why it fails to do so. Before
addressing that question there is one potential misunderstanding we want to avoid.
Our examination of analytic metaphysics is not a brief for Hegel. We are not
advancing the position that all philosophers ought to embrace Hegelianism. Our
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 143

purpose is to expose the ambiguities in analytic metaphysics, one of which is its

failure to come to terms with what is implicit in its own position.
Why is analytic philosophy the failure to be its Hegelian self? It is tempting
to argue for the role of historical ignorance, the failure of many contemporary
analytic philosophers to study the history of philosophy, much less the history of
their own tradition or to teach it to subsequent generations. But this cannot be the
whole story. Clearly the originator of analytic philosophy, Russell, knew very well
what he was rejecting in idealism and some later analytic philosophers like Nozick
are aware of the problems. We want to suggest two other reasons why analytic
philosophers would not embrace Hegel even if they understood him. The first has
to do with scientism, and the second with the social and political agenda of analytic
Analytic philosophers subscribe to scientism, to the belief that science gives
us the ultimate truth about everything. Scientism is opposed to idealism only in the
sense that idealism takes reality to be mind dependent or mental. Not only do
analytic philosophers believe that reality is independent of mind but they believe that
mind is itself explainable in the same way that we explain physical reality. Thought
becomes nothing but the modeling of a lifeless structure. Scientism as such entails
materialism and reductionism. This is one reason why analytic philosophers cannot
be consistently Hegelian.
It will appear to some readers that Nozick does not subscribe to scientism
because he criticizes reductionism. On the contrary, Nozick always writes under the
shadow of reductionism. The great fear is that whatever independent realm we carve
out for human beings is in imminent danger of being reduced, so that the ultimate
embarrassment in analytic circles is to be cast into the role of people who refused to
look through Galileo's telescope or who opposed evolution. Evidence of this is that
Nozick goes to great pains to point out that any attempt to prove that reductionism
must fail is futile. 64 Nozick does not rule out the possibility of reductionism, and in
his treatment of freedom he does not argue that human beings are free but strives
instead to formulate a compatibilist position. Finally, Nozick denies that there is an
intersubjectively valid common sense world from which science itself is derived. 65
In short, the commitment to physicalism and the primacy of body over mind makes
it conceptually impossible for analytic philosophers to embrace a Hegelian
resolution. We shall have more to say about this in the chapter on analytic
philosophical psychology.
The second reason for the failure of analytic philosophy to move
consistently to Hegelianism is political or ideological. Analytic philosophy, because
of its roots in the Enlightenment, is inclined to the view that social problems can be
reduced to problems of social technology. A social technological approach
presupposes physicalism which, as we have seen, is incompatible with Hegelianism.
Moreover, analytic social and political philosophy has routinely or very often
advocated a methodological individualism deemed incompatible with the social
epistemology in Hegel. Finally, many analytic philosophers, like Popper, have
mistakenly attributed to Hegel some form of collectivism. We shall expand upon and
qualify these points in the chapters on analytic social and political philosophy and
analytic philosophy of the social sciences.
144 Chapter 4

We conclude with some observations on the social and political importance

of Aristotelian realism to analytic philosophy. Rhetoric aside, analytic philosophers
subscribe to some form of realism in their metaphysics. Nowhere in analytic
philosophy does one find a direct argument for why realism should be accepted, and
this is in itself a symptom of its fundamental importance. Instead, what we shall find
are epistemological views that buttress realism, and this we shall see in the next
chapter. Finally, what we see is what we shall call a cultural case for realism, that
is, an argument to the effect that in order for us to believe that our social technology
is "good" we must believe that it reflects some permanent truths about reality.
Instead of a positive argument what we get is a negative argument to the effect that
the alternative to realism is or would be the inability to justify the use of our social
technology. Again, what this reflects is an ideological commitment to the
Enlightenment program rather than a serious philosophical argument.

Three central conclusions emerge from our discussion of analytic metaphysics. First,
in order to understand the analytic conversation in general and the discussion of
metaphysical issues in particular it is important to recognize the philosophical
paradigm which informs that conversation, namely Aristotelianism. It is
transparently disingenuous to claim that the analytic conversation is motivated by the
attempt to clarify problems or to offer carefully formulated hypothetical solutions to
those problems. It is as well inadequate to claim that the conversation merely takes
a naturalistic stance. Failure to be fully self-conscious about one's own philosophical
orientation not only impoverishes and parochializes one's philosophical activity but
it is irresponsible in failing to deal adequately with rival philosophical paradigms or
to be sufficiently philosophical about what the existence of rival paradigms means
or entails.
Second, once we recognize the peculiar modern form of Aristotelian
metaphysics that informs the analytic conversation, and once we accept that this
orientation is inevitably driven in a Hegelian direction, we are able to recognize two
features of that conversation. We can recognize why the analytic conversation
repeatedly runs into the same problems. We can recognize as well the recurrent
pattern of development and failure in other areas of the analytic conversation.
Third, we can begin to understand why a persistent issue of analytic
philosophy is the denial of the self. If there is no self, then there cannot be self-
reference. If there is no self-reference, then there cannot be totalization. Without
totalization, the claims analytic philosophy makes on behalf of scientism are
unintelligible. If scientism is unintelligible then analytic philosophy is incoherent as
a philosophy. This amounts to the loss ofphilosophical consciousness. Unable to
engage in fully self-conscious metaphysical reflection, analytic philosophers find
themselves in search of a successor discipline.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 145

NOTES (Chapter 4)

1. "It is a fair, though obviously incomplete, interpretation of Hegel's system

to call it a reconstruction of the Aristotelian universe in terms of self-
consciousness, and to see Hegel's dialectic as an incomparably subtle and
powerful attempt to consummate Aristotle's triple analysis [matter-form,
with their respective correlates potency and actuality, fourfold causation,
temporal process and timeless activity] .... " Mure (1958), p. 246.

2. This tension is brought out in the following remarks by John Skorupski

(1990): "If the modernist philosopher espouses naturalism he espouses it
neither as a metaphysical doctrine nor as an empirical one but as an anti-
metaphysical one. He asserts the final unintelligibility of any alternative"
(p. 10); "[A]t the limit, absolute idealism coincides with fully thought-
through naturalism. . .. However, the true modernist should hold that there
is absolutely no idealism involved." (p. 25).

3. "Dilthey was right in stressing, against Hegel, that the development of

philosophy is not a sequential succession of all-dominant systems but an
ongoing parallelism of conflicting systems that assume different historically
conditioned configurations. . .. Dilthey, vol. VIII, pp. 131, 34." Rescher
(1985b), p. 90.

4. This tri-partite distinction was originally suggested by Randall (1958),

Chapter 5, and developed in (1962), Bk. I, Chapter Three. No claim is
made in our text that these generic versions are perfectly instantiated in
individual thinkers.

5. See Capaldi (1987).

6. Some might object that combining Aristotle in this way with other doctrines
is to create something that should not be called Aristotelian. Our response
to that claim is as follows: (1) we have chosen to define' Aristotelian' in a
more generic fashion in order to stress certain continuities and to indicate
how philosophers refurbish past models for new contexts -- something that
we think is important for understanding the history of philosophy; (2) those
who object to the appropriation of the term 'Aristotelian' in this fashion are
free to substitute any term they like as long as the continuities and the
historical process thesis are recognized -- although they are free to argue
against the thesis; (3) the belief that terms have essences so that all future
applications of a term are already intrinsic to its meaning is a substantive
philosophical thesis -- I make this point to show that what might seem to
outsiders to be semantic quibbles usually mask substantive philosophic
146 Chapter 4

7. Strawson (1959) is a sustained argument that we cannot describe our

conceptual system without distinguishing between persons and physical
objects. However, Strawson concedes that he cannot thereby close the gap:
"When we have acknowledged the primitiveness of the concept of a person,
... we may still want to ask what it is in the natural facts that makes it
intelligible that we should have this concept. ... " pp. 110-11.

8. This epistemological problem shall be discussed in greater detail in the next

chapter, Chapter Five.

9. Our claim is that Hegel salvages modern Aristotelian epistemology. It is

not our claim that Hegel salvages Aristotelian epistemology; the classical
Aristotelian epistemologist does not need to be saved in the way that the
modern Aristotelian epistemologist does.

10. This explains the tendency on the part of many epistemologists continually
to confuse the issue of the source of knowledge with the issue of the object
of knowledge. Even going back to Locke, it is never clear whether
experience is a source of knowledge or an object of knowledge. There is
a tendency to treat alleged epistemic entities, like sense data, as if they
were ontological entities as well.

II. See Sluga (1980), pp. 116-121.

12. The rejection of the conceptualization of the pre-theoretical is present in

both the Tractatus and in the Investigations, but in different ways.

13. " ... it is impossible to understand Hegel; it is good that you have noticed
it", p. 57 ofNeurath (1973). The reexamination of one's starting points
is a routine part of any rational practice, especially those that face
seemingly intractable problems, and a large part of what philosophy has
traditionally done. Failure to see this leads to being trapped within one's
own conceptual web. One example of being trapped within one's own web
can be found in the work of Rudolf Carnap. See Carnap (1950) where he
distinguishes between internal questions and external questions and then
goes on to construe metaphysics as linguistic proposal, that is, what we have
identified as an exploratory hypothesis. Carnap had the annoying habit of
transforming everything anyone said, including attacks by his critics, into
a kind of hypothesis. He actually prided himself on this and called this his
principle of tolerance, that is he was willing to accord to everyone the status
of offering exploratory hypotheses. Apparently, what he could not grasp
was that there was a conception of philosophy as something other than
exploration. For a particularly harsh judgment on Carnap see Agassi
(1988), pp. 95-98.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 147

14. E. Nagel (1956) is symptomatic of this view.

15. Passmore (1985) has remarked on "the centrality of Aristotle for Oxford-
trained philosophers ...." (p. 17); Turnbull (1988) has noted that "[T]he
twentieth century provides many examples of very influential Anglo-
American philosophers who can properly be called Aristotelians. John
Austin, Gilbert Ryle, Peter Strawson, Elizabeth Anscombe, Peter Geach,
and Donald Davidson come readily to mind" (p. 117); see also Sorabji

16. Quine (1948).

17. Quine (1953), pp. 20-46. Dummett (1974), p. 351, has called this work of
Quine's "probably the most important philosophical article written in the
last half-century."

18. The existence of synthetic a priori truths is claimed by Copernicans as

evidence of a pre-theoretical ground of conceptualization that cannot be
conceptualized, most especially by science. Analytic philosophers must
reject the existence of synthetic a priori truths otherwise Copernicans and
Platonists will be in a position to undermine scientism. What "analytic"
statements and synthetic a priori statements both share is that they are not
dependent upon experience.

19. Keep in mind that the analytic vs. synthetic distinction is Kantian and has
noth ing to do with why analytic philosophy is called 'analytic'.

20. Analytic philosophers, committed as they are to Aristotelian or empiricist

epistemology, believe that our conceptual structures are true when grounded
in experience. As we have seen in Chapter Two, theories in science cannot
be explained simply by being grounded in experience. Rather than admit,
then, that being grounded in experience is not what makes a theory in
science true (or acceptable) and meaningful, analytic philosophers follow
Quine in using the term 'underdetermined'. To say that a statement or
conceptual structure is 'underdetermined' is to say that they accept it as true
even though it is not totally grounded in experience and that they are not
surrendering a formal commitment to Aristotelian (empiricist)

21. Quine (1953), pp. 42-43.

22. See the essay by Roger Gibson and Quine's reply to Gibson as well as the
replies to Nozick and Putnam in Schilpp (1986) .

23. " ... how often Popper's later views seem to approach Hegelian ones!"
Gellner (1985), p. 53.
148 Chapter 4

24. Mure (1958), p. 133. In his paper, "Russell's Mathematical Logic,"

(Schilpp, 1944) Godel argues that both Frege and Russell are committed to
the view that sentences with the same truth value have the same referent.
There is an important difference, however, between Frege and Russell.
Frege distinguished between sense (meaning) and reference (denotation).
All true sentences have the same referent, namely, "the True".
Nevertheless, all true sentences do not have the same sense (meaning). This
is the element of Platonism in Frege that distinguishes him from Russell's

25. Camap [1934, (1937)] p. 318.

26. Ibid.

27. [bid. However, Camap still insisted on the analytic-synthetic distinction.

Kripke will follow Carnap's lead, and this is important for understanding
Kripke's differences from Quine on the semantics of modal logic.

28. Quine simply puts on hold the whole issue of the pre-theoretical. For Quine
(1969a), the regress ends with our "acquiescing in our mother tongue and
taking its words at face value" (p. 49). That is, Quine advocates that we use
these words without making any attempt to understand their metaphysical
status or meaning.

29. " ... despite ignoring the issue, Quine's views do commit him to a very
definite position regarding what is independently real: Quine's
epistemology seems to presuppose a Kantian background of transcendental
idealism" Sacks (1989), pp. 34-5.

30. Keep in mind that as a Platonist, Frege would be inclined to deny that
objects were anything but concatenations of properties.

31. This reintroduces the possibility of the synthetic a priori or conventional

dimension that analytic philosophers are at such pains to reject.

32. (Ex) Fx = "at least one substitution instance of F is true."

33. In the next chapter, we argue that this attempt to model modeling is exactly
what Wittgenstein's Tractatus shows to be impossible.

34. Kripke (1972) " ... science can discover empirically that certain properties
are necessary . .. " (p. 128); "Having expressed these doubts about the
identity theory ... I should emphasize ... [that there are] highly compelling
arguments [for the identity theory] which I am at present unable to answer
convincingly. Second, rejection of the identity thesis does not imply
acceptance of Cartesian dualism. In fact my view ... suggests a rejection
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 149

of the Cartesian picture" (p. 155n).

35. To accomplish the same end, David Lewis has developed what he calls
"counterpart theory" -- a more inclusive alternative to modal logic. Lewis,
like Kripke, thinks that his logical exploration captures the meaning of
conditional statements as a truth about the world. Like Kripke, Lewis
would deny the Copernican (and Wittgensteinian) claims that all this
depends not on the world but on the community of language users. Lewis's
views have been attacked as philosophically and onto logically unintelligible
by Haack (1976).

36. Rorty (1979), p. 299.

37. Alfred Tarski was a mathematician, his doctorate was in mathematics, and
he was a professor of mathematics. In opposition to Brouwer, Tarski
employed the assumptions of set theory, especially infinitistic set-theoretical
concepts. We note, as well, that Tarski's solution will not work for
languages which do not employ the theory oflogical types (e.g., Zermelo-
Fraenkel and von Neumann versions of set theory).

38. "It cannot be too strongly emphasized that Tarski's idea of truth ... is the
same idea which Aristotle had in mind and indeed most people ... the idea
that truth is correspondence with the/acts (or with reality). But what can
we possibly mean if we say ofa statement that it corresponds with the/acts
(or with reality)? .. Tarski solved this apparently hopeless problem ... by
... reducing the unmanageable idea of correspondence to a simpler idea
(that of 'satisfaction' or 'fulfillment')" Popper (1959), p. 274n. There is
also a noteworthy analogue between the infinite number of meta levels of
Tarski's semantics and the Popperian notion of how later theories in science
are more encompassing than earlier theories without ever reaching total
encompassment. Keep in mind, as well, Popper's stress on falsification
rather than confirmation. Finally, we think it is interesting to compare the
epistemological notion of truth as always being undefinable for some meta-
language with the social and political idea found in some versions of
liberalism to the effect that human beings be seen as having an infinite
horizon which is at the same time progressive.

39. See Haack (1978), Chapter Eight, especially p. 148. More recently, Kripke
has attempted to circumvent the reconstituted paradoxes by declaring that
if a sentence threatens paradox under certain circumstances, then we must
conclude that it says nothing. Rather than showing us how to deal with the
issue, or perhaps even seeing the issue, what we get is a question-begging
evasion of the issue.

40. Hao Wang (1986), p. 19, quotes GOdel as having said: "How strange [it is]
that the positivists (and empiricists) do philosophy by cutting off parts of
150 Chapter 4

their brain (in excluding conceptual knowledge)?" As a Platonist, Godel

can recognize the limitations of totalization in other than a Platonic sense.

4l. Godel's Platonism has never been taken seriously by analytic philosophy
who are, as we have argued, committed to some form of modern
Aristotelianism. Nor do analytic philosophers admit the dire consequences
of Godel's proof. "The bearing of Godel's results on epistemological
problems [notice metaphysics is not mentionedJ remains uncertain. No
doubt these results and other 'limitation' results have revealed a new and
somewhat unexpected situation insofar as formal systems are concerned.
But beyond these precise and almost technical conclusions, they do not bear
an unambiguous philosophical message. In particular, they should not be
rashly called upon to establish the primacy of some act of intuition that
would dispense with formalization" J. van Heijenoort (1967), p. 357.

42. In a 1932 lecture, Wittgenstein admitted that one of the two basic mistakes
of the Tractatus was confusing or failing to distinguish between the finite
and the infinite. See G.E. Moore (195411955).

43. Bergson (1911), Part IV, warned about this kind of fallacy of confusing
parts and wholes in his discussion of time. Bergson also located the source
of this confusion in the philosophical misappropriation of science.

44. Romanos (1983), p. 186.

45. Husser! believed in a phenomenological conceptualization of the pre-

theoretical. There is a long and distinguished tradition of the
phenomenological approach even to the philosophy of science.

46. In retrospect, we can see the issue of the status of the principle of
verification as a version of the problem of self-reference. Briefly,
positivists had held that for a statement to be meaningful that statement
must in principle be capable of empirical verification. Critics of positivism
responded by asking if the statement of the principle of verification was
verifiable. Clearly, the statement ofthe principle of verification is not itself
verifiable. The principle has some other status, but positivists could never
explain clearly just what that status was. The inability to make its own
ground clear is a fatal flaw of analytic philosophy. Perhaps the greatest
example of this inability is the unwillingness on the part of many analytic
philosophers to discuss the status, or even the existence, of analytic

47. Feigl (1967) understood this point, i.e., Feigl recognized the necessity for
a fully reductive scientism to account for science itself.
Metaphysics In Analytic Philosophy 151

48. Putnam (1981) tried to distinguish his position from idealism by denying
that mind comprises or constructs the world. Nevertheless, in a way
Putnam never explains, Putnam asserted that "the Universe makes up the
Universe - with minds - collectively - playing a special role in the making
up" p. xi.

49. Goodman (1978) embraces the idea of alternative explorations without a

commitment to scientism as in Quine. He eschews relativism (p.94) but
never explains how this is possible. According to Sacks (1989), "the
grounds upon which Goodman urges us to accept his irrealist position leave
it entirely plausible to see this position as rejecting ontological realism
while leaning towards the endorsement of ontological idealism ... "(p.l 00).

50. Sacks (1989), p. 81: "Putnam seems to be saying that for survival all
theories must have in common that they are to some extent determined by
the world, by reality; only he also thinks that they are essentially
underdetermined by the world - so that they all agree with the world so far
as to allow for survival, yet there is no one true theory that corresponds to
the way of the world."

51. For a more detailed exposition and critique ofNozick's book see Capaldi

52. Nozick (1981), p. 628.

53. Ibid., p. 559.

54. Ibid., pp. 79, 76.

55. Ibid., p. 91.

56. Ibid., p. 110.

57. Ibid., p. 109.

58. There are three interrelated Nozickean concepts: self-reference, self-

subsumption, and reflexive self-reference. An example of self-reference is:
"This sentence has five words." An example of reflexive self-reference is:
"} am Robert Nozick" (when uttered by the author of Philosophical
Explanations). An example of self-subsumption is: "(P) any lawlike
statement having characteristic C is true; P is a lawlike statement with
characteristic C. Therefore P is true." (p. 119). All reflexively self-
referential statements are self-subsuming, and all self-subsuming statements
are self-referential, but not all self-subsuming statements are reflexively
152 Chapter 4

59. Ibid., p. 136.

60. Ibid., p. 120.

61. Ibid., p. 149.

62. Nozick himself admits "just as empirical data underdetermine a scientific

theory, so actions do not uniquely fix the life plan from which they flow.
Different life plans are compatible with and might yield the same actions"
(Ibid., p. 577).

63. Another significant figure in the analytic conversation whose work reveals
the movement toward Hegel is Hilary Putnam. Putnam, in fact, is
significant because his career is a microcosm of the evolution of analytic
philosophy. Originally, Putnam gained attention by seconding Quine's
challenge ofthe analytic-synthetic distinction, specifically arguing that even
mathematical statements are in principle revisable. Putnam was also one of
the first analytic philosophers to make what we have identified as the
'Kantian Tum', i.e., a move away from naive empiricism and toward the
recognition of the important role of the pre-conceptual. Always a stalwart
realist, Putnam later defended the realism of Kripke's causal theory of
reference. The implicit Aristotelianism in Putnam is revealed in his defense
of a view of natural kinds, qualified with the provision that future
investigation might reverse even the most certain of examples. In his
philosophy of mind, Putnam rejected central state materialism but favors the
kind of functionalism one finds in Dennett's theory (to be discussed in the
chapter on the philosophy of mind). Putnam characterizes his own position
as a form of "internal realism" understood teleologically by reference to
human flourishing. He even believes in value-facts, another teleological
notion. Finally, the movement toward Hegel is epitomized in his belief that
the mind and the world jointly make up the mind and the world. For an
excellent summary of Putnam's views and his implicit Hegelianism see
John Passmore (1985), pp. 92-101, 104-107.

64. Ibid., pp. 570, 642.

65. Ibid., p. 627.


Analytic Epistemology

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the criteria of what
constitutes knowledge. The primary purpose of epistemological investigation is to
determine the legitimacy of any knowledge claim.
Epistemology presupposes metaphysics. No account of knowledge can
proceed without assuming that we already have some sample or example of it or of
the way the world works. Ifwe already know something, then we already have some
insight into reality. Depending upon what one believes the ultimate nature of reality
and the place of human beings within it to be, one will formulate a particular view
of what knowledge is. If epistemology presupposes metaphysics, then it cannot be
the function of epistemology to legitimate metaphysics. Rather, the role of the
epistemologist is to establish the consistency and coherence of one's epistemology
within one's metaphysics.
Just as we have identified three major but different metaphysical
orientations, so we shall identify three derivative epistemological orientations,
namely, Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Copernican ism. Given the different claims
about ultimate reality and the place of human beings within it, there will inevitably
be different accounts of knowledge. This chapter commences with a brief historical
overview of these competing epistemological accounts.
One of the values of a survey of this kind is that it will show the extent to
which analytic epistemology is part of an ongoing historical debate. More to the
point, we have argued that analytic philosophy is in large part informed by a version
of the Enlightenment Project. To the extent that it is, then it is a modem, secular,
truncated version of Aristotelianism. In order to understand significant parts of
analytic epistemology we shall show in what sense it evolved from and radically
altered the tradition of Aristotelian epistemology. Moreover, the previous chapter
identified special problems within analytic metaphysics, specifically the challenge
of presenting a coherent metaphysical vision without resorting to Hegel. Given the
relationship of epistemology to metaphysics, this chapter will show that the same
issue haunts epistemological discussions within analytic philosophy. Finally, it is
important to recognize wherein the alternative conceptions of epistemology differ
and what they have to offer in order to consider alternatives to analytic philosophy's
present landscape.

Classical Epistemology
Classical epistemology begins with a clear understanding of the intimate relationship
between metaphysics and epistemology. Despite differences, classical
epistemologists all agree that we have a direct grasp of reality. Therefore, classical
epistemology is largely focused on giving an account of error.

Plato was one of the first to formulate epistemological issues. The
background to his concern is his confrontation with the Sophists. The Sophists
154 Chapter Five

denied the possibility of having objective knowledge about the world. In the moral
and social realm they went so far as to advocate a kind of cultural relativism, the
view that all norms are relative to time and place. They were led to conclude that no
norms are intrinsically superior to others. Protagoras had seemingly generalized this
to the thesis that "man is the measure of all things." Plato believed otherwise. He
believed that there were absolute and objective grounds for preferring some norms
to others.
Plato argued, first, that there is an ultimate and unchanging reality with a
permanent structure. If there is to be absolute and objective knowledge, then it must
be identical with this structure. Second, Plato believed that geometry (mathematics)
is an unquestionable example of this knowledge, and that geometry gave us a clear
example of what it meant to prove something, i.e., establish something as an
indisputable example of knowledge.
Platonism, as an epistemology, originated with Plato's choice of geometry
as his paradigm ofwha~ constitutes knowledge. What is geometry like as a form of
knowledge? It begins with definitions of key terms like 'point' and' line'. What is
peculiar about these definitions is that they are not empirical, that is they do not
define what we can imagine (picture in our mind). A "point," for example, has no
dimensions. We may draw a dot on a page, like the period at the end of this
sentence, and say that the dot "represents" the 'point'. But the dot is not itself a
point, no matter how small we draw it. We can conceive of a point, but conceiving
is not imagining (or picturing). So knowledge begins with concepts that are
conceivable but not experienceable. Sometimes this is described as an intuition.
With these intuitions we are able to construct axioms, that is, principles that cannot
be proved but are the starting points of all proofs. Once we formulate the axioms,
we are then able to derive (deduce, prove) a theorem. From this theorem we can
prove other theorems, etc.
There appear to be two different kinds of knowledge: first, the knowledge
that is proved or deduced from other knowledge; second, the knowledge that is
intuited and without which there would be no proof. Plato insisted that intuited
knowledge cannot be learned or acquired from experience. Before we can learn
anything from experience we must already possess some framework for interpreting
what we learn, and the framework cannot be learned or acquired the way we learn
from experience. Plato also insisted that intuited knowledge cannot be acquired by
proof, for otherwise we would have an infinite regress or a vicious circle. Finally,
there cannot be a criterion for distinguishing correct from incorrect intuitions for
such a criterion would either have to be proved (infinite regress or circle, again) or
itself be intuited.
There is a logical test that can be performed on an alleged first principle or
intuited truth in order to determine if it qualifies. The test is to try to conceive of the
opposite of that alleged first principle. If the opposite can be shown to be self-
contradictory, then we are secure in accepting the alleged first principle as an intuited
truth. Using a later technical terminology, the first principles that pass this test are
a priori true. To be a priori means two things: (a) non-empirical or independent of
experience; (b) the opposite is self-contradictory. Error is accounted for in a number
of ways. There is in Plato a doctrine of degrees of knowledge. But in the end, error
Analytic Epistemology 155

can only be avoided by rigorously returning to intuited first principles and re-
establishing or recalling their a priori status. Error is avoided only by a return to
fundamental concepts (FORMS) that do not originate in experience and cannot be
established or invalidated by experience. We see in this a sort of Socratic
examination of basic concepts as the model of this rigorous return. To justify a belief
is to derive it axiomatically from the basic concepts. There is, therefore, a meaning
terminus in Plato, a self-certifying state in which we intuitively grasp a priori
We may summarize the main features of Platonic epistemology as follows.
First, Plato's epistemology is consistent and coherent with his metaphysics. Beyond
the world of everyday experience there is an external, objective, permanent,
unchangeable and absolute structure of Forms or ideal concepts. To have knowledge
is to grasp or mirror that structure. Second, knowledge is not a matter of grasping
the everyday world of experience which is unstable and changing, nor is learning a
natural process involving the everyday world of sense experience. Since know ledge
is apprehension of the unchangeable, there is no knowledge ofthe everyday world.
Third, critics who call attention to the unreliability of the everyday world of
experience reinforce the persuasiveness of Plato's case. Moreover, failure of the
world to mirror the ideal structure perfectly is irrelevant. Plato does not deny the
gap, rather he asserts it. Looking at knowledge from this point of view, Platonists
can maintain that the world of everyday experience is an imperfect copy or
realization of a set of principles that is necessarily and unchangeably true. That is,
the forms (ideal concepts) are not in matter. Fourth, Plato's challenge to those who
argue from experience is to try and make sense of experience without using ideal
concepts, especially normative ones, that go beyond actual and possible experience.

Formally, Aristotle followed Plato's lead in making deduction from first
principles the standard of a good explanation. Where Aristotle differed from Plato
was in the status of first principles. First principles, for Aristotle, are abstracted from
experience. This difference in epistemology reflects a metaphysical difference.
Wh ile agreeing with Plato that knowledge must be the mirroring of a timeless and
absolute structure independent of ourselves, Aristotle insists that the structure (forms)
is embodied in the world of everyday experience. The problem of how a structure
can be unchanging and still embodied in a changing succession of objects is solved
in Aristotle by appeal to teleological biology. Teleological biology is thus Aristotle's
paradigm of what constitutes knowledge.
The assumption in Aristotelianism that form is embedded in matter leads to
an especially intimate relationship between epistemology and metaphysics. Recall
that in Aristotle and the Aristotelian tradition metaphysics is itself extrapolated from
the specialized sciences. Metaphysics cannot, as in the case Plato, come to the rescue
of epistemology. Epistemology and metaphysics are intrinsically bound in such a
way that they are established simultaneously.
Aristotle's epistemology is consistent and coherent with his metaphysics.
Knowledge is part of the natural process. Not only is the universe irreducibly
organic but the process of knowledge acquisition is construed as a natural, organic
156 Chapter Five

process. Teleology helps to explain how our search for knowledge fits in with the
world as a whole. The appeal to organic and teleological processes as constitutive
of both the world and human nature allows for a continuity of knowledge acquisition
with natural processes. There is then in classical Aristotelianism a seamless web
connecting epistemology with metaphysics.
Experience, organically understood, is a kind of final arbiter for Aristotle.
Our experience of the world is not to be explained in terms of something else but is
itselfthe explanation of everything else. Given this perspective, a number of things
follow. First, there must be some kind of basic (i.e., pure or natural) experience
unmediated by any judgment or prior frame of reference. This is why Aristotle gives
a receptive account of perception. Second, this basic pure experience is either
infallible or can be overruled only by another basic or natural experience that is
infallible. Third, only when we move beyond perception to the higher more complex
forms of intellectual activity where we begin to combine concepts and to make
judgments do we encounter the possibility of error. Fourth, since the higher faculties
depend upon the lower (perception), Aristotle implies that it is always possible to
correct errors ofjudgment by a return to basic natural experience (perception).
Aristotle simply denies the existence of the Platonic gap between experience and
knowledge. Finally, there is an explicit belief that as experiences accumulate they
tend to confirm the patterns in events and that in the long run the experts will agree.
Teleology and the functional interdependence of the perceptual apparatus and
embodied forms help to make this position plausible.
The fundamental tenet of all classical epistemology is that knowledge
consists in the successful mirroring of an objective structure, that is a structure
independent of human beings. The Aristotelian version of classical epistemology,
as opposed to the Platonic version, is based on (a) the metaphysical claim that
structure is embodied in matter (realism) in the everyday world of objects and (b) the
psychological claim that human beings both possess and exercise the internal mental
capacity to abstract that structure from the matter or content of our experience.
Aristotelian epistemologists do not seriously entertain the question of whether
knowledge exists; rather, they start with the view that we already possess knowledge
and seek to specify what the structure of knowledge is. The Aristotelian
epistemologist is primarily concerned with making generalizations about the
abstracted structure of our knowledge.
Aristotelians believe that the objective structure of reality (the forms) is in
matter (i.e., in the physical world of everyday experience). Because the structure is
embedded or embodied or present in some fashion in matter, it is not empirically (in
fact) possible to separate the structure (form) from the matter. What we can do is
make the separation in our minds, that is, we can "think" (i.e., conceive) the structure
in abstraction from the particular bit of matter. This is what is meant by saying that
we possess the capacity to abstract. This is a key point in Aristotelian epistemology.
According to Aristotle, knowledge is equated with perception (in classical
Greek the verb "to know" is the same as the verb "to see"), I and perception is
construed as a largely receptive process in which the soul (mind) abstracts the forms
of things perceived. The mind is construed as a set offaculties (capabilities) in the
bodily organs. In addition to the separate senses there is alleged to be a common
Analytic Epistemology 157

sense or faculty of perceiving qualities common to more than one sense, as in the
case of shape which is perceived both by sight and by touch. Following the initial
apprehension of the abstracted form, a process which Aristotle often represents as
error free, there is a second process, known as judgment, in which the concepts
(forms) are combined. The second process is where error becomes possible. The
second process involves the operation of the intellect, but it is wholly dependent
upon the prior existence of sense perception. Aristotle unequivocally maintained that
the mind never thinks without an image. As long as thinking is wholly dependent
upon the prior existence of sense perception the functioning of the mind can be
explained, in principle, without appeal to internal principles of structuring.
Aristotle's account raised two issues. An Aristotelian epistemologist must
in the early stages assume or present some view of the psychology of learning, that
is, some view of how an account of objects applies to an account of the mind, or how
object-like processes give rise to knowledge in the mind or instrument. Thejirst
issue concerns just exactly how we abstract the form from within our experience, a
form that gives us access to the essences of things. According to Aristotle, this
abstraction process is a form of intuition in which we just "see" the structure in the
particular instances. There is thus a meaning terminus in Aristotelian epistemology.
The issue ofabstraction is directly related to the Aristotelian assertion that form is
never empirically separable or isolable from matter.
The meaning terminus in Aristotle, the self-certifying state of knowledge,
is different from Plato's. It is also different from modem conceptions of perception.
In Aristotle's world there are no hidden structures; the world is what it appears to be.
What it appears to be is inherently organic. This means, first of all, that the object
of knowledge and the instrument for apprehending knowledge are identical and
continuous. Moreover, given the identity of formal, efficient, and final causes, and
given that the acquisition of knowledge is the grasping of the formal cause, every act
of knOWing is both self-contained and stands for something else, namely the wider
net of teleological (final causal) relationships.
The second issue concerns the active intellect. On the whole, Aristotle's
account of knowledge acquisition is in terms of the passive intellect. At the same
time, Aristotle had to invoke an active intellect in order to account for what sets the
faculties of the mind in motion and ultimately allowed for judgmental error. What
this active intellect is and how it does what it allegedly does are controversial issues.
Historically, the issue of the active intellece is a forerunner of the difficulties in the
modem period of trying to avoid appeal to an agent.

Although skepticism is routinely caricatured in contemporary
epistemological discussions, classical skepticism is an alternative way of construing
knowledge. Skepticism as an epistemology was originally formulated within Plato's
own Academy in the third century B.C. The Academic skeptics rejected Plato's
metaphysics and stressed tHe moral posture of Socrates' self-examination. The
Academic skeptics then concentrated on attacking the Aristotelian epistemological
position as it was then represented by the Stoics and Epicureans. Both Epicureans
and Stoics had insisted upon the infallibility of sensations, and some Stoics believed
158 Chapter Five

that perceptions were infallible as signs of the true nature of reality. The Academics
responded that there was no way intrinsic to experience of distinguishing between
veridical perceptions and illusory ones. In short, skeptics denied a natural meaning
terminus. Skepticism has always focused on the problematic nature of the
psychology of knowing or learning. 3 While rejecting infallibility and certainty, some
Academics suggested a distinction between the probable and the improbable.
A second school of skeptics, the Pyrrhonians as represented by Sextus
Empiricus, denied even the distinction between the probable and the improbable.
Instead they suggested that being reasonable involved social conventions that had
nothing to do with Absolute Platonic Forms or with alleged Aristotelian structures
in external objects being duplicated in our minds and in discourse.
There are two dimensions to the skeptical challenge. First there is the
epistemological challenge, namely a rejection ofthe contention that knowledge is the
grasping or mirroring of a structure independent of human beings. The belief that
knowledge is the mirroring of an external structure is known as epistemological
realism. This challenge is directed against both Platonists and Aristotelians. Second,
there is the psychological challenge, namely the claim that the perceptual apparatus
cannot substantiate itself. This challenge is directed primarily against the
Aristotelian assertion that form can be successfully abstracted from matter. Given
the intimate relationship between metaphysics and epistemology in Aristotle, once
Aristotle's organic metaphysics is questioned, the epistemology becomes
Some ancient skeptics remained ambivalent in their approach to the
metaphysical issue. Very often, a skeptic might agree that the world had a structure
but that we could not grasp it successfully. That is, some skeptics accepted the
metaphysical thesis in realist epistemology but denied the psychological thesis. What
one does not find in the skeptical challenge is an attack on the coherence of either
Platonic or Aristotelian epistemology.
Unable to present a direct and objective case for their version of
epistemological realism, classical epistemologists responded to the skeptics by
presenting an indirect case. The indirect case attempts to show that the denial of the
existence of knowledge is incoherent or self-contradictory. The argument here has
to be a logical one rather than an empirical one since the existence of empirical
knowledge is exactly what is subject to challenge. The case against the skeptic goes
something like this: In order for the skeptic to deny that we have knowledge in a
specific case, the skeptic must "know" that we are wrong, or the skeptic must "know"
that we have failed to embody the criteria of what constitutes knowledge. Surely,
then, the skeptic must be in possession of some kind of knowledge to deny that we
have knowledge. That is, every negative thesis presupposes some positive thesis or
claim. So skepticism is self-refuting.
The oft-repeated classic refutation of skepticism insists that every skeptical
denial must presuppose some affirmation, otherwise the skeptic cannot state hislher
case. However, the skeptic can always concede that every negative challenge
presupposes an affirmation without having to concede that there are absolute,
unchanging or foundational structures (i.e., meaning termini), and if there are such
affirmations they do not have to originate in experience or reflect a purely physical
Analytic Epistemology 159

world. Maybe the affirmations have only conventional or arbitrary standing, and
maybe the conventions change. Maybe the affirmations have some totally different
kind of standing in metaphysics, or religion, or tradition, etc. Some skeptics are
perfectly happy to rest on convention and to keep shifting their conventional ground.
We shall have more to say below about the nature ofthe skeptics' challenge.
For the moment, we note that the success of the skeptical attack on classical
Platonists and Aristotelians can be gauged by the medieval response to this
controversy. Saint Augustine asserted that skepticism could be overcome only by
revelation. Augustine adopted a version of Platonism in which first principles come
to our soul (some of whose functions cannot be explained by reference to the body)
from God. The Forms are thoughts in God's mind. Much later, a kind of religious
Pyrrhonism flourished, as with Erasmus, wherein it was held that we should suspend
judgment and accept social and religious conventions.

Medieval Aristotelian Epistemology

Our concern ultimately is with analytic epistemology which we have identified as
largely derivative from a truncated version of the Aristotelian epistemological
tradition as found in the Enlightenment Project. In this section we shall make some
brief comments about medieval Aristotelian epistemology. The Aristotelian
epistemological tradition was revived most notably in the thirteenth century by St.
Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas, like Aristotle, asserted that all knowledge originated in
sense experience (phantasms). Further, Aquinas argued that the abstraction process
was the work of the active intellect upon the phantasms, and that, following the
abstraction, the active intellect formed a concept which was then imposed on the
passive intellect as well as verbalized. Language is thus an accompaniment or
addendum to the intellectual process.

Physical --> { sensory ---> abstraction <--- active
World experience process intellect

\-----passive intellect----/

Aquinas construed all perception as mediated by the active intellect so that

perception was universally representative in character. But, again, like Aristotle,
Aquinas gave no clear account of how the active intellect functions.
William ofOckham sought to circumvent these ambiguities with the claim
that the mind could directly and perfectly intuit some particulars in sense experience.
These direct intuitions are natural signs of things, and the words in our language are
conventional signs of our concepts (direct intuitions). Error, as in Aristotle, enters
when our concepts embody past experience (i.e., memory) as well as present
experience. An ambiguity arises in Ockham's account with regard to signs. The
notion of a sign seems to originate in or to be borrowed from convention. If "signs"
160 Chapter Five

are conventional to begin with, then it is not clear how conventional signs can be
derived from natural signs, or how there can be a natural sign in the first place. 4 This
possibility gives rise not only to medieval nominalism but also to modem versions
of conventionalism.
One other noteworthy figure transitional to the modem period was Francisco
Suarez, who differed from Aquinas in arguing that the passive intellect abstracted the
universal and that the active intellect could apprehend the individual material object.
At the same time, Suarez maintained that the active intellect was responsible for
making the passive intellect accurately represent phantasms. Suarez's epistemology
exemplifies a movement toward greater involvement on the part of the active
intellect. This foreshadows later 'Kantian Turns.' Despite these interesting
differences, the model of abstraction and its problems remained the same. What is
additionally interesting about Suarez, for our purposes, is that he raised the question
of the status of entia ration is or ideas which exist in the mind only. Among these he
singled out the concepts of negation and privation. 5
There are several reasons why classical and medieval Aristotelian
epistemologists did not seem overly concerned by the mystery surrounding how
forms were abstracted or how the active intellect processed phantasms or how there
could be such a thing as a "natural" sign. Part of the reason is that they all believed
themselves to be living in a universe where human beings were organically
continuous with nature, had a direct access to nature, where nature had meaning and
purpose (teleology) continuous with the human understanding of that purpose, or
where they quite simply believed in God, a transcendent rational being who gave
order and meaning to the universe, to human beings, and to the relation between
human beings and the world. The assumption that the physical world and human
beings were both organic in nature and the assumption that the organic nature of the
world was suffused with meaning or purpose (teleology), made the problem of
meaning transfer or interaction seem less than crucial.

Modern Epistemology
Developments in the rise of modem science led to a renewed interest in and the
transformation of epistemological issues. In modem science, that is in the physical
science articulated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we do not have direct
access to the natural world. The natural world is accessed through a scientific theory
or model which (a) refers to an initially hidden and not directly visible structure and
(b) where the structure consists of dynamic processes. The immediate response was
to refurbish classical models. In a very important sense modem epistemology is a
replay of central aspects of classical and medieval epistemology. At the same time
there are important differences.
The tradition that had least difficulty dealing with the epistemological
problems of modem science was Platonism. Scientists and mathematicians of a
Platonic persuasion have been largely successful in postulating an underlying
mathematically formalizable unity to the world that is not immediately obvious to
ordinary sense perception. Since the structure is not derivable from experience, and
since experience only makes sense when we interpret it from the point of view of this
structure, this structure is logically and metaphysically independent of the world of
Analytic Epistemology 161

everyday experience. It is no accident that Platonic resolutions of modern

epistemological issues were favored by modern philosophers who were also major
participants in the development of modem mathematical physical science, namely
Descartes and Leibniz.
A second option available to modern epistemologists was to buttress
epistemology with theology. Some thinkers appealed directly to God. Most notable
was another serious scientist, namely, Newton. Many modern epistemologists
offered an account of how our internal resources, volitional as well as cognitive, give
us access to God who in tum guaranteed that our internally generated models fit the
A third option, the peculiarly modem Copernican Revolution in philosophy,
reconceptualized knowledge first by denying that it was a matter of capturing the
hidden structure external to us and then by asserting that knowledge was ultimately
based upon practical (i.e., volitional) features of human beings. Scientific constructs
are humanly created instruments and not representations.
A fourth option was the refurbishing of the Aristotelian tradition. The
modern Aristotelian tradition faced the greatest difficulties in dealing with the new
developments in science. As we have already argued, these difficulties stemmed
from the fact that the Aristotelian tradition was originally formulated to reflect an
organic and teleological conception of the world. In the medieval Aristotelian
tradition, the organic and teleological conception was further buttressed with the
appeal to God's divine providence. Modern science, however, adheres to a
mechanistic and non-teleological conception of the world. Whereas a perfectly
straightforward relation existed between classical Aristotelian metaphysics and
ontology, the development of modern science made that relationship problematic.
This change in the relationship between metaphysics and ontology led to several
epistemological problems.
There is a special modern (secular) Aristotelian epistemological
predicament. There is a special predicament, in the first place, because all modern
epistemologists recognize that our grasp of the natural world is indirect. Whereas,
the classical Aristotelian epistemologist thought of himself as enjoying an immediate
and direct grasp of the dynamic structure of the natural world, the modern
Aristotelian epistemologist thinks of that structure as not immediately or directly
present to the senses. To put it succinctly, whereas the classical Aristotelian denied
atomism, the modern Aristotelian embraces atomism understood as the
presupposition that there are ultimate discrete components of the natural world and
that such components are not given directly in sense perception.
Because we do not have direct access, the problem of knowledge acquisition
has to be understood differently. That is, the modern epistemologist must explain our
internally generated model. This is the acquisition problem. Our model is no longer
a stripped down picture of what we directly observe but an imaginative hypothetical
model of a dynamic process that is not directly visible. The acquisition problem
encompasses the traditional Aristotelian issues of abstraction and the status of the
active intellect; it also requires a response to the skeptical psychological challenge.
At the same time, the modern Aristotelian epistemologist must explain how
the internally generated model gives us a view of the real world that is defensible.
162 Chapter Five

This is the verification problem. The verification problem requires a response to the
skeptical challenge to realism. Ifform and matter can only be separated '·in the
mind" how do we "compare"6 what is "in our mind" with what is "in nature"? That
is, how do we check on whether we have abstracted correctly?
Third, the modem Aristotelian epistemologist must show how the account
of knowledge acquisition is coherent and consistent with the account of the real
world. This is the coherence problem that is unique to modern Aristotelian
epistemology. The notion that we do not have direct access to the real world because
our access is mediated by a scientific model nevertheless assumes that there is a real
world by reference to which we can say this. It is this background assumption that
must be made coherent with whatever survives verification. The background is what
we have referred to as Talk2 as opposed to Talk J • 7
The coherence problem is a reflection of the fact that modem Aristotelian
epistemologists substituted a mechanistic ontology for an organic and teleological
one. There are two issues that must be distinguished, at least logically. It is one
thing to argue that structure is not directly apprehended; it is another thing to argue
that the indirectly grasped structure is mechanical. Newtonian atomism encompasses
both positions, but those positions are not identical.
If modem secular Aristotelian epistemology is to be coherent with a
mechanistic ontology, then knowledge acquisition and verification must be
intelligible as mechanistic processes. So, for example, phenomenalism can be
understood as a modem Aristotelian epistemological project designed to explain
knowledge acquisition and verification as a process which can be reduced to the
interaction of isolable parts. The macro activities of knowledge acquisition and
verification are here being analogized to a micro event -- namely the hidden
mechanical process.
The immediately obvious problem with this project is that science is an
experimentally acquired form of knowledge that reflects a dynamic human
engagement with the world. It is not clear if and how this macro event can be made
analogous with the micro event.
A second dimension to the coherence problem concerns the ontological
status of mechanism. Mechanism itself can be either a macro thesis or a micro thesis.
Mechanism as a macro thesis asserts that the macro world can be treated as a
mechanical world subject thereby to prediction and control by human technological
manipulation; the actual micro events that explain macro predictability need not
themselves be mechanical but dynamic (perhaps organic, teleological, or not even
scientifically explainable, etc.). As a macro thesis, mechanism is a practical program
and not even an ontological position. One might not even want to entertain any
ontological hypothesis at all about the micro world. Mechanism as a micro thesis
asserts that both the macro and the micro world are identical and differ only as to
scale; macro predictions allegedly become more accurate when supplemented by
micro regularity. It was Locke who said:

I doubt not but if we could discover the figure, size, texture and
motion of the minute constituent parts of any two bodies, we
Analytic Epistemology 163

should know without trial several of their operations one upon

another: as we know the properties of a square or triangle. s

The difficulty with micro level mechanical processes is that according to

modern physical science the interaction of isolable parts occurs according to
dynamic principles that are not themselves mechanical or reducible to isolable parts
that can be visualized. In other words, mechanism as a micro thesis does not seem
to be part of what either modern or contemporary physics tells us about the natural
world. During the modern period, outstanding scientists such as Descartes, Leibniz,
and Newton did not embrace mechanism as a micro thesis and were perfectly willing
to supplement their understanding of micro events as dynamic processes with
metaphysical and theological positions. Mechanism as a micro thesis was and is held
primarily by philosophers as part of either a philosophical (metaphysical) or
ideological prDgram about science.
Finally, if we attempt to achieve coherence between our epistemological and
ontological positions by appeal to whatever principles it is that science uses, even if
those ultimate principles are not mechanistic, then those principles are always going
to be expressed in the form of a model that is not itself either visualizable or
verifiable empirically. This result, as we shall see, has momentous epistemological
consequences. 9
Refurbishing classical Aristotelian epistemology meant radically
naturalizing it. Modern naturalist epistemologists in the post-Renaissance world
denied the teleology of nature and replaced it with a mechanical and deterministic
physicalism. This modern naturalist epistemology is exemplified in the works of
such diverse philosophers as Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke.
Spinoza was a significant transitional figure who illuminated the three
problems raised by modern naturalist epistemology. His approach to the acquisition
problem was to assert that there are degrees of knowledge, but they all begin in sense
experience. His solution to the verification problem was the same as his solution to
the acquisition problem, namely, the adoption of a monism in which the mental and
the physical realms are interpreted as two aspects of a single Nature, seemingly
guaranteeing that the order of ideas is identical to the order of th ings. lo If the two
realms are identical, then there is no problem of how abstraction takes place. Even
more important is Spinoza's contention that the theory of the degrees of knowledge
culminates in intuition or the seeing of the world as a coherent whole bound by
necessary connections. That is, Spinoza's doctrine is that knowledge must be
reflexive and that to possess genuine knowledge we must know that we know.
It is worth dwelling on why knowledge must be reflexive. The way in
which we access the world epistemologically is not wholly identical to the way the
world is. Therefore, there has to be at some point a kind of knowing 2 that confirms
that knowing l is genuine knowledge and where knowing is self-certifying. The
reflexive totalization function to which Spinoza called attention is exemplified
historically in Aristotle's God (who thinks about thought), the Christian God,
Spinoza's Nature, the Leibnizian monad, and Hegel's Absolute. Spinoza's
identification ofform with matter and the insistence that the system must know that
it knows (self-reference) leads eventually to Hegel's Absolute.
164 Chapter Five

The difference between the Platonic approach to the coherence problem and
the modern secular Aristotelian solution is the following. Whereas the Platonist
makes knowing! an imperfect copy of knowing, the modern Aristotelian like
Spinoza (and, as we shall see, Locke and analytic epistemologists) asserts that
knowing 2 is (somehow) like knowing!.
Like Hobbes before him and Locke after him, Spinoza asserted the identity
of mind and matter without actually displaying it scientifically or explaining how it
is possible or even what it means. One looks in vain for an explanation of the
interpretive process, i.e., the active intellect, as part of a genetic physiological
process in a world conceived of as mechanistic and physically deterministic.
John Locke's empiricism is the best known and most influential form of
modern naturalist epistemology. Like his immediate predecessors, Locke asserted
the existence of a physiological process that accounts for perception but admits that
scientists have not discovered it. All knowledge originates in experience or ideas of
sense. Ideas of reflection result from the operation of the mind on the materials
provided by the ideas of sense. Perception is a passive process, while the mind
engages in a subsequent active process. By insisting upon the passivity of the
acquisition of the ideas of sense, Locke seems to achieve both a direct contact with
an objective world and to avoid any "contamination" of the ideas of sense by
activities of the agent. Even the use of the term 'idea' seems to cut across the
distinction between the world and our conceptualization of it. There is a counterpart
in Locke to Aristotle's doctrine of the common sensibles in that Locke identifies
primary qualities as both measurable and perceptible by more than one sense. It is
also the primary qualities that link us causally with objects. Locke embraced as well
a form of medieval Aristotelian conceptualism when he defended the linguistic
theory that general words are signs of the general ideas we form through abstraction.
Locke also asserted that there is a reflexive knowledge of the self so that we may be
said to know our internal processing directly. Finally, Locke believed that we could
prove the existence of God from purely internal resources. Similar to but not
identical to Descartes, Locke believes it is possible to know the self which in tum
leads to knowledge of God who guarantees our knowledge of the world. In short,
Locke buttressed his naturalist epistemology with an appeal to God.
Like Aristotle and Spinoza, who postulated degrees of knowledge, 11 Locke
asserted that "elementary" experiences constituted incorrigible knowledge and that
error crept in only with more complex levels of interpretation. By splitting
knowledge into at least two levels, modern naturalist epistemologists introduced a
strategy that appears to appease to some degree legitimate skeptical complaints about
error and at the same time gain acquiescence in the existence of a basic, though
modest, abstraction process. The more the abstraction process is construed as a
mechanical copying process, the less mysterious it is supposed to become.
The problem, of course, is that there is nothing elementary about allegedly
"elementary" experiences. The physiological process by which elementary ideas of
sense are acquired remains a mystery, hence we cannot appeal to science to help
identify "elementary" particulars.
The skeptical problems into which Locke's account runs are by now well
known. Berkeley attacked Locke's theory of abstraction as incapable of showing
Analytic Epistemology 165

how our ideas could be abstracted from the experience of objects or how words could
be names of things. Hume reinforced Berkeley's critique of Lockean abstraction,
and by undermining the Aristotelian analysis of causation, Hume further undermined
the argument that the distinction between primary and secondary qualities could help
to account for abstraction or establish the existence either of independent objects or
of God. Hume undermined Locke's attempt to generate a purely cognitive self-
certifying internal model even with the appeal to God. This is not to say that
Berkeley and Hume are skeptics but only that they expose problems in Locke's
theory that fueled skepticism.
From this point on, we shall refer to Locke's successors in the modem
secular Aristotelian vein as naturalist epistemologists or as adherents of
epistemological naturalism. There are two skeptical challenges to modem naturalist
epistemology. First, there is the traditional skeptical challenge to the psychological
thesis that knowledge acquisition involves a process of abstracting the structure of
an external physical object. No naturalist epistemologist ever successfully explains
the physiological- psychological process. Moreover, there seems to be an inherent
ambiguity in, if not confusion between, trying to explain a physiological process and
trying to explain a conceptual process or the relation between the two. It is all along
assumed that the physiological process is somehow basic and the conceptual process
is derivative, and at the same time it is assumed that we can "conceptualize" the
relation between the two as physiological even in the absence of present knowledge
of the physiological process.
There is a second skeptical challenge to modem naturalist epistemology.
That challenge is to the realist thesis that knowledge is a representation of an
external physical structure. If we must begin our epistemological account with
internal models, and if we cannot explain where and how these models originate,
then we can never advance beyond the internal models to an external real world.
Either we can never have knowledge of the real external world (external to our
model), or knowledge has nothing to do with an external structure. Put simply, if we
cannot explain how form is abstracted from matter then how do we know that there
is an "embedded" form in the first place?
The skeptical challenges are much more virulent in the modem period than
in the classical period. Since classical theorists began with a metaphysics and then
proceeded to epistemology they could hold on to the metaphysics and its attendant
ontology without having to have full confidence in their epistemology. So a classical
skeptic could hold that there is a real world, but since we cannot know it we settle for
something less. A modem naturalist epistemologist has to wonder if it even makes
any sense to talk about what we cannot reach.
Naturalist epistemology (i.e., modern, secular Aristotelian epistemology
based on a mechanistic view of the world) will not work. It will not work for the
following reasons.
What we begin with is a model\ of ultimate reality.
What we would seem to need in order to explain knowledge acquisition and
error is a model] of how model} relates to ultimate reality. We cannot give a direct
common sense account of how model\ relates to ultimate reality because all
knowledge is now construed as a form of theoretical modeling. The task of modern
166 Chapter Five

naturalist epistemology is to provide us with a model2 that is consistent with modelJ

and is self-certifYing.· z
The first problem is that we do not have such a model2 of how model. relates
to ultimate reality. This lack is reflected in Hume's famous recognition in the
appendix to the Treatise that he cannot conceive of how he or anyone else is ever
going to give a physicalist/scientific account of how the mind gives scientific
accounts. The lack is reflected in the perennial undiscovered physiological account
of how the physical world generates mental functions. In short, we do not have a
model of modeling. The abstraction problem remains unsolved
The second problem concerns the status ofany alleged model2. If modern
naturalist epistemology is to be consistent and coherent, any model z would have to
be like modeJ!. Ifwe do not have or cannot provide an account of how model. is
correct then how can we provide such an account or understand how any suggested
model z is correct? Recall that model. is not a direct view of ultimate reality but a
scientific model of it. If there is no direct way ofknowing that modelJ is correct, then
there is certainly no direct way of knowing that any model2 is correct.
The verification problem remains unsolved. This epistemological problem
is the analogue of the difficulty we saw in Chapter Two of the inability to establish
the definitive truth of a scientific theory coupled with the subsequent inability to
establish the truth of any historical hypothesis about the progress from one theory to
another. It is also an example of how one unanchored exploration cannot be
salvaged by another unanchored exploration.
The third problem is that if model z is supposed to be identical to model band
ifmodel. cannot certify itself, then how can mode~ certify itself? Worse yet, how
would we even know that the very idea ofmodel z makes sense? We must have some
understanding of how a model can certifY itself at least as being a model. That is,
we must have a model ofmodeling. In order to have a model ofmodeling (i.e., a
model of the abstraction process), we would have to show the mechanism of how
form is separatedJrom matter. That is precisely what cannot be done in any form of
naturalist epistemology.
Without a model of modeling we can never show how a model certifies
itself. The coherence problem remains unsolved, and both the verification problem
and the coherence problem are parasitic on the abstraction problem for naturalistic
epistemology. The relationship between model z and model. is the analogue to the
problem of the relationship between knowledge2 and knowledge., and between Talkz
and Talk •. The requirement of reflexivity is the epistemological counterpart to the
problem of self-reference discussed in the previous chapter. In both cases, the
modem Aristotelian starting point in the object presupposes that any analysis will
eventually be turned back upon itself and account for the originating process in the
subject. If our thesis in the metaphysical discussion was correct, namely that
analytic philosophy is incapable ofdealing with self-reference, then we should expect
a similar difficulty to emerge in any epistemological discussion designed to explain
the initial process of knowledge acquisition.
The ambiguity of the status of model z has serious implications. To begin
with, epistemology cannot rescue metaphysics. The correctness of the
epistemological account is always parasitic upon the correctness or presumed
Analytic Epistemology 167

correctness of the metaphysical account. No alleged scientific account of the

learning process can by itselfestablish the truth ofscientism. 13 We should, therefore,
not be surprised to discover that there was a revival of skepticism with in the modem
period and the contemporary period as well. 14 This is the analogue to our contention
that there is no neutral way to establish the truth of an exploration. If the
epistemology cannot support the metaphysics, then we cannot establish the
consistency and coherence of modem epistemology with modem metaphysics. From
the skeptical point of view, the naturalistic epistemological exploration can never get
started. If the instrument of analysis is challenged (because we can never be sure
that someone has correctly abstracted the structure) then the object is always subject
to challenge. If the object is subject to challenge, then there is no unambiguous
example of knowledge from which epistemological analysis can originate. The
continuous possibility of this challenge is a result of the fact that naturalist
epistemology commences with the assumption that the structure of the external
object is primary and that the structure of the mental contents of the mind is
derivative. This should make clear why so much of the literature of naturalist
epistemology commences with time-honored refutations of skepticism.
Epistemological naturalists identify their critics as skeptics and accuse their
critics of denying the existence of or the possibility of knowledge. IS Platonists and
religious thinkers are dismissed as mystics, and Copernicans are lumped with the
skeptics. Naturalists then proceed to point out that those who raise questions about
the existence or possibility of knowledge are doing something that is fundamentally
incoherent since the challenges themselves are unintelligible without assuming some
epistemological framework. This is the revival of the standard refutation of
Confronted with any challenge to the psychology of knowing, the naturalist
epistemologist has invariably responded by saying that all skeptical challenges to the
psychological processes of knowledge acquisition or confirmation ultimately share
in the fundamental incoherence of all challenges to the existence of knowledge per
se. Hence, naturalist epistemologists conclude, often hastily, that it is not really
incumbent upon them to provide details about the process of knowledge acquisition
and processing. This is often followed by the assertion that the concern of
epistemology is the clarification of knowledge and not its genesis which is the
province of psychology,16 and this is often followed by the assertion that future
scientific developments will establish the process.
The naturalist response is too hasty. The epistemological problem of
abstraction is parasitic upon a metaphysical presupposition. Since the structure is not
in principle physically separable from the matter, we cannot actually present or show
or display the structure on its own. Ifwe cannot physically separate or isolate form
or structure from matter (because we can only do it "mentally"), then (1) we can
never be sure l7 that either we or anyone else has successfully performed the mental
abstraction, [hence, there is no way to look into someone else's mind and see that
they have correctly abstracted the structure or even abstracted at all] and (2) if we
cannot be sure of that, then we cannot know for sure that there is a form or structure
embedded somehow in matter. Naturalist epistemology is thus subject to two kinds
of objection: one can deny that we (or anyone else) have successfully abstracted the
168 Chapter Five

form or structure, or one can deny that there is an objective structure or form to be
abstracted. By the very nature of its basic metaphysical assumptions, there can be
no objective scientific presentation of the correctness of the naturalist position. We
have already indicated why this problem seemed less acute to classical Aristotelian
epistemologists. What makes it especially acute for modern naturalist
epistemologists is the status of model z.
In order to reinforce the point that future developments in science cannot
solve this problem for modern naturalists we note two related speculative hypotheses
that have served as prototypes. First, one might be tempted as Locke was to identify
form with subatomic structure. However, if we could be an epistemological Gulliver
and imagine ourselves observing a subatomic particle or event, the problem of the
form ofthe form (sub-atomic event) would arise, as Hume noted. We have simply
moved the problem to a new level. In Newton's mechanistic universe there are only
efficient causes; without formal and final causes there is no essential form to grasp.
Second, one might be tempted to identify the act of abstraction with neural events in
the brain. Here again we face the same problem of correctly 'abstracting' the
structure of the act of abstraction. Both of these moves will either end in a new
nominalism or reflect the recurrent analytic strategy of trying to shore up one
exploration with subsidiary explorations.
Let us put this point more succinctly. Modern naturalist epistemology can
only work if some form of ontological mechanism is involved. What we mean by this
is that if reality ultimately consists of discrete parts, and if all explanation can be
reduced to discrete parts, and if we could reduce knowing (explaining) to interaction
among discrete parts, then a naturalist epistemology would in principle be possible.
However, if ultimate reality consists of relationships among parts then no
relationship can itself be explained by reference to discrete parts. Hume understood
this about mechanical explanations that appealed to 'secret springs'; this is also the
Hegelian point about internal relations; which is later reinforced by Heisenberg's
principle of indeterminacy.
If ultimate explanations (modeI 2) are relational then they are not in principle
different from model]. If model2 is not different from model] then mode~ cannot
certify itself. If model 2 cannot certify itself then it is subject to all of the limitations
of model]. If it is subject to all of the limitations of model] then it presupposes a pre-
theoretical background context that cannot in principle be conceptualized. If total
conceptualization is not possible then scientism and naturalism cannot be made
Naturalist epistemologists call their critics skeptics or relativists.
Unfortunately, the use of the term 'skepticism' by modern naturalist epistemologists
as a general pejorative term (both timeless and contextless, to identify all of their
critics) has had an obfuscating effect on epistemological discussions.]S To be sure,
there are and have been critics of naturalist epistemology who have designated
themselves as skeptics, but even amongst these there are different kinds of
skepticism. Lumping ancient and modern skeptics together is especially misleading
because it obfuscates the fundamental difficulties of modern naturalist epistemology.
There are other critics of naturalist epistemology who would eschew the term
'skepticism' or relativism on the grounds that they have an alternative conception of
Analytic Epistemology 169

what constitutes knowledge and thus are not engaged in a wholesale dismissal of the
possibility of knowledge. The skeptics, for example, challenged the view that
knowledge consists in the successful grasping of the objective structure of the world.
In its place, some of these so-called "skeptics" advocated an alternative!9 view of
what constitutes knowledge. We must be careful to identify what kind of
'skepticism' we are discussing.
Recognition of the peculiar difficulties of modern naturalist epistemology
is precisely what gave rise to the Copernican Revolution in Philosophy in both Hume
and Kant. Basic to the Copernican view is the affirmation that the paradigmatic form
of knowledge is practical/moral knowledge, and that this necessarily involves
references to formative activity by the agent. The automatic response of modern
naturalist epistemologists to the Copernican position is that the latter is just a modern
form of skepticism, appealing to custom or tradition or some "disreputable"
subjective source as a substitute for "real" knowledge. 20
What is important for our story is that the successive demolition of Locke's
modern naturalist epistemology by Berkeley, Hume,2! and Kant, leads us to the post-
Kantian epistemology of Fichte and Hegel. Fichte revived the naturalist tradition in
opposition to Kant. He not only reified experiences or phenomena as a way of
evading the abstraction problem but he also indicated that a consistent empiricism
must ultimately collapse the distinction between the experience and the experiencer
(i.e., the subject) if it is to avoid the Kantian synthetic a priori. The full force of
Fichte's arguments as well as the necessity for totalization (already implicit in
Spinoza) are spelled out in Hegel.
There is only one way around this naturalist epistemological impasse. That
way is to assert that the instrument of analysis and the object of analysis must be
identical. This requires that the object be collapsed into the instrument (mind or self-
knowledge). If the instrument and the object are identical, then whatever is true of
the instrument is true of the object, and vice versa. No gap is possible between the
instrument and the object. There can be no problem, then, of whether we have
successively abstracted the form. As a consequence, the skeptic cannot challenge the
instrument absolutely for he/she must use that instrument. If so, the only recourse
for the skeptic is to challenge the instrument relatively by suggesting that the
instrument does not remain the same but changes. Those who take this suggested
way out can then introduce the claim that the changes in the instrument are
progressive and part of the instrument, and, derivatively, part of or intrinsic to the
objt:ct. This way out is Hegel's, and the instrument is the human mind itself.
Precisely because this way out is Hegel's and precisely because it collapses the object
into the subject, analytic philosophers cannot accept it.
There appears to be a second way around this impasse. In this second way
it is still agreed that the instrument of analysis and the object of analysis are identical,
but this time we attempt to collapse the subject into the object. The primary focus
or starting point is the object. We begin with clear cut examples of objective
knowledge and bracket offpurely philosophical concerns. As long as all parties to
the discussion believe there are such clear cut examples of objective knowledge, the
epistemological discussion can proceed. Once we begin with the object it must be
admitted that in the early stages it will not be possible to prize off the structure (form)
170 Chapter Five

from the content. Every account of knowledge is going to have to reflect the
particular objects or kinds of knowledge with which we begin the analysis. For such
an account to be legitimate the naturalist epistemologist must assume (1) that the
object is a genuine form of knowledge, (2) that the object is proto-typical of all
knowledge, and (3) that the proto-typical form of knowledge can be reflexively
applied, in time, to the 'instrument' of analysis, namely the subject. In order to
sustain this approach some sort of providential history (e.g., evolutionary
epistemology) is needed. As we have repeatedly maintained, the providential history
rhetorically blocks consideration of the philosophical concerns. As an attempt to
buttress one exploration with another, it leads to the abyss of exploration.
It is our contention that the task ofnaturalist epistemology is to provide us
with model2• Moreover, it is our contention that this is an impossible task. That is
why we maintain that the providential history serves a purely rhetorical function. We
believe that a review of early analytic epistemology, especially versions that
culminate in Wittgenstein's Tractatus, will further confirm why the task is
impossible to complete.
Given what we have said about the inherent and intractable difficulties of
modem Aristotelian or naturalist epistemology the reader may be led to wonder why
all philosophers did not uniformly move to other alternative and less troublesome
positions like Platonism, Copernican ism, idealism, theology, or even return to
classical positions? There are two answers. First, modem naturalist epistemology
is often in the service of the Enlightenment Project, and that commitment constrains
the choice. Second, once someone has entered the seamless web of epistemology
and metaphysics in modem naturalism, the logic of that position encourages one to
offer further naturalistic exploratory hypotheses to overcome difficulties in earlier
naturalistic hypotheses. This only postpones the problem.

Early Analytic Epistemology

Analytic philosophy began as a reaction against Hegel. The early analytic
epistemological reaction against Hegel took the form of a revival of realism,
understood here as the reassertion of the existence of an external physical world
independent of the mind. This way around the modem naturalist epistemological
impasse maintained that the instrument of analysis and the object of analysis are
identical, but then insisted that the primary focus or starting point has to be the object
of analysis. The affirmation ofthis realism is an act of faith. Analytic philosophers
feel comfortable with this approach because they begin with the assumption of
scientism, more specifically the assumption that science constitutes the
unimpeachable body of knowledge.
Seemingly freed from the nuisance of skepticism, the naturalist
epistemologist can now set about articulating the structure of knowledge. A key
figure in this revival was Franz Brentano (1838-1917), who devoted much of his
writing to the psychology of learning and to Aristotle's psychology in particular. 22
Rather than establish any direct physiological link between external physical objects
and our thoughts, Brentano looked upon that link as a hypothesis of high probability.
Mental phenomena were construed by Brentano as intentional, i.e., as involving both
an activity and a mental object to which the activity is directed. By distinguishing
Analytic Epistemology 171

between judgments which were directly evident and those which were only indirectly
evident, Brentano merely revived the standard difficulties of (a) how exactly our
thoughts relate to the world and (b) how exactly the active part of the mind processes
In response to the Copernican Revolution in general, naturalist
epistemology, as initially exemplified in Brentano, sought to postpone the difficulty
of explaining the abstraction process and focused instead on how the mind processed
information. However, when it did so, naturalist epistemology construed the mind's
activity as analogous to the outside-inside abstraction process by once more
distinguishing between an object and a subject within the mind itself. That is,
Brentano tried to indicate in what sense starting with an object could be reflexively
applied to the subject who knows.
A recurrent pattern can now be identified in early analytic epistemology,
and, as we shall see, philosophical psychology. The basic model is: [OBJECT --->
SUBJECT]. The subject is construed as both passive in its receptivity of the object
and as active in its subsequent interpretation of the object. The further explanation
of the subsequent active interpretation is to construe the subject as itself composed
of [quasi-objects ---> quasi-subjects (homunculus)). The first set of quasi-objects
can be variously called phantasms, ideas, intentional objects, sense-data, etc. In
some always mysterious and undefined way the quasi-objects result from the real
objects (OBJECT), and this is the traditional idea of abstraction. Ignoring that
mystery for the moment along with the indefinitely renewable promissory note that
the "next" generation of psychologists will solve it, the naturalist epistemologist
focuses on the quasi-object. This focus also turns out to be probletnatic and for
exactly the same reasons. In order to understand the quasi-object we must invest the
quasi-subject with active powers to such an extent that the quasi-object is threatened
with extinction. As naturalist epistemology continually shifts the emphasis to the
quasi-subject, the quasi-object seems increasingly to be a creature of the quasi-
subject. Threatened with the entire collapse of the realist (i.e., subject-independent)
structure, the naturalist epistemologist must fall back again and now asserts that the
quasi-subject is itself a quasi-quasi-object, and so on ad infinitum. It is incumbent
upon the naturalist epistemologist to fabricate increasingly ingenious and sometimes
bizarre models for how this is possible. The ultimate purpose of all this is to
neutralize or to do away completely with any irreducible subject.
In our terms, what Brentano has done is to embrace epistemological realism
by introducing an exploratory hypothesis of the naturalistic kind. But, as we have
argued, no exploration can be substantiated except by appeal to an explication of the
common sense framework. Epistemological realism as an exploration is meant to
explain the common sense framework. However, the common sense framework
serves as the arbiter of all explorations. Hence, no exploration, including
epistemological realism, can explain the common sense framework. Epistemological
realism as Model z is ultimately incoherent. No future scientific findings of any kind
can obviate this philosophical point.
Brentano's distinction between an act of awareness and an object of
awareness became the basis for G.E. Moore's celebrated 'refutation of idealism'.
Moore, along with Russell, was largely responsible for the tendency amongst analytic
172 Chapter Five

philosophers to accuse their opponents of denying the existence of external physical

objects and then to label this denial as 'idealism'. This is the origin of the analytic
philosophical confusion between idealism and phenomenalism.
For Moore, to defend realism is to reject idealism by insisting that
knowledge originates in the abstraction of an external structure. Moore failed to see
that many of his opponents are really denying that knowledge originates in the
abstraction of an external structure rather than denying the existence of external
objects. Moore is also a prime example of the slippery slope in Brentano. For
example, Moore distinguished between the sense datum (Le., the object we see) and
the sensation we have of the sense datum. So while the real object (OBJECT) is a
physical object, the sense datum is a quasi-object, and the sensation is a quasi-quasi-
object. Moore was never able to explain either the relation between the physical
object and the sense datum or the relation between the sense datum and the sensation
of it. This exemplifies the abyss of exploration.
A number of issues are confusedly run together in Moore's epistemology,
but unraveling them will enable us to summarize, once again, the chief difficulties
in modern naturalist epistemology. The central problem with modern naturalist
epistemology is its version of realism, i.e., its insistence that knowledge is the
abstraction by a subject of the structure of objects external to human beings.
Certainty is not the central issue. Focusing on certainty confuses the question of the
state of the agent with the question of whether we have properly grasped the external
structure. Nor is foundationalism a central issue, for it raises a peripheral or
derivative question of whether we have an idea of or an accurate copy of something
external. If we cannot solve the initial abstraction issue we cannot solve the
derivative issue. Nor are sense data a central issue, for the introduction of sense data
leads again to a derivative conflict over whether the external object we are trying to
"know" is a sense datum or a hidden physical structure. It had been hoped by some
naturalist epistemologists that if we construed sense data as the OBJECT instead of
as quasi-objects, and if we could be said to know sense data, then epistemology
would no longer be troublesome. But once again failure to make clear how we
abstract in the first place simply led to the raising of all the same questions about
sense data that were raised about external physical objects in the first place. 23
Finally, Moore's repeated theatrical denunciations of skepticism never amounted to
a solution of the problem of how we abstract the external structure.
Bertrand Russell followed Moore's lead in embracing "realism." Russell
assumed the legitimacy of modern naturalist epistemology, specifically the notion of
foundationalism, despite all the well known problems that we have just summarized.
The question, we raise, is why? There is nothing intuitively obvious about this
epistemology. There are two reasons, one historical and one ideological. Despite
pretensions to novelty, every philosophical movement inherits a large part of its
starting point. Analytic philosophy is no exception. At the same time, modern
naturalist epistemology seemed the only form of realism compatible with scientism.
If substantiated, it would cut off appeals to anything other than technologically
controllable natural objects.
Russell adopted the distinction between knowledge by acquaintance (which,
initially, was thought to be error-free) and the derivative knowledge by description.
Analytic Epistemology 173

This version of foundationalism we have already shown to be less than useful

because it begs the basic epistemological issue of how we perform the initial
abstraction. It is a testament to how deeply committed analytic philosophers are to
modern naturalist epistemology that the whole of twentieth-century epistemology
could be characterized by and exemplified in Russell's serial attempts to solve the
abstraction problem, all of which he subsequently discarded without ever having
surrendered or questioned his basic modern naturalist frame of reference.
What is important about Russell as an epistemologist is not his solution of
the abstraction problem but his manner of evading it. Let us look at that evasion
because it established a pattern of analytic argumentation. Modern and
contemporary critics of naturalist accounts of abstraction maintain that there is a pre-
conceptual domain (Hume's habits of the mind, the Kantian synthetic a priori,
transcendental arguments in general, Wittgenstein's practices, etc.) that cannot be
conceptualized in naturalist terms. Instead of responding to this critique by
producing a definitive naturalist account of abstraction, Russell merely asserts that
at some other level such an account could in principle be given. The clearest
example of this is the Theory of Types, as discussed in Chapter Three. For Russell,
it is always useful to ask for the epistemological justification of any level of
discourse or thought simply by moving to the next level. Since we can, allegedly in
principle, always move to the next level there is no reason why we cannot demand
and expect a naturalist account of any alleged pre-conceptual domain of activity,
even if we cannot provide it ourselves at the moment.
The pattern this establishes among analytic epistemologists is that instead
of providing an account of abstraction what we get is a dismissal of all claims that
the pre-conceptual cannot be conceptualized and a dismissal of all attempts to
establish a framework by transcendental argument (i.e., explication). This dismissal
takes the form of turning the tables and demanding a naturalist account or foundation
for any explication of the pre-conceptual. When confronted with the response that
any such request is illegitimate, the analytic epistemologist rests his case with the
question-begging charge that explicators cannot provide a satisfactory exploratory
account of their explication. This pattern of analytic argument creates the appearance
that the critics of analytic epistemology are failing to provide something.
This is appearance only. The irony of this situation is that it is analytic
epistemologists who fail to provide something. What they fail to provide is an
account of abstraction at any level. In lieu of such an account they embrace an
infinite regress of levels. Any serious account of abstraction is postponed, not
indefinitely, but infinitely. Unfortunately, as we saw in Russell's Theory of Types,
there is no way to establish a foundation or meaning for the claim that there are an
infinite number of levels or even to understand on what level we are standing when
we entertain such a claim. We can call this Russell's Regression. The analogue to
this that recurs again and again in analytic arguments is the attempt to buttress one
exploration with another exploration, and so on. Popper's notion or metaphor of
escaping into wider and wider prisons, or historicist appeals to the infinite future
progress of science, are but restatements of Russel!'s Regression. What we end up
with is not an account of the pre-conceptual but an abyss of exploration.
174 Chapter Five

The optimistic revival of modem naturalist epistemology by the analytic

movement in the twentieth-century would have come as a surprise to anyone familiar
with the history ofthe problem of abstraction if it had not been for one factor. That
factor was the popular cultural triumph of the view that science is the whole truth
about everything. Scientism helped the revival of naturalist epistemology in two
ways. First, the spectacular success of science in its technology made any
philosophical challenge seem sophistic, i.e., science appeared to be self-certifying.
If science were self-certifying, then we would once more have a metaphysical basis
on which to base the epistemology and thereby escape the modem predicament of
trying to use the epistemology to answer issues in metaphysics. Second, the
anticipated advances in all branches of science made many optimistic that the
psychology of learning would soon dispose of nagging questions about the genesis
of knowing.

Wittgenstein's Traetatus
Wittgenstein's Tractatus is the single most important work of analytic epistemology
written in the twentieth century. It is therefore the most significant philosophical
failure of the twentieth-century! By the author's own admission, the Tractatus
failed. What makes the failure significant is that (a) it is the clearest embodiment of
analytic epistemology, and (b) it is itself an example of what it as a work says cannot
be done. Critics of analytic philosophy would consider the recognition of the failure
and the disavowal as a very special and significant kind of success.
Wittgenstein's Tractatus subscribes to the three major doctrines of the
Enlightenment Project within analytic philosophy as we have defined them. First,
the Tractatus subscribes to scientism: "The totality of true propositions is the whole
of natural science (or the whole corpus of the natural sciences)." (4.11).24 The
Tractatus subscribes to metaphysical and epistemological naturalism, the view that
our thoughts are abstractions of the forms (internal structure) of the things we
experience: "A logical picture of facts is a thought." (3). Finally, the Tractatus
embodies an anti-agency view: "There is no such thing as the subject that thinks or
entertains ideas." (5.631).25
In addition, the Tractatus expresses Wittgenstein's solidarity with Russell
in opposition to Hegel on the issue of the relation of the parts to the whole. Like
Russell, Wittgenstein asserted that the world is made up of atomic facts so that the
truth or falsity of any elementary proposition is independent of the truth or falsity of
any other proposition.

What is the case - a fact - is the existence of states of affairs (2).

States of affairs are independent of one another (2.061).

The Tractatus addresses a number of philosophical problems, but it is

primarily addressed to solving one. That problem, upon which all the others hinge,
is the epistemological problem of abstraction. In a letter written to Russell while
Wittgenstein was in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp,26 Wittgenstein identifies the
"cardinal problem of philosophy" as "what can be expressed [gesagt] by
propositions, - i.e. by language". He then went on to equate this with "what can be
Analytic Epistemology 175

thought." What can be expressed is contrasted with what cannot be expressed but
"only shown."
The crucial problem of naturalist epistemology is to explain how we abstract
the form from matter in our experience of the world; i.e., how our thought can be a
representation of external reality or, derivatively, how language can be an accurate
description of the structure of objects external to human beings. In our terminology,
to explain abstraction is to provide a Model2 of Model}. Like his modern naturalist
forbearers, Wittgenstein admitted that the actual biological and psychological
mechanisms are a mystery, but he also insisted that knowledge must be an abstraction
of external structure.

I don't know what the constituents of a thought are but I know that
it must have such constituents which correspond to the words of
Language. Again the kind of relation of the constituents of
thought and ofthe pictured fact is irrelevant. It would be a matter
of psychology to find [it] out Does a Gedanke consist of words?
No! But of psychical constituents that have the same sort of
relation to reality as words. What those constituents are I don't
know. 27

Wittgenstein thought that the Tractatus solved the crucial problem of

epistemology even though it did not provide a scientific account of the learning
process. He also believed that his solution avoided the slippery Brentano slope of
having to postulate increasingly subtle functions of a subject. In fact, the Tractatus
prided itself on eliminating considerations of the self.
In order to present more clearly the solution of the Tractatus, let us briefly
summarize the structure of the work as a whole. The Tractatus is presented in the
fonn of a preface and seven numbered sections.

Preface: The problems of philosophy are all reducible to the issue

of how language and thought relate to the structure of the world.
The solution lies in seeing what can and cannot be said.
Wittgenstein here indicates that his solution amounts to a
dissolution ofthe problem; (a) "it shows how little has been done
when these problems have been solved."
1. the structure of the world and how facts relate to the world;
2. the common 'logical form' offacts and pictures;
3. thoughts as logical pictures of facts;
4. Language is a system of truth functions of elementary
propositions (Russell); the 'general form' of propositions,
especially as seen in tautologies, gives us a comprehensive view
of language, logic and the world.
5. the transparent structure of propositions;
6. applications of the comprehensive view to:
6.1 logic
6.2 mathematics
176 Chapter Five

6.3 science
6.4 ethics and esthetics
6.5 the method of philosophy;
7. conclusion: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be

The Traetatus Solution

The classic modem naturalist epistemological problem from Locke to Brentano and
Russell has been to explain the relation between the structure of external objects and
the mind which allegedly abstracts that structure. In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein
declared the classic problem to be dissolved. His dissolution is brilliantly simple:
epistemologists do not, cannot, and need not explain the abstraction process. Instead
of this being an indication of the failure of modem naturalist epistemology,
Wittgenstein saw it initially as a confirmation of the truth of that position. 28 Stated
in analytic terms, the sole function of language is to picture (state) facts; but just as
the likeness of a picture to a fact cannot be pictured, so the likeness between
language andfact cannot be stated (pictured). The relation between a picture and
the facts is something that one can show, but the likeness is not itself something we
can picture or imagine. "A picture is a model of reality" (2.12) but "A picture
cannot, however, depict its pictorial form: it displays it" (2.172).29 There cannot be
a model2 ofmodel/> and hence the concernfor why we are unable to give a model of
modeling is a bogus problem.
In one important sense, this dissolution should come as no surprise. It is no
surprise to those familiar with the history of epistemology because from the
beginning it should have been clear that the particular defining form cannot be
separated from the matter. If the form cannot be separated from the particular
material object, then the form cannot be isolated in such a way as to enable us to
represent in any way its relation to matter. "My fundamental idea is that the 'logical
constants' are not representatives; that there can be no representatives of the logic of
facts" (4.0312).
What Wittgenstein adds to this dissolution is the notion of showing. 30 The
clearest example and best evidence Wittgenstein offers of something that shows itself
is the tautology.31 A tautology is a compound proposition which is always true and
remains true no matter what the truth values are of its constituent propositions. For
example, the compound proposition "P or not-P" is a tautology because it is always
true. At the same time, the tautology or compound proposition does not itself say
anything, i.e., the tautology or compound proposition is not itself representational of
any fact. The tautology does not project itself or direct us to anything outside of
itself. The truth of a tautology presents itself, i.e., it is self-illuminating and self-
guaranteeing. The structure of logic mirrors the structure of the world; but, the
propositions of logic say nothing about the world.
The very existence of tautologies, according to Wittgenstein, leads us to
discover something about the structure of reality. The structure is shown but not
sayable in the same way that the tautology does not say anything. The structure
(form) of reality is revealed in or implicit in our language, especially in the existence
of tautologies. To the extent that the logic or form of our language reflects the
Analytic Epistemology 177

structure of reality or is analogous to it, the logic of our language can only show
There are in Wittgenstein's universe the facts and the relationships among
the facts (i.e., the structure). The facts are individually capable of being pictured.
The structure (model]) is not itself a fact but the purely formal tautological
connections among the facts. Therefore, one cannot picture (or provide model 2 of)
the structure (model]). The structure is shown with or given in the picture. Ifwe
cannot picture the structure (or form) in abstraction from the content, then we cannot
have a picture, or meta-picture if you will, of the mind's grasping of the structure.
The most we could say is that the mind has a picture of the facts.
What Wittgenstein says follows consistently from both his assumptions
about the status of tautologies and his notions about thoughts and language being
pictures or representations of the facts. Knowledge begins, and ends, in "seeing."
Any exploration must therefore terminate in "a" seeing or in something being shown.
The ultimate or final seeing is not something that can be explained further. In short,
what Wittgenstein has made clear is that a proper understanding of epistemology
blocks the asking ofa certain kind of philosophical question, but it also commits us
to the existence of a meaning terminus. Indeed, this is a symptom of the refusal to
'go reflective'. Those who persist in asking that question are either doing something
unintelligible (as the Tractatus maintains) or they are challenging the whole
naturalist epistemological position (which is what the later Wittgenstein will do).

The Implications of the Tractatus Solution

What Wittgenstein has done is to solve the abstraction problem by dissolving it into
the verification problem. This way of dissolving the abstraction problem also
dissolves the coherence problem by transforming it into the verification problem.
Everything now depends upon the verification problem.

There are three important points in Wittgenstein's Tractatus solution:

First, the dissolution point: epistemologists cannot and need not explain the
abstraction process;
Second, the doctrine of the tautology: the truth of the tautology shows us
something about reality;
Third, the meaning terminus point: there is a final or ultimate state of
representing that is self-referential.

The first point in Wittgenstein's Tractatus solution dissolves the need for
explaining the abstraction process. The abstraction process cannot in principle be
explained. This is so because there cannot be a meta-picture of the picturing or
abstraction process. But if this is so, then there cannot ever be a scientific!
psychological account of the act of grasping meaning! There can only be a
philosophical explanation of why the scientific explanation is impossible. At best,
there could only be a correlation between a physical state and a mental or cognitive
state. There could never be an explanation of the correlation between the physical
state and the mental or cognitive state. This implication of Wittgenstein's own
solution is something that he did not fully comprehend when he wrote the Tractatus,
178 Chapter Five

as witnessed by his previously cited correspondence in which he allows for some

future scientific-psychological account. It is, however, something that he did come
in time to understand about his own position, and it led to abandoning the scientism
of the Tractatus when he wrote the Investigations and Zettel. It also led to
Wittgenstein's standing objection to any attempt to provide a mechanistic-scientific
account of cognitive or linguistic functioning.
The second point in Wittgenstein's Tractatus solution is that the tautology,
specifically its self-presentational nature, tells us something about reality. In other
words, the structure of language seemingly has ontological implications. This is, of
course, a key assumption of naturalist metaphysics, logic, and epistemology.
However, this point has to be carefully qualified. The structure of logic, it is
claimed, mirrors the structure of the world, while the propositions of logic say
nothing about the world.
How does this second point stand up to the first point? If, by Wittgenstein' s
own admission, we can never have a meta-picture of the picturing or abstraction
process, then this merely reinforces the recognition that the form cannot be separated
from the matter. If the intellectual separating of the form from the matter cannot be
objectively checked, then there is no objective test for establishing that we have
correctly abstracted form (structure) from matter. Specifically, the distinction
between atomic sentences and the tautological connections among the atomic
sentences articulated in Russell's Principia Mathematica cannot be established as
being objectively correct. Wittgenstein, in fact, never gives an example of a simple
or atomic truth. It also, therefore, means that we have no objective way of
establishing that the logical connectives exhibited in the tautologies reflect the true
structure or form of reality. Hence, there is no way of drawing ontological
conclusions from logicalform. The full recognition of the implications of this point
will lead Wittgenstein, eventually, to abandon both metaphysical and epistemological
modem naturalism. 32
This brings us to the third point, the meaning terminus. In order to block
the classic challenge to naturalist epistemology, namely, "How do we know that the
mind has correctly abstracted the structure or form of the external object?",
Wittgenstein had to embrace two theses: (1) there is a meaning terminus or ultimate
representation, and (2) the meaning terminus must be explicable without reference
to any subject.
The meaning terminus or ultimate seeing is a mental event (thought) which
captures the structural similarity of the facts that make up the world. Moreover, this
thought is at one and the same time a representation and a representation that
presents itselfas a representation ofsomething else. 33 The representation directs us
to or projects upon the external object the structural similarity. In this respect it is
analogous to Brentano's view of the mental as intentional. By attributing a
directional character to thought, Wittgenstein seemingly escapes having to make
reference to a subject. It is important to eliminate reference to the subject otherwise
we open the traditional Pandora's box of wondering how much the thought is a true
representation and how much it is a projection of the subject. Skepticism, relativism,
and of course the Copernican Revolution can only be permanently put to rest by the
supposition that there is such a thing as a meaning terminus.
Analytic Epistemology 179

The crucial importance of the meaning terminus is often overlooked because

Wittgenstein presented the Tractatus largely as a thesis about language. Yet it is
clear enough. Language is the totality of propositions, and propositions are
expressions of thoughts. Language does not explain itself, but is in need of
interpretation. Language is explained by reference to the thought. The meaning
terminus is mental, context independent, and self-contained. It simultaneously
presents itself and stands for an object or state of affairs. The crucial difference
between a proposition and a thought is that the proposition is not meaningful in itself
but the thought is meaningful in itself.
The thought is a meaning terminus which includes its own principle of
application. To say that it includes its own principle of application is equivalent to
saying that it applies itself. So the thought in Wittgenstein's Tractatus has
effectively absorbed into itself the traditional role of the subject (active intellect,
etc.). This is tantamount to a rejection of the existence of an independent subject.
At the same time, by absorbing the subject into the object in this fashion,
Wittgenstein has eliminated the difference between subjects and objects by
attributing the properties of the subject to the object.
Wittgenstein's self-referential object is indistinguishable from a self-
referential subject because both are mental entities. There is in the end not much, if
any, difference between a representation that projects itself as a representation and
an entity that is both a representation and a being represented.
What did Wittgenstein have in mind when he conceived of self-referentiality
as the presentational dimension ofthe meaning terminus? How can something refer
to an external state of affairs by referring to itself? There is a classical antecedent
for this in Aristotle; but more importantly there are modern antecedents for this
possibility in Leibniz, Fichte, and HegeJ.34 There is, in short, an idealist resolution
ofthe epistemological and metaphysical problems ofmodern naturalism. Ifwe are
correct then the ultimate dissolution of the problem of modern Aristotelian or
naturalist epistemology lies in the notion of a self-referential meaning terminus.
Hegel's Absolute incorporates the properties of such a self-referential meaning
terminus in an idealist form.
Wittgenstein ofthe Tractatus is, of course, unable and unwilling to accept
the Hegelian solution or Hegelian interpretation of his own solution. Let us review
why. If thought is to be nothing but a reflection of external structure, and that is
what naturalist/realist epistemology is all about, then there cannot be, in the end, a
subject which provides residual structure of any kind. Residual structure is here to
be understood as structure not reducible to some kind of external objective structure.
This is why the Copernican Revolution or any notion of a synthetic a priori is
anathema to naturalist epistemology. This means there cannot be special
philosophical truths which are different in kind from ordinary truths; there cannot be
'truths' about the ordinary truths which are different in kind from ordinary truths.
There cannot be special philosophical truths that involve the postulation of a residual
subject or super subject. There cannot, in short, be an irreducibly different Talk2 or
Model 2 •
Here we begin to uncover a special problem. Wittgenstein's solution in the
Tractatus involves seeing certain philosophical truths about tautologies. Truths
180 Chapter Five

about tautologies are philosophical rather than ordinary truths because tautologies are
not themselves truths about the world. Truths about tautologies really ought to be,
on Wittgenstein's own view, oblique truths about ordinary truths. They could only
be such oblique truths about the system of ordinary truths if there were a super
subject standing outside the system of ordinary truths who could note the
obliqueness. To accept the super subject is to surrender naturalist epistemology; it
would mean that the only way to preserve a self-referential meaning terminus would
involve collapsing objects into THE SUBJECT; it would mean surrendering the
possibility of analysis or the gradual accumulation of isolable truths. In short, it
would mean surrendering analytic philosophy.
How then did Wittgenstein propose, in the Tractatus, to evade the Hegelian
implications of the notion of a self-referential meaning terminus? He did so by
maintaining that the philosophical truths enunciated by the Tractatus are logical
fictions that are supposed to disappear once we comprehend them. To use two
metaphors that express this view, the insights ofthe Tractatus are a scaffolding to be
taken down when the whole picture is complete, or those insights are to be construed
as a ladder to be thrown away at the end. That is why Wittgenstein is led to say that
the Tractatus is, in a sense, itself nonsense and that in the end the Tractatus leaves
everything as it is. This Tractatus suggestion or solution is a way of handling what
was identified as Talk2 or Model. So after all is said and done, there is in
Wittgenstein's Tractatus a Model 2. This illustrates the need of analytic philosophy
to keep two incompatible levels of discourse going at the same time.
It is impossible to take the Tractatus suggestion seriously. A complete and
serious philosophical account, as we have persistently maintained, not only explains
everything, it must explain the explanation itself. We cannot and would not,
therefore, ignore the path to the Tractatus explanation. Even where we may disagree
with it, the path of the Tractatus is lined with brilliant philosophical insights,
including the insights of its own difficulties. More important for our immediate
discussion, the difficulties of the Tractatus exemplify, once more, that explorations
presuppose explications, that to think otherwise is to try and stand in two places at
once without admitting it, that it is an attempt to get by with showing what must be
said! Apparently the only way to resolve the internal difficulties of modern naturalist
epistemology and still remain a realist is to embrace Hegel.
An additional set of implications in the Tractatus solution ensue.
Wittgenstein's Tractatus was initially inspired by Russell's ideal language in the
Principia Mathematica and the syntactical conception contained within it. The
Tractatus was inspired by the ideal of a perfect language in which everything could
be understood either as an atomic proposition corresponding to a fact or as a formal
relationship among symbols. As we noted, Russell's syntactical ideal ran into
difficulties from which Russell vainly attempted to extricate himself by appeals to
semantic principles that violated the syntactical ideal. Wittgenstein's Tractatus
sought to transcend those difficulties by means of the distinction between what can
be said and what can only be shown. According to the Tractatus, what can be said
are atomic propositions corresponding to the facts. What can only be shown is the
logical form of a language, i.e., its syntax and semantics. The Tractatus thus denies
Analytic Epistemology 181

(4.12 and 4.121) that a language can express its own meta-language (i.e., its syntax,
semantics, pragmatics, etc.).
Wittgenstein was also ruthless in spelling out the implications of the
conclusion that a language cannot express its own meta-language. No meta-theory
can be checked, and therefore meaningfully expressed.
1. What is true of logical form is true of mathematics, that is, it cannot
express its own meta-language; hence, Wittgenstein would not have been
surprised by GOdel's proof which was published a few years after the
2. The meta-theory of the Tractatus itself is inexpressible, by Wittgenstein's
own admission.
3. All of traditional philosophy is, by Wittgenstein's account, an attempt to
express impossible meta-theorizing.
4. Scientism would itself have to be construed as a meta-theorizing doctrine
and hence a special version of nonsense. Hence, all of the difficulties we
detailed in the Second, Third, and Fourth Chapters should come as no
surprise. 35 Although the positivists welcomed the notion that meta-
theorizing is nonsense, they would not welcome the notion that scientism
is a form ofmeta-theorizing. 36
5. Ifwe cannot talk about the relation of a theory to the world, then we can
never tell which of the rival theories is correct. We cannot judge between
rival explorations, either scientific or philosophical.
6. Quine's version of holism, in which he presents the meta-theory of
language-as-a-whole as a kind of theory or hypothesis which is tested as a
whole, would, on Wittgensteinian grounds, be ruled out as nonsense and
patently unintelligible. 37
7. Ifwe cannot picture picturing or internal processing then it may be and
is the case that there is no such thing as internal processing as traditionally
understood (i.e., neither introspection, nor private languages, nor cognitive
science). That is, language and thinking are not properly construed as
mere internal (private) processes but as intersubjective cultural processes.
Hence, there can be no theory of it. We can now understand why the
"promise" that has been issued at least since the time of Hobbes about a
scientific account of abstraction can never be realized.
Could it be that this is not a scientific issue at all but a colossal philosophical
confusion? Here we are moving beyond the Tractatus and into the later
Philosophical Investigations. We shall focus on this in the next chapter.

Wittgenstein's Misgivings
Side by side with the writing on the Tractatus, Wittgenstein was making a series of
entries in his Notebooks that revealed not only deep misgivings about the Tractatus'
solution but also a more profound grasp of the issues involved. 38 In the Tractatus,
Wittgenstein had maintained that his exposition was presuppositionless in the special
sense that what he said is implicit in the tautological symbols, and the symbols say
nothing because they are tautologies. However, it is only on a certain interpretation
of tautologies, specifically the view of Russell's logical atomism, that what
182 Chapter Five

Wittgenstein says in the Tractatus follows. It is precisely the set of assumptions in

logical atomism that the Notebooks call into question, and it is that questioning that
inexorably drives Wittgenstein's Notebooks in the direction of Hegel.
To begin with, in the Notebooks, Wittgenstein raised doubts about the
existence of simples, examples of which are totally lacking in the Tractatus, and he
seriously entertains the idea of complexes. In his only published article, a 1929 piece
entitled "Some Remarks on Logical Form," Wittgenstein explicitly rejected the idea
that states of affairs are completely independent of one another. When analytic
philosophers eliminate reference to an agent in the interests of realism and to
circumvent the possibility that what we discriminate and identify reflect the
perspective or interests of the agent or subject, and when analytic philosophers in
general, and Wittgenstein in particular, deny that it is necessary to explain the
physiological processing of perception, they are still left with the gnawing problem
of just exactly what are the "simples" we require or presuppose. Bertrand Russell's
perennial quest for foundations is a reflection of this persistently unanswered
question. Put bluntly, if what analytic philosophers said about abstraction were true,
then why should we have so much trouble in identifying the simples?
Once misgivings are entertained about simples, we can begin to raise
questions as well about the relations among the simples. Wittgenstein's original
claim (2.021) was that objects cannot be composite because they make up the
substance of the world, and if the world had no substance, then the truth of every
proposition (2.0211) would depend on the truth of the others. And, if that happened,
then the correspondence theory of truth would have to give way to the coherence
theory oftruth.39 Once we accept the coherence theory of truth, we would be faced
with the critical problem of the existence of internal relations. Wittgenstein sought
to evade the problem of internal relations in the Tractatus by claiming that such
relations are part of logical form, and logical form is what cannot be said but only
Although Wittgenstein thought that he had successfully overcome the
problems of internal relations in the Tractatus by advocating the existence of a
plurality of simple pictorial truths, he soon discovered that such a plurality led to
difficulties with negation, which, in turn, took us back to internal relations. In the
Tractatus, Wittgenstein says the following:

The totality of existing states of affairs is the world (2.04).

The existence and non-existence of states of affairs is reality (2.06).
The sum-total of reality is the world (2.063).40

What this amounts to saying is that, at one and the same time, the world is
equivalent to all positive facts and the world is equivalent to all positive facts plus
all negative facts. Unfortunately, negation cannot possibly make any sense in a
world the totality of which is true propositions. This follows both from
Wittgenstein's claim that we cannot picture what does not exist and his claim that a
true factual proposition excludes a negative proposition. The totality of all true
propositions excludes all negative propositions. "It is the dualism, positive and
Analytic Epistemology 183

negative facts, that gives me no peace. For such a dualism can't exist. But how to
get away from it?"41
Nor is the idea of exclusion any help to Wittgenstein. Exclusion is a
synonym for negation. Once we eliminate negation we also eliminate exclusion.
We, really, then cannot know anything until we know everything, for in the end,
everything, including logical form, depends upon a positive totality. So we have
returned once more to the doctrine of internal relations and holism.
To summarize the progression in Wittgenstein's misgivings: the
reconsideration of the existence of simples led to a reconsideration of internal
relations, which, in turn, led to holism. Additional doubts about negation also led
back to internal relations which are seemingly compatible only within a totality. All
of this spells Hegel. What Wittgenstein discovered, but admitted only in the
Notebooks, is that a modern naturalist epistemology can only make metaphysical
sense, i.e., total philosophical sense, if it terminates in Hegelian holism with internal
relations. 42 This parallels the progression we discussed in the previous chapter on
analytic metaphysics.
Wittgenstein's philosophy in the Tractatus is intellectually schizophrenic.
In the Tractatus itself, he adhered rigidly to the doctrines of analytic philosophy.
But, in his endeavor to think these doctrines through to the bitter end, in the
Notebooks, he is inescapably drawn to a comprehensive anti-analytic Hegelian
position. He tried to escape this dilemma by developing within the Tractatus the
notion that a comprehensive view is somehow out of bounds. Hence, we see a
critique of metaphysics as trying to say what can only be shown, and Wittgenstein's
claim that the Tractatus itself is nonsense.
The argument goes something like this. The world of facts can be thought
of as one whole, but that thought of the whole is not itself a fact in the world. To use
quasi-Hegelian jargon, God is the world but does not reveal himself in the world.
Our awareness of the system is not an item in the system.

How can logic - all-embracing logic, which mirrors the world - use
such peculiar crotchets and contrivances? Only because they are
all connected with one another in an infinitely fine network, the
great mirror (5.511) [italics mine].

This last point is important and profound, but its significance is often
missed. 43 The only way that the awareness of the system or totality could be part of
the totality is if the totality were itself both mental and infinite. It would have to be
an infinite fact, a knowing that knows itself to be a knowing in Spinoza's, Leibniz's,
and Hegel's sense. This infinite fact has to be understood holistically or organically.
Wittgenstein's notion of a thought (mental entity) which is a meaning terminus, both
a representation and a projection of that representation function, is a microcosm
(monad) of the macrocosm that is the infinite fact. This infinite fact, as we stressed
in the previous chapter, is not to be confused with an infinite regress or an infinite
number of facts. It cannot be reduced to a hierarchy of systems (as in Russell and
Tarski), for doing so simply begs the question of the awareness ofthe existence of
the hierarchy, an awareness that cannot itself be a specific level of the hierarchy.
184 Chapter Five

In the wake of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, the alternatives should now be

1. one can embrace Hegel's monism as unavoidable;
2. one can embrace Wittgenstein's temporary intellectual schizophrenia
and talk in two separate ways in two separate sets of writings or
3. one can fail to see or refuse to think through the implications of the
Tractatus;N or
4. one can abandon the modern naturalist epistemology in analytic
The story of analytic philosophy after the Tractatus is that whereas
Wittgenstein did (4), many in the analytic movement engaged in either (2) or (3). It
is for this reason that the Tractatus is at one and the same time the apotheosis and the
self-destruction of analytic epistemology. Although Wittgenstein attempted to
silence his own philosophical conscience,45 he never lost his philosophical

Post-Wittgensteinian Analytic Epistemology

There were two different general responses within the analytic community to
Wittgenstein's dilemma of self-reference.
The Positivists, who subscribed to elimination, accepted all the specific
conclusions of the Tractatus, especially the denial of meta-theorizing and the
elimination of the self. Eschewing attempts to account for how knowledge was
generated in hypothesis formation (another version of the abstraction problem), the
positivists had moved the locus of the discussion to accounting for how we verified
a hypothesis once formed. Analytic epistemology always begins and must begin
with the claim that there is knowledge of some sort. In the case of analytic
philosophy, science is taken as the exemplar of knowledge. As long as science was
believed to be autonomous, the status of the starting point could be ignored. Hence,
positivists simply ignored Wittgenstein's insight that scientism is a version of meta-
It is customary for many opponents of positivism to charge that the
verification principle is not itself an empirical statement nor is it verifiable. In one
sense this objection is sound, but in another sense it misses the point. If the
positivists had been successful in showing how verification really worked in science
they could have responded to their critics by saying that once all scientific statements
had been confirmed the principle of verification would eventually be seen to be
either a vast true meta-systemic generalization or a redundant and ultimately
disposable statement of methodology. However, the failure of the positivistic
program to explain science in naturalist-realist terms, not only underlines the dubious
status of the verification principle but it also shows that principle to be a restatement
in positivist jargon of modern naturalist epistemology.
Unfortunately, as we have seen in Chapter Two, scientism raised more
problems than it solved. Analytic philosophers failed to show how science
conformed to the modern naturalist-realist model in terms of which they chose to
represent it. It is the failure to explain science along modern naturalist-realist lines
Analytic Epistemology 185

that led to the questioning of the positivist representation of the structure of

knowledge. The failure was signaled initially by attacks on the verification principle.
However, as we saw in Chapter Two, the process of verification became as much a
mystery as the genesis of knowledge. During the eliminative phase of analytic
philosophy, it was believed that the progress of science would reveal an
unambiguous structural level to the world (e.g., sub-atomic structure) that was the
object of knowledge. With the fading of this early optimism and the acceptance of
a 'Kantian Turn' in the philosophy of science, analytic philosophers could no longer
hope to use science to resolve the controversy over the metaphysical thesis in
Quine sought to overcome the problem of verification by postulating a
limited meaning holism. In setting about this task, Quine presupposes a conventional
framework which he both uses and claims can ultimately be discarded. He seemingly
inhabits two worlds at once, the everyday world he tries to explain and a utopian
epistemological domain that a\1egedly provides support for what is valid in the
everyday world but rests itself on nothing else. 47 Just like the positivist
eliminativists, Quine simply ignores Wittgenstein's claim that there is something
incoherent about occupying two worlds at once. Under the leadership of Quine,
analytic eliminativist epistemologists would seemingly acquiesce in the limitations
of meta-theorizing but persist in their adherence to the traditional meta-theoretical
doctrines of analytic philosophy.

The old epistemology aspired to contain, in a sense, natural

science; it would construct it somehow from sense data.
Epistemology in its new setting, conversely, is contained in natural
science, as a chapter of psychology. But the old containment
remains valid too, in its way. We are studying how the human
subject of our study posits bodies and projects his physics from his
data, and we appreciate that our position in the world is just like
his. Our very epistemological enterprise, therefore, and the
psychology wherein it is a component chapter, and the whole of
natural science wherein psychology is a component book -- all this
is our own construction or projection from stimulations like those
we were meting out to our epistemological subject. There is thus
reciprocal containment, though containment in different senses:
epistemology in natural science and natural science in

Quine's naturalistic epistemology49 is a microcosm of all of the points we

have made about analytic epistemology. He dismisses skepticism on the grounds that
skepticism is an example of the appearance/reality distinction that science itself
makes possible, i.e., that skepticism presupposes the truth of science. Quine rejects
the positivist focus on verification, that is, he rejects the notion that we should
10gica\1y reconstruct science from sensory evidence. Instead, he returns to the
fundamental issue of analytic epistemology, namely, the abstraction process. Quine
proposes to substitute questions about how the input of sensory stimulation leads
186 Chapter Five

both consciously and unconsciously to the creation of scientific models as output.

That is, Quine is engaged in offering a Model 2 of Modell'
The thing to note about Quine's Model 2 is that it is just like Modt1l. If
Model 2 is just like Modell, then one of two general possibilities exist: either Model 2
is in some sense eliminable, or Model 2 has to be assimilated to or reinterpreted as a
special form of Modell' Quine chooses the latter alternative in opposition to earlier
positivism and accomplishes this by collapsing the distinction between analytic and
synthetic truths and embracing a form of holism.
Naturalistic epistemology is not a solution but an evasion. The locus of
difficulty of all modern and contemporary naturalistic epistemology is that it is a
form of interpretation and not description. In providing an account of the act of
interpretation what we are stuck with is another interpretation. Since no
interpretation can be cashed out directly there are always going to be rival
interpretations. In fact, naturalist epistemology is a constant frenetic search for such
new interpretations. In the end what we have, though, are explorations of
exploration. We are brought once more to the brink ofthe abyss of exploration.
Having abandoned the simplistic positivist verificationist enterprise, we are
led to wonder how the legitimacy of Model 2 will be established. Quine substitutes
holism for verification ism. But holism turns out to be afideistic and historicized
verification ism. In the end, the justification for naturalized epistemology is that it
will allegedly converge with the progress of science itself.50 In short, naturalistic
epistemology leads to historicism.
This is the familiar scenario that we have already identified as the implicit
ideology of the Enlightenment Project. It begins with the belief in scientism but adds
the historical-teleological "myth" ofa progressive science in which we are allegedly
getting closer and closer to the whole truth, although we cannot prove that
independently. Since we have not yet arrived at the end point we suffer from both
an ontological and an epistemological relativity. While our present intellectual
constructs are necessarily incomplete, they are still internal reflections of this whole
truth. 51 Consequently, we must use our incomplete constructs, at which we arrive by
extrapolation from the partial truths, to project what the final truth will be like as we
struggle to formulate it. This scenario is the epistemological analogue in analytic
philosophy of the Hegelian and Marxist notion of the progress of history. It is also
the view that while we all reflect our own historical circumstances, some of us more
closely approximate the final truth. It is our contention that some such narrative and
historical myth sustains a great deal of analytic philosophy. In the end, Quine's
naturalized epistemology is consistent with his metaphysics but it is not coherent
with his metaphysics. The lack of coherence is exemplified in the presence of the
wild-card historical thesis. The only way to achieve coherence would be to embrace
A second group, under the leadership of Carnap and eventually Kripke,
would challenge the Wittgensteinian dilemma; they also try to show how there could
be a legitimate model of modeling, but reject Quine'S version of the model of
modeling. The Neo-Carnapians, like Kripke, are engaged in an exploration of the
structure of our knowledge claims. As such they face two kinds of problems. First,
they face the traditional naturalist epistemological problem of making intelligible the
Analytic Epistemology 187

process by which we abstract external structure (e.g., Kripke's causal theory of

naming).s2 Second, they face the modem version of that problem. In the modem
version there is the postulation of a pre-conceptual apparatus that mediates our
relation to the external structure.
Neo-Carnapians see the hopelessness of Quine's model of modeling. Neo-
Carnapians, having taken the 'Kantian Tum,' reject verification ism even in its
Quinean mythological historical form. A modem naturalist epistemologist must
explain the pre-conceptual abstraction process itself in the same terms that we use to
conceptualize what we think we know of external structure. This is what is meant
by conceptualizing the pre-conceptual. The obvious sore point here is that if we can
never explain the abstraction process simpliciter it is not clear or even conceivable
how we can explain it twice removed. The failure of verification ism within science
renders this a highly dubious enterprise. We fall into an abyss of the modeling of
modeling, or an abyss of explorations of exploration. Quine'S objection to Kripkean
modal semantics is that the original abstraction process (now considered the original
modeling process) must be explained before anything else can be explained.
In order to clarify the comparison and contrast among Wittgenstein, Quine,
and Kripke, we shall recast their positions as follows.
1. Wittgenstein denies that there can be a picture of picturing.
Wittgenstein's position applies more generally to any attempt to model modeling.
2. Quine agrees that we cannot picture picturing. However, Quine believes
that we can have a picture ofmodeling as long as the picturing takes place against a
background language.
3. Wittgensteinians and neo-Carnapians like Kripke recognize that Quine's
qualification about a background language begs all the relevant issues. Kripke
proposes, instead, that if we need the background language then an adequate account
would constitute a model of modeling. Quine's critique of Kripke is that any attempt
to picture Kripke's model of modeling is unintelligible. Wittgenstein would agree
and then go on to argue that the entire naturalist epistemological enterprise is
unintelligible and that the proper philosophical task is the explication of the pre-
theoretical background language - something we discuss in the next chapter.
One of the ironies of post-Tractatus analytic epistemology is that it accuses
its rivals of embracing skepticism when, in actuality, naturalist epistemology leads
to a modern and virulent form of skepticism. In naturalism, metaphysics is not an
independent presupposition but becomes an exploration. Naturalized epistemology
is an exploration which attempts to explain the metaphysical exploration. Given the
abyss of exploration, skepticism is inevitable. Traditional Aristotelianism faced no
such problems because of its organic unity between metaphysics and epistemology.
Analytic philosophers cannot express that unity except as the exploration of
explorations, ad infinitum.
188 Chapter Five


1. Almost all the examples in textbooks of modern epistemology involve

visual perception as the primary form of knowledge.

2. Historically, the issue of whether the active intellect was particular or

universal foreshadows the modern and contemporary discussions of
whether epistemology is individual or social.

3. Plato transcended this problem by denying that knowledge originates in a

natural process from external objects. We are almost tempted to assert that
Plato's argument in the Meno about the origin of knowledge is the first
expression of skepticism! The Copernican position also transcends this
problem by denying that knowledge originates in a natural process,
however its solution differs from Plato's in its grounding.

4. The contemporary counterpart to Ockham's notion of a natural sign would

be the contention that machines can perform cognitive tasks because some
natural events are "signs" of other natural events.

5. The reader should recall from our discussion in the previous chapter that
'negation' is a problematic concept for modern naturalist metaphysics.

6. We can even ask if the word 'compare' has any meaning. For example,
how would one "compare" a box with its shape? As Wittgenstein will
argue later the whole question seems misconceived.

7. That is why we distinguished in the last chapter between the metaphysics

of analytic philosophy (background) and analytic metaphysics -- the
ontology that is now supposed to emerge from the epistemological analysis.
Our claim is that there is more in the background than can be verified, and
that the more is precisely what cannot be made coherent with what is

8. Locke, Essay, IV, iii, 25, p. 556.

9. In his attempt (1961) to downplay the distinction between organic and

mechanical systems, Nagel is led to conclude that there is "no general
criterion which makes it possible to identify in an absolute way systems that
are 'genuinely functional' as distinct from systems that are 'merely
summative'" (p. 393). What this amounts to is the recognition that
mechanism as a micro thesis is not an empirical scientific thesis but a
metaphysical thesis. We have no clear cut instances of a mechanical
system. All such alleged systems refer to initially hidden entities which are
Analytic Epistemology 189

supposed to be ultimately intelligible as clearly identifiable structures. No

such structures ever emerge in scientific discourse. The ultimate entities
always interact in some process that requires either interpretation or the
further search for even more fundamental ultimate entities (e.g., quarks).

10. This is an early version of identity theories of mind.

II. One important difference between Spinoza and Locke is that, according to
Locke, we have intuitive knowledge only of our own existence.

12. Platonists, Copernicans, and Deists all respond to this challenge in different
ways and in a way different from that of modern naturalists.

13. Consider Hume's claim that the existence of body (i.e., the external world)
is a basic assumption that must be taken for granted.

14. See Stroud (1984).

15. "it is impossible to be generally in error" -- Davidson (l983b), pp. 19-20.

16. Popper (1983), p. 96.

17. The traditional epistemological problem of certainty may thus be seen as

derivative from the more fundamental problem of what it means to say that
we abstract the form from matter.

18. Kripke (1982) identifies a position allegedly held jointly by Hume and
Wittgenstein as the' skeptical argument'.

19. We wish to remind the reader that there are different kinds of
conventionalism so that the conventionalism of Protagoras is different from
that of Hume or of Wittgenstein or of American pragmatism. To the
modern naturalist epistemologist such distinctions are irrelevant.

20. Modern naturalist epistemologists, because of their commitment to realism,

are always unhappy with those philosophers like Hume who seek to subvert
skepticism by appeal to the practical and social context of knowledge.
What the committed naturalist wants is a refutation of skepticism that is
grounded in something incontrovertibly objective and unchanging, i.e.,
something independent of human social agents.

21. One of the great sustaining myths of the analytic view of the history of
philosophy is that Berkeley and Hume are empiricists (modern
Aristotelians). On the contrary, we would contend that Berkeley was a
"Platonist" (hence his critique of the process of abstraction) and that Hume
was one of the originators of the Copernican Revolution in philosophy.
190 Chapter Five

22. See Brentano (1862), (1867), (1911 a), and (1911 b).

23. Austin's (1962) devastating critique of A.1. Ayer is the best example of this

24. See also 6.342-343 for the view that the science of mechanics sufficiently
describes the whole world.

25. "How the description of the propositions is produced is not essential"

(3.317); "This shows too that there is no such thing as the soul - the subject,
etc.- as it is conceived in the superficial psychology of the present day"
(5.5421). Note as well (1961 b), p. 80: "Isn't the thinking subject in the last
resort mere superstition?"

26. Quoted in Anscombe (1959) p. 161.

27. Wittgenstein (1974), p.72.

28. In his later work, the Investigations, Wittgenstein maintains that this does
show the inadequacy of modern naturalist epistemology. Both works are
still held together by the view that the abstraction process cannot be
explained, but the later work denies for that very reason that there is an
abstraction process. In the later work, Wittgenstein comes to embrace the
Copernican Revolution in philosophy.

29. "Every picture is at the same time a logical one. (On the other hand, not
every picture is, for example, a spatial one)" 2.182.

30. "Propositions show the logical form of reality. They display it" (4.121);
"What can be shown, cannot be said" (4.1212).

31. One ofthe best books written on the Tractatus is McDonough (1986). I am
indebted to McDonough for his many helpful conversations on this topic.

32. "According to Aristotle, the word is a symbol for a thought, which in its
turn is, or may be, a picture of a thing. According to a medieval line of
thought which we have met in Ockham, the spoken or written sign stands,
by arbitrary convention, for a mental sign which in a natural way, non-
arbitrarily, refers to its object. Locke said that words primarily stand for
ideas. The later Wittgenstein [of the Investigations, not the Tractatus] turns
sharply against the philosophical tradition of which these theories are
examples" Wedberg (1984), p. 328.

33. "The view of the Tractatus is that the propositional symbol involves a
meaning locus, an entity which is intrinsically meaningful, which contains
its own rule of projection, etc. This meaning locus is also an interpretation
Analytic Epistemology 191

tenninus: To be aware of such an entity is to be aware of something which

unambiguously shows its own meaning, which does not stand in need of
interpretation" McDonough (1986), p. 172.

34. Hegel's Absolute can be seen as Aristotle's, Spinoza's and Leibniz's God
constituting the whole of reality. In Leibniz, God as the Supreme monad
takes into His consciousness the consciousness of all monads. Fichte's
postulation of the external world can be seen as the self qua Leibnizian
monad postulating the world that it then reflects in its own consciousness.
Leibniz is the source for the entire tradition of German idealism. However,
Leibnizian monads are not physical objects and not atomistic but relational
in nature. This will be echoed in Hegel. The notion ofa meaning terminus
is also at the heart of Nozick's self-subsuming explanation that we
discussed in Chapter Four.

35.. "The whole modem conception ofthe world is founded on the illusion that
the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena"

36. "Wittgenstein and Russell disagreed concerning the relevance of theory of

knowledge to the domain of philosophy. Wittgenstein regarded it as of little
philosophical import and deprecated Russell's concern for it, while Russell
regarded it as a core and foundation for work in logic and in scientific
conceptual analysis. To him [Russell] science and philosophy were
intimately related in the analysis of scientific concepts by philosophy. For
Wittgenstein, the two realms of science and philosophy were separate;
philosophy cannot tell us how things are, and science cannot clarify our
ideas or our language" Eames (1989), p. 168.

37. IfWittgenstein is correct, then all that science (Modell) can show us is how
one object interacts with another object. Science cannot show us how an
object interacts with or causes cognitive and mental phenomena; that is
there cannot be modeI 2). Hence, Quine is correct to maintain that any
"scientific" (i.e., Modell) account of language learning would have to be
behavioristic; unfortunately, Quine's statement of his holism is an example
of Model 2 and therefore on Wittgensteinian grounds incoherent.

38. The notebooks were written during the period 1914-16, but they were not
published until 1961.

39. In the Philosophische Bemerkungen, Wittgenstein suggests, technically

speaking, on Iy that systems of propositions correspond to the world. It is
a transitional work in enlarging the unit of correspondence and does not
quite reach coherence.
192 Chapter Five

40. 'Reality' and 'world' are different concepts in the Tractatus; 'reality' refers
to what is and to what is not; 'world' refers to what is.

41. Wittgenstein, (1961b), p. 33.

42. "So when Solipsism is worked out, it becomes clear there is no difference
between it and Realism. Moreover, since the unique self is nothing, it
would be equally possible to take an impersonal view of the vanishing point
behind the mirror oflanguage. Language would then be any language, the
metaphysical subject would be the world spirit, and Idealism would lie on
the route from Solipsism to Realism. Wittgenstein takes all three of these
steps in the Notebooks, but in the Tractatus he takes only the first, which is
also associated with Realism" Pears (1971), p. 76.

43. "The answer then would have to be that what was left out could only be
shown, not described, with the implication that language cannot be freed
from its dependence on context. Yet a recording angel {our italics],
writing a history of the world, which included the fact of my writing these
words, would not need to employ any such demonstratives. Perhaps the
moral is that we, taking part as we do in the history of the world, and
speaking from our position inside it, cannot assume the standpoint of the
recording angel. Or rather, we can assume his standpoint but have to return
to our places in order to interpret the utterances which we issue from it"
Ayer (1982), p. 29. We might also suggest that within the modern historical
period of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, God played, for many
philosophers, the important epistemological role of Ayer's recording angel.

44. During the 1960s, many analytic epistemologists rejected the message of
the Tractatus and began to focus once again on the causal processes that
seemingly generate knowledge. See Goldman (1967); Skyrms (1967); and
Unger (1968).

45. "We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been
answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. Of course
there are then no questions left, and this itself is the answer" (6.52); "The
solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem"

46. Unable to appeal to science, some contemporary naturalist epistemologists

have sought to evade the challenge to their metaphysical thesis by using a
cultural argument, e.g., Sosa (1987) to the effect that the Enlightenment
program of social technology requires the thesis. This argument shall be
challenged in the last chapter.

47. For a recent statement see Kitcher (1992), pp. 74-76: "The epistemic status
of a state is dependent on the processes that generate and sustain it. The
Analytic Epistemology 193

central epistemological project is to be carried out by describing processes

that are reliable, in the sense that they would have a high frequency of
generating epistemically virtuous states in human beings in our world.
Virtually nothing is knowable a priori, and, in particular, no
epistemological principle is knowable a priori." Note as well the statement
(pp. 63-64) that "the root issue will always be whether the methods
recommended are well adapted for the attainment of our epistemic ends,
and that cannot be settled by simply appealing to our current concepts."

48. Quine (1969b), p. 83.

49. Quine (1969b) and (1975).

50. Komblith (1985), pp. 1-15.

51. Evolutionary epistemology is just such an approach. It is the analogue in

epistemology of the historicist notion ofprogress in science. That is, just
as the myth of historical progress was used to buttress the claim that science
is autonomous and self-certifying, so evolutionary epistemology will be
used to buttress the claim that we can, "in time", give a scientific account
of the process of knowledge acquisition. The fact that evolutionary
epistemology uses biological metaphors gives it a kind of specious
scientific plausibility. The analytic notion of evolutionary epistemology
should not be confused with Bergson's creative evolution or Piaget's
genetic epistemology.

52. In Chapter Four we argued that Kripke's attempt to provide a causal theory
of naming violated Hegel's contention that no statement about the whole
could be established by correspondence. In this chapter we have argued
that Kripke's attempt violates the argument of the Tractatus. In the next
chapter, we argue that Kripke's attempt fails because it falls into the abyss
of exploration.

Analytic Philosophy And Language

The Epistemological Agenda

The manner in which analytic philosophers have approached language reflects a
particular epistemological agenda.' Analytic philosophy is committed to a modern
naturalise epistemology. Such an epistemology has a recurrent problem: to explain
how, if knowledge is to be understood as the internal grasping of a wholly objective
external structure (form), it is possible for a subject to abstract within experience the
form of an object. The reason why this is a problem is that all modern attempts so
far to explain the abstraction process as itself a natural (mechanistic) process have
failed. Moreover, many attempts to explain the process seem to raise the specter of
a subject (or human culture) that structures experience to such an extent that
knowledge can no longer be understood as the internal mirroring of a wholly
objective external form. In short, there are two things that modern naturalist
epistemology has difficulty accomplishing: (a) presenting knowledge as itself a
wholly natural process (thereby making its epistemology consistent and coherent
with its metaphysicsj1 and (b) avoiding appeal to a subject of any kind. 4

Why Language?
In the early part of the twentieth-century, analytic philosophers revived the
eighteenth-century introspective model, but, after rediscovering all of its
shortcomings in deja vu fashion, moved to replace introspective epistemology with
the philosophy of language. The question with which we wish to begin our
discussion of the philosophy oflanguage is, why did the epistemological analysis of
language come to be viewed as an improvement over introspective epistemology?
First, "introspection" was, at best, a temporary expedient until a full blown
scientific account of cognition was available. "Introspection" was always understood
as the phenomenal analogue to physiological processes that could not be directly
apprehended given the present state of science. That is, the shift to language enabled
analytic philosophers, at least temporarily, to ignore or evade the absence of a
scientific/psychological account of knowledge acquisition.
Second, in introspection it is difficult to resist the invoking the active subject
that analytic philosophers wish to eliminate. It would appear that the very nature of
the modern introspective approach invokes an internal subject that is not in principle
reducible to some kind of object. The requirement that mind be construed as some
kind of physical object or a function of a physical object, and no more, was
jeopardized. Analytic philosophers refer to this "heresy" as idealism. Since they
believe that the first temptation (i.e., phenomenalism) leads to the second temptation
(i.e., idealism), they tend to lump together and thereby confuse phenomenalism and
idealism. In other words, analytic philosophers see the Copernican Revolution in
philosophy not as a legitimate response to intractable difficulties in modern naturalist
epistemology but rather as a mistake brought on by approaching epistemology with
an undue emphasis on introspective "experience." As a consequence of these
difficulties, there is a serious shift of the locus of attention in analytic epistemology
Analytic Philosophy And Language 195

away from "experience" and toward "language." The approach is still

epistemological, but the focus is now on language.
In order to save itself from "idealism," analytic philosophy must avoid
phenomenalism. This is in part why Carnap was persuaded by Neurath to switch
from a sense-data language to the language of physicalism. Neurath argued that
science operated intersubjectively or publicly, not by appeal to an isolated knower
in danger of slipping into solipsism. Language, on the other hand, appeared to be an
object in the world. As Carnap put it, " ... language phenomena are events within
the world, not something that refers to the world from outside."s
To sum up, language seemed more promising than "experience" because
language appeared to be a more objective, public, or social fact as opposed to the
more personally introspective appeal to private sense-data and its attendant
dangerous temptations. In the wake of the difficulties with abstraction the
connection between language and objects appeared less problematic than that
between mental representations and an object. Ironically, the connection of language
to experienced objects appeared less problematic precisely because language was or
had elements of the conventional. At one and the same time, analytic philosophers
hoped to steal the thunder of the Copernicans by first admitting conventional
elements and then going on to argue that the conventional elements were "objects"
within a package that could be explained along realist lines.

Analytic Linguistic Epistemology

In order to appreciate the full significance of this point, namely the subsumption of
metaphysical and epistemological issues under language, we must recall the serious
challenge of Wittgenstein's Tractatus. In his endeavor to dissolve the traditional
Aristotelian epistemological problem of how we can be seen to have correctly
abstracted form from experience, Wittgenstein had argued that the relationship of a
symbol to an object can only be shown and never stated. In other words, the relation
of language to fact cannot be a meaningful topic of discussion. His argument had
been that (a) there can be statements of fact, and (b) there can be tautological
statements about the relations of linguistic items. However, (c) statements about the
relation oflanguage to fact (or oflanguage to the subject, to culture, etc.) are neither
(a) nor (b), and hence disallowed. In addition, Wittgenstein had tried to block the
raising of metaphysical issues by construing them as attempts to talk about what was
beyond the pale of acceptable discourse.
The early positivists had accepted this part ofWittgenstein's view since it
enabled them to evade the discussion of metaphysical and epistemological
difficulties. 6 Both (a) and (b) above represent the two dogmas of positivism. As
Quine was later to put it, (a) presupposes naive empiricism and reductionism, and (b)
presupposes the analytic-synthetic distinction. This distinction between the two
dogmas or doctrines failed to hold up under scrutiny for three reasons.
1. The two dogmas failed because it was not at all clear what a statement of
fact was, especially in view of the inability of modern naturalist epistemologists to
specify how we abstract the form from experience.
The use of a physicalist language forced Carnap to raise the question of
what physical terms and theoretical terms in particular refer to, so that semantics
196 Chapter 6

started to come to the fore. The growing recognition of the importance of theoretical
statements in physical science, statements which could not be explained as a one-to-
one relation of observation terms to experience, encouraged consideration of larger
units, like the sentence instead of the individual term. Hitherto, analytic
philosophers, especially the positivists, thought that they could ignore semantics and
concentrate on syntax with its focus on formal (mathematical) structure and without
regard to reference or meaning. It had been assumed that reference was handled in
a non-problematic way by sense data. So, one of the consequences of a shift from
"experience" to "language" will be a greater interest in semantics.
2. The two dogmas distinction failed to give an accurate account of
mathematical discourse as a form of (b) and as Godel's proof made clear
mathematical reasoning seemed to employ principles that necessarily defied
formalization; i.e., there seemed to be a pre-theoretical framework within which
(theoretical) mathematical reasoning moved but which mathematical reasoning could
not itself capture.
Largely as a result of Godel's theorem, following upon the problems in
Russell's Principia Mathematica, it became clear that mathematics, and hence its
logic, could not be completely formalized. The failure of logicism meant that no
consistent mathematics could therefore be the model of all discourse. Godel's own
tendency to draw Platonic conclusions about the significance of his proof would
always cause a certain amount of discomfort for the naturalism in analytic
philosophy. The very limitations of mathematics itself and the use of mathematics
now raised rather than resolved syntactical and semantical questions. Finally, if one
construed mathematics as just one kind of language, perhaps a more general and
fundamental analysis of language could help circumvent the limitations of the
language of mathematics.
3. The two dogmas distinction failed to hold for Wittgenstein himself whose
entire Tractatus and its own themes reflect neither (a) nor (b) but some third kind of
status that Wittgenstein remarkably declared to be a special kind of "nonsense"; the
distinction failed to account for the special status of the positivist's own principle of
verification which is neither (a) nor (b); there seemed to be a kind of philosophical
discourse that exempted itself from what was said about the rest of (scientific)
discourse. It is almost as if this kind of philosophical discourse is to be "thrown
away" after it is used; so really there is no such discourse. Once more positivists
were embarrassed by their attempts to evade instead of acknowledge fundamental
metaphysical issues.
In their endeavor to assimilate all meaningful discourse to technical or
theoretical discourse, a reflection of the commitment to scientism, analytic
philosophers seemed to employ a pre-theoretical discourse which does not exemplify
what they say about theoretical discourse. This issue is different from the issue of
whether analytic philosophers have even accurately characterized theoretical (i.e.,
scientific) discourse. The pre-theoretical discourse functioned like a kind of
metaphysics much to the embarrassment of analytic philosophers. Try as they might,
analytic philosophers were unable to avoid using two different kinds of discourse:
Talk} and Talk2 •
Analytic Philosophy And Language 197

Talk J is talk (usually theoretical) about the world.

Talk2 is talk about Talk 1• Talk2 is pre-theoretical discourse.

There were three responses to this impasse. First, as we shall see below,
Wittgenstein eventually abandoned the entire analytic philosophical enterprise.
Second, analytic philosophers attempted to regroup by arguing that to the extent that
we are forced to recognize Talk2 (pre-theoretical discourse), Talk 2 must be
assimilated to Talk J• - Although loyal analytic philosophers all agreed that there must
be some way to conceptualize the pre-conceptual (pre-theoretical) in realist and
naturalistic terms, they did not agree on how this was to be done. Two general
alternatives emerged, one under the direction of Quine and the other inspired by the
later Carnap (Kripke).
The shift from "experience" to language seemingly permits the
reformulation of all metaphysical issues as assertions about the structure, reference,
or meaning of language. Instead of taking traditional issues in metaphysics and
epistemology at face value, analytic philosophy could postulate the existence of a
hidden structural level in language where the issues could be resolved. Instead of
having to explain how a subject abstracted form from within experience, all of the
metaphysical and epistemological issues associated with the activity of the subject
could seemingly be reconceptualized as issues of semantics and pragmatics. Most
important, this move to language also supports scientism.

1. Language is a natural object.

2. Natural objects are explained scientifically.
3. Hence, language can be explained scientifically.
4. All philosophical issues are expressed in language.
5. Therefore, at some level, philosophical discourse can be explained
6. Hence, all metaphysical and epistemological issues can be replaced
with or subsumed under science.

To sum up, the transition from "experience" and mathematical logic to the
philosophy of language is a response to both the epistemological and metaphysical
tensions in early analytic epistemology. Specifically, the transition from experience
to language accomplished the following:
1. It postponed having to account for the alleged physiological mechanism
by which the mind or subject internally grasps the external objective structure (a
process which the later Wittgenstein believed to be either impossible to represent or
2. It seemingly avoided having to invoke an internal subject that was not
itself an object or reducible to a set of objects. (As we shall see, the problem of the
subject is also the problem of meaning and the problem of the status of pre-
theoretical discourse -- i.e., the epistemological analogues of the metaphysical
problem of self-reference).
3. It proposed to deal with the metaphysical presuppositions of scientism
instead of either denying or ignoring their existence. It proposed to deal with them
198 Chapter 6

by showing that metaphysical issues were still at bottom just epistemological issues
and that epistemology could be scientifically represented as a natural (mechanical)
process within language.

Alternative Philosophical Views of Language

Let us introduce some terminological distinctions that will help to clarify both the
issues in the philosophy oflanguage and the alternative philosophical positions with
respect to those issues. Semiotics is the study of signs. Linguistics is the study of
linguistic signs. Linguistics is usually subdivided as follows:


(relation among symbols) (relation oflanguage to things (Relation of symbols
other than symbols) to speakers, listeners,
and social contexts)

reference meaning
denotation connotation
or or
extension intension

In addition to the foregoing terminological distinctions, we shall invoke our

previously discussed distinction among three alternative modes of understanding:
elimination, exploration, and explication. 8
Elimination: When we theorize from an eliminative point of view there is
an explicit substitution of new ideas for old ideas. Elimination is a form of radical
replacement through innovation. Elimination is a form of reductionism. Scientistic
elimination is a form of technological thinking which seems to make sense if there
is some prior agreed upon framework in terms of which we can judge that one new
theory is better than an old theory.
The early history of analytic philosophy, especially in its positivistic phase,
can be viewed as subscribing to the view that all correct thinking is eliminative
thinking. Certainly in the early Russell and in the positivism of the Vienna Circle
one sees an optimism about how science is the successful elimination of superstition
and nonsense and how philosophy is the overseer of the transition period to a totally
scientific world view.
The major diffiCUlty with elimination is one that we have already touched
upon, and that is that there must be some independent criterion in terms of which we
canjudge an elimination to be successful. Analytic philosophers, because of their
commitment to scientism, believed, originally, that science bore the mark of its own
validity. Therefore, in order to decide when one theory has successfully eliminated
another we can look to science itself.
It was assumed that within physical science we could find examples of
"successful" reductions of one theory to another or eliminations of one theory in
favor of another. So it would seem to be the case that it is a simple matter to extract
the criteria for such success. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case.
Instead of being a minor technical problem of specifying when reduction-elimination
Analytic Philosophy And Language 199

was successful, it turned out that there was no consensus on when elimination was
successful. Moreover, turning to the larger question of how science "progresses"
from one theory to another we find even more intractable problems.
In its original conception, as represented by Russell's Principia
Mathematica, Wittgenstein's Tractatus, and positivism in general, the analytic
philosophy oflanguage was at most concerned with syntax. Syntax was considered
more fundamental than either semantics or pragmatics, and syntax was understood
to be formalizable in quasi-mathematical or logical terms.9 Semantics was
considered reducible to syntax plus epistemology. Pragmatics was thought to be of
no fundamental philosophical importance and assigned to descriptive social science.
As long as analytic philosophy subscribed to scientism, understood as elimination,
analytic philosophy denied the philosophical importance of either irreducible
semantics or pragmatics. Despite his concessions and qualifications, Quine still
subscribes to this view.
Exploration: In exploration we begin with our ordinary understanding of
how things work and then go on to speculate on the mechanism alleged to be behind
those workings.

Analytic philosophers do not study ordinary language in order to

verifY 'common sense beliefs': they aim at uncovering beliefs and
ways of thinking which we do not know we have but which, they
hope, are revealed by ordinary modes of speech. 10

In time, we come to modify our ordinary understanding. The new understanding

does not evolve from or elaborate the old understanding; rather it modifies it by
appeal to underlying structures. The underlying structures are discovered by
following out the implications of some hypothetical model about those structures.

The resulting picture of the world does not really involve any
attack on common sense, or any claim to correct it. Rather, it
claims to go deeper and reveal structures of the world undreamt of
in everyday thought. II

There are two versions of exploration. In one version, our ordinary

understanding is a necessary but temporary scaffolding to be taken down when the
construction is completed. This first version of exploration is almost
indistinguishable from elimination. In a second version, our ordinary understanding
is indispensable but revisable in the light of the clarification of underlying structures.
Whereas the earlier emphasis on logic was designed to foster eliminative thinking,
the later emphasis in the philosophy of language is designed to foster exploratory
thinking. Quine's "exploration" is of the first variety and keeps within the narrow
pre-set limits of the old logic and is therefore thought of as a way station toward
elimination, whereas the neo-Carnapian explorations extend the old logic beyond its
original confines in order to explore the realm of the pre-conceptual.
As a result of problems and pressures already mentioned, many analytic
philosophers abandoned the elimination version of analytic philosophy and adopted
200 Chapter 6

an exploration version. We call this movement from el\mination to exploration a

'Kantian Turn. ' The move to exploration in the field of the philosophy of language
was spearheaded by the later Carnap, and it shifted attention to semantics. Still
subscribing to a realist view that sees language as itself a natural ("found") object
that can be studied in its own right, the followers of the later Carnap used the formal
tools which had been developed to express the properties of ideal (quasi-
mathematical) languages and applied them to the study of the alleged "hidden
structure" of actual languages. Generally, these analytic philosophers of language
deny that semantics can be reduced to syntax, and. more importantly, believe that the
formal structural analysis of semantics can actually be extended to encompass
pragmatics. That is, they subscribe to the view that pragmatics can be reduced to
semantics. Chief among these exploratory semanticists are Montague, Fodor, and
It is important to see that both analytic philosophical responses to the new
developments in the philosophy of language, despite their differences, agree on what
they take to be the derivative nature of pragmatics. Despite differences between
eliminators like Quine and explorers like the later Carnap, Montague, and Kripke, all
subscribe not only to scientism and an naturalistic realism about language in which
the representative function of language is primary, but they all deny that language
needs to take into account the user of language or the wider social linguistic
community in any way that cannot be reduced to the representative function.
Language, according to both Quine and Kripke, can be described, "ultimately,"
independent of its users. This is clearly the anti-agency element in analytic
Explication: In explication we try to clarify that which is routinely taken
for granted, namely, our ordinary understanding of our practices in the hope of
extracting from our previous practice a set of norms which can, reflectively, be used
to guide future practice. Explication presupposes that efficient practice not only
precedes any account ofpractice but explication also precludes any exploratory
account ofpractice. Giving an account is not the same thing as providing a theory.
Explication attempts to specify the sense we have of ourselves as agents and to
clarify that which seems to guide us. We do not replace or modifY our ordinary
understanding but rather come to know it in a new (non-reductive) and better way.
The third response to the problems engendered by the ongoing development
of analytic philosophy was to abandon both eliminative and exploratory views of
language. This was the path taken by Wittgenstein in his Philosophical
Investigations and other later works. Language comes to be viewed from the
Copernican or agency perspective rather than from the perspective of modem
naturalist realism. Language is seen as conceptually prior to the external physical
To engage in philosophizing about language is to engage in the explication
of social actions. These actions are not themselves mere natural events 12 but
symbolic activities which presuppose tacit agreement on specific norms. Symbolic
action is not equivalent just to rule following, since that would permit reduction to
some theory of the alleged "hidden mechanistic structure" of rule following. It is the
tacit agreement on the norms that takes this beyond the realm of mere objects.
Analytic Philosophy And Language 20 I

The view of language at which Wittgenstein arrived in the Philosophical

Investigations and in reaction to and rejection of his own Tractatus is a monumental
intellectual achievement as well as an act of courage on Wittgenstein's part. We do
not wish in any way to detract from it. Yet it must be said that this view of language
is not unique. It is a view already expressed in both the American pragmatic
tradition (e.g., C.S. Peirce, G.H. Mead, and John Dewey) and it is fundamental to
Heidegger, Gadamer, and the hermeneutic tradition which follows. These are
traditions which make pragmatics prior to semantics and syntax and which argue that
the whole is prior to the parts.13 To sum up: there are three views of the philosophy
of language within the analytic conversation.

elimination (syntax) Russell, early Carnap, and Quine

exploration (semantics) later Carnap, Montague, Kripke,

Chomsky, Fodor, Katz

explication (pragmatics) - Wittgenstein of the Investigations,

(Heidegger, classical Pragmatism,
Gadamer, Hermeneutics)

Philosophy of Language as Elimination (Quine)

Quine and his defenders l4 present his views on the philosophy of language as a
radical critique of the previous analytic tradition or positivism. IS At the same time,
Quine is the clearest embodiment of that tradition.

We see, then, a strategy for investigating the relation of evidential

support, between observation and scientific theory. We can adopt
a genetic approach, studying how theoretical language is learned.
For the evidential relation is virtually enacted, it would seem, in
the learning. This genetic strategy is attractive because the
learning of language goes on in the world and is open to scientific
study. It is a strategy for the scientific study of scientific method
and evidence. We have here a good reason to regard the theory of
language as vital to the theory of knowledge. 16

The original justification for scientism, from Russell through positivism,

was that scientific statements could be individually or jointly verified by experience.
During the period that science remains incomplete, we employ two languages:
technical, theoretical scientific discourse and common sense. Common sense is a
pre-theoretical linguistic framework from within which we elaborate technical,
theoretical scientific discourse. If and/or when science is completed or nears
completion, common sense will gradually and ultimately be absorbed or eliminated
in favor of theoretical discourse.
In a post-positivist milieu, Quine recognized that the truths of science
cannot be independently established or verified. Rather than offer some other
rationale for science, Quine merely reaffirms his faith in scientism. From within his
202 Chapter 6

own system, Quine can even take pride in the fact that there is no perspective,
philosophical or otherwise, outside of or above science from which science can be
judged. Quine also subscribes to an implicitly teleological view about the
progressive development of science and its march toward the truth. Of course, in
practice there is no independent way of distinguishing between a truly progressive
development and a merely historicist reading of the development of science. The
language of progress continues to serve only rhetorical and fideist purposes. Yet,
Quine remains undaunted; for he believes that even though we are inescapably
trapped within our own conceptual system, the system is connected in some
mysterious way with the progressive development of science. As we have pointed
out numerous times already this is but another way of saying that without appeal to
some form of Hegelian ultimate synthesis analytic philosophy is doomed to
incoherence. 17
Quine offers a naturalistic reinterpretation of the pre-theoretical linguistic
framework! His reinterpretation is the now famous claim that our entire conceptual
system confronts experience as a whole. This reinterpretation still subscribes to
scientism, now treated as an article of faith; it still subscribes to modem naturalist-
empiricist epistemology now viewed holistically; and it still subscribes to an anti-
agency (anti-Copernican) view of human functioning. It is anti-Copernican in that
while it recognizes pragmatic considerations, these considerations (like simplicity,
convenience, utility, etc.) are construed from a limited scientistic point of view and
are presumably, in time, to wither away. The consequences for the philosophy of
language are that (a) philosophy can still examine the formal properties of notational
systems (i.e., syntax), pretty much limited as in the old days to the lower functional
caIculus,18 and (b) that these notational systems are an analysis of a "hidden
structure" of a fragment of a more encompassing natural language. 19 In short, there
is a potential progressive elimination of pre-theoretical discourse as theoretical
discourse progresses. Quine's philosophy of language is a bold reassertion of the
original analytic position that the kind of language we speak is ultimately determined
by experience understood in an absolute sense. 20
The kind of elimination implicit in Quine's philosophy of language is of a
special sort. Recall that Quine's objection to neo-Carnapian semantics is that
ontological relativity makes it impossible to determine fully the semantics of a
language. Any semantic determination can only be done from within the context of
a further background language which remains un interpreted. As a result, exploration
is always incomplete. One way of circumventing this limitation is to assume a
postulate that the background language can eventually be described behavioristically.
That is, a science of psychology in which behavior is understood physically could
provide a level of scientific generalization about language and mind that escapes the
inherent limitation of exploration. Quine believes that behaviorism is viable because
he thinks that sense data and similar cognitive phenomena which figure in linguistic
theories are subjective or psycho logistic but that the "stimulation of sense receptors"
is somehow an objective phenomenon. Thus, the elimination is via behavioral
psychology. One may be tempted to object that science, including behavioral
psychology, can proceed only via observation sentences. How then are we to break
out of the circle? Quine's answer is to embrace the view of holism. Holism thus
Analytic Philosophy And Language 203

solves two problems at once: the problem of under determination and the problem
of the background language.
Quine's response to the existence of Talk2 is to appeal to holism, i.e.,
specifically to the collapsing ofthe distinction between (a) statements offact and (b)
the alleged "tautological" statements about the relations of linguistic items in favor
of (a). This was Quine's way of making Talk2 a form of Talk,. It followed that (b)
was eliminated along with a loosening or broadening of (a). This is the import of
Quine's rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction. Despite his characterization
of naive empiricism (i.e., pre-Tractatus empiricism) as reductionism, Quine believes
that Talk2 is not strictly speaking part of the philosopher's domain, but the domain
of linguistic (behavioral) social science. Quine also, in effect, reduces Talk 2 to Talk,
by giving it to social science. It is reductive in that it is another attempt to block the
formulation of a special status for pre-theoretical discourse. Despite using Talk 2,
Quine hopes eventually to see it wither away.
In his own work in the philosophy of language, now considered as an
examination or consideration of the non-empirical elements in the pre-theoretical
linguistic framework, Quine rejects the explorations of all other analytic philosophers
(especially Carnap and Kripke), and claims that, in our terminology, all explorations
are in principle bound to fail. Why must they fail? They must fail, says Quine,
because any exploration of the non-empirical elements in the pre-theoretical
linguistic framework is itself, at best, a scientific hypothesis. As a scientific
hypothesis the exploration itself is "underdetermined" with regard to the data (i.e.,
cannot be fully explained in a naturalistic empirical epistemological manner), and,
in addition, relies upon or presupposes the pre-theoretical linguistic framework at
another level for its own applicability. This is what Quine means by ontological
relativity, and he does not hesitate to say that there is always going to be a
background metaphysics.
Frege and Wittgenstein would both agree with this, but, of course, for very
different reasons. As a result, Quine rejects the intelligibility of semantics as an
enterprise (his so-called "flight from intension ") and even goes so far as to argue
both for the behavioral inscrutability of reference and the radical indeterminacy of
translation. These Quinean positions entail the rejection of the analytic-synthetic
distinction and the rejection of modal logic. All interpretations presuppose the pre-
theoretical background language. In short, both our ordinary understanding of the
world and, more important, our understanding of that understanding are
underdetermined, i.e., cannot be fully explained by naturalist epistemology.
In a very important sense Quine is denying the existence of meaning. Nor
should this surprise us. Increasingly, the search for "objective" structure understood
as the property of a spatial and atemporal object leads us not only away from
meaning but away from the existence of a subject/agent that does the structuring.
That is, meaning comes increasingly to be associated with the very subject/agent that
analytic metaphysics and epistemology want to deny. As we shall see this is not only
true of Quine but of much of analytic philosophy in general.
In short, Quine attempted to solve the problem of the physiological
mechanism by both admitting that it could not be conceptualized as an internal
process and subscribing to the existence of an alleged behavioral analogue. Further,
204 Chapter 6

he attempted to solve the problem of the status of a subject by denying the existence
of meaning. Finally, he attempted to dissolve the metaphysical issues of scientism
by subscribing to holism.
The remarkable thing about Quine's reinterpretation ofthe original analytic
philosophy of language is that taken at face value it is both inconsistent and
incoherent. The inconsistency is between Quine's empiricism and his relativism. At
one and the same time, Quine asserts that (a) there is nothing independent of different
conceptual schemes (ontological relativism) and (b) that different conceptual
schemes are alternative readings of the flux of experience (ontological empirical
realism).21 Without some supplementary metaphysical theory, the relativism simply
cannot be reconciled with the empirical realism.
The incoherence of Quine's theory consists in the fact that his denial of the
validity of the semantic enterprise is itselfa semantic enterprise! Quine's expression
of how our entire conceptual system confronts experience as a whole is a theory of
how language relates to reality. What is the status, otherwise, of the expression of
such a grandiose view? Where is Quine standing when he makes a pronouncement
about the relation of our conceptual system to experience as a whole?
The source of the incoherence is twofold. The commitment to scientism
means that, for Quine, all truths, or all statements of truths, must have a univocal
interpretation. That is, there cannot be different kinds of truths. A univocal
interpretation entails that statements within the system and statements about the
system must be interpreted in the same way. The commitment to naturalist
epistemology means that, for Quine, all truths must be empirical truths. However,
it is quite impossible to see how on Quine's view a specific statement about the
system as a whole can ever be made or made as an empirical statement. Quine
himself denies that any single statement can confront experience. Hence, his own
statement about the system as a whole is not empirical. Hence his statement about
the system as a whole is either false or incoherent. Ironically, Quine both makes
such statements and denies that such statements can be made. Nor will it do to say
that such systemic statements are conceptual statements, for even conceptual
statements must, on Quine's view, be empirical. Some of the lessons of
Wittgenstein's Tractatus have gone unnoticed.
If we do not know what it means for a single statement to confront
experience, then we do not see what it means for a set or collection of statements to
confront experience. And, likewise, if we do not know what it means for a collection
of statements to confront experience, then we cannot ever begin to understand how
the statement about the system or collection can confront experience nor how such
a statement functions within the collection itself. Metaphors about cores and
periphery remain just metaphors obfuscating a lack of intelligibility.

Philosophy of Language as Explication (Wittgenstein)

For reasons which will become apparent, it will be more useful to discuss
Wittgenstein's later philosophy of language as expressed in Philosophical
Investigations before we discuss the neo-Camapians. In the Philosophical
Investigations and in his subsequent work, Wittgenstein rejected scientism,22 he
rejected modern naturalism, and he rejected the anti-agency view of human beings.
Analytic Philosophy And Language 205

Language is seen as a tool. 23 Scientism distorts the conception of language as a tool

by making referential use basic. The distortion takes the form of liken ing language
to a "Quinean" telescope in which it is alleged that we can only talk about the way
in which the world appears using different sets of lenses. Scientism refuses to ask
questions about the telescope itself, or about the user of the telescope, or the
interpretation of what is seen through it, or all of the uses to which it is put. If it did
bother to ask such questions then we would see that the uses and the meaning of the
results ofthe uses are molded by our culture. Moreover, Wittgenstein denies that the
semantic and pragmatic dimensions of language can themselves be explained by
some further science. 24
The rejection of modern naturalism takes the form of denying that reality
determines the structure oflanguage. It would be easy and literarily elegant to say
that language determines our view of reality. But this is inaccurate and sounds not
very different from Quine. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that the relation
of human beings to external things (and to other human beings) is mediated by
language in particular and culture in general. Social practices determine how we
individuate the structure of language and, derivatively, the structure of external
things. The rejection of an anti-agency view and its replacement by an agency
centered view is a form of the Copernican Revolution in philosophy. Thought is
itself immersed in social life and social action. Practical reason, therefore, takes
primacy over theoretical reason. 25
Despite the emphatic, repeated and sometimes humorous rejection by
Wittgenstein of the analytic philosophical presuppositions of the Tractatus, there are
important connecting links between the earlier and the later work. To begin with,
Wittgenstein always denied that philosophy itself was a science. While the earlier
work left the role of the philosopher somewhat ambiguous, the later work stresses
how the explication of what we are doing is (a) not science and (b) not capable of
being superseded by a science. Further, in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein had contended
that it is not possible to discuss semantic notions. Semantic notions were reflected
in our usage. In the investigations, Wittgenstein contends that we most certainly can
discuss semantic conceptions, but not as neo-Carnapians do. Rather, we can discuss
semantic notions only in relation to how we live and act. Semantic constructs cannot
even be identified in abstraction from our way of life (i.e., pragmatics).
There was in the Tractatus the assertion of the existence of something
unsayable but nevertheless something which language showed. In the investigations,
the unsayable is now to be understood as the pre-theoretical and its grounding in
practice. The pre-theoretical resists and defies conceptualization.
In order to understand this better, let us look at the earlier Tractatus notion
of a picture. It was said there that a picture can represent reality, but the picture
cannot represent its own representing. Yet, Wittgenstein did not hesitate to talk, that
is to use language, about what pictures can and cannot do. There is, therefore,
something in language more fundamental than picturing. Hence, picturing cannot
be explained by reference to the structure of the picture. Language cannot, therefore,
be understood as a fundamentally pictorial process, employing only a spatial-
mathematical logic. Language has some other kind of status or mode of being. In
order for something even to be a picture there must be an implicit interpretation of
206 Chapter 6

it as a picture, i.e., there must be picturing. The act of picturing is not a structure but
the activity of a cultural agent.
The crucial concept in the Tractatus, the concept which provided
Wittgenstein with a focus for all of his points, was the tautology. The tautology was
the transparent entity which "showed" itself.26 It upheld the fundamental analytic,
naturalist-realist doctrine that language and thought are identical at some point with
reality. The tautology, on Wittgenstein's view of it, allowed for the convenient
disposal of all traditional notions of necessary but non-empirical truth, and it seemed
to fit smoothly with Russell's proposed reduction of mathematics to logic. However,
the now famous lecture by Brouwer on intuitionism in mathematics led Wittgenstein
to revise his views. What Wittgenstein got out of that lecture was the insight that no
system can be completely formalized in a finite set of principles and that there is
always an ineliminable residue of interpretation. There is no formalization apart
from prior agency.27
Wittgenstein began to ask what it meant to understand a rule.
Understanding a rule was not like understanding the truth conditions of the statement
of the rule. 28 If that were possible, then we could have total formalization and
conceptualization. Neither did Wittgenstein believe that there was a special and
unique epistemological act by which rules were grasped, which would be tantamount
to accepting some form of Platonism. Instead, Wittgenstein went on to argue that in
order even to follow a proof in mathematics we must be able to recognize when a
rule is applied. This recognition is not the same as an explicit formulation of the
rule. At each transition we are free to reject a particular application, and none of this
can be definitively formulated in advance. The final acceptance of a proof is a new
decision, not entailed by previous decisions.
Wittgenstein then proceeded to generalize this point for all discourse. No
system of rules can contain a meta-principle for the development and application of
the rules. Our discourse cannot be understood as the transparent image of an external
reality. Once Wittgenstein arrived at this conclusion he was forced to reject the
modern naturalism of so much of analytic philosophy. Those who believe that
discourse is an image of an external structure have no way of explaining how
communication avoids constantly breaking down. Something holds communication
together, but it is not what so many analytic philosophers say that it is. What saves
communication is that it is embedded in what we as social agents are doing. The
glue, the necessity if you will, is the grounding in social practice. All meaning and
all necessity is grounded in social practice. That is why, for example, Wittgenstein
placed such great stress, in the Investigations, on the contention that sensation words
do not arise from a private language. This is the reason why the latter notion is
The original Tractatus view of meaning as pictorial entailed that the
meaning of a mental structure determined itself. It was mechanical. The observation
of the same perceptible sign (written or spoken) allegedly produced, with some
qualification, the same mental structure. This explained how it was possible for the
same meaning to be transmitted from one person to another. But Wittgenstein's
investigation of rule application led him to reject the notion of a mechanical
application of a rule. Once he rejected a mechanical theory of rule application he
Analytic Philosophy And Language 207

was led to reject a mechanical theory of meaning. In opposition to the later

Wittgenstein, many analytic philosophers (despite differences among themselves)
still believe it is possible to give a scientific account of the process of determining
meaning. That is, some analytic philosophers still think that we need some kind of
theory deriving a rule from something in nature.
A proper understanding of language, for the later Wittgenstein, involves the
following considerations:
1. Language is an aspect of human action. As such, language in its most
fundamental mode has to be understood as practical and not theoretical. "Language
-- 1 want to say -- is a refinement, 'in the beginning was the deed' .... "29
2. As a form of human action, language is social. Hence, the proper starting
point of an understanding of language is a clear explication of what "we do." Neither
a Cartesian "I think" nor an atomistic "I do" is an adequate starting point. Neither
is the "we think" perspective or the "we say" perspective of ordinary language
Human actions are not purely natural events but symbolic events relying
upon tacit agreements. To say that human actions are not purely natural events is,
in part, to say that the meaning of such events is not independent of how the agents
involved in those events perceive or understand the events. There is an
institutionalized cultural background. Moreover, it is to say that the agents'
understanding of the events is not itself explicable at some other level by reference
to objects independent of the agents' attitude toward those objects. In addition, it is
to say that the attitudes of the agents are not themselves totally explicable at some
still further level without reference to the agents, etc. This is the Copernican
element in Wittgenstein's philosophy of language.
Wittgenstein compares language to a game and reminds us that the
participants in a game change the game or, more accurately, cause the game to
evolve by adding on new interpretations of the rules. Since a game is open-ended,
it cannot be definitively analyzed. It can, however, be studied historically, and it can
continue to evolve, sometimes through the conscious efforts of its participants who
seek to apply the historically inherited rules to new circumstances. Although the
ability to use language presupposes the ability to follow rules, language cannot be
equated with rule following.
What is philosophically significant about language for Wittgenstein is that
the object of explanation and the perspective ofthe explainer are mutually inclusive.
Hence, it is not possible to stand outside of the process of language and explain it
scientifically, i.e., as if it were an object. 30 No purely psychological or scientific
account is possible of how one person makes, follows, or breaks a rule because any
account must refer to conventionally established social norms. 31
3. Wittgenstein would agree with Quine that we cannot theorize about the
linkage between our language and reality, although Wittgenstein's reasons are
completely different from Quine's. Meaning cannot be explicated in terms of
reference alone. Even intentionalist theories of meaning, which try to explain
meaning by reference to what the speaker intends as opposed to reference exclusively
to an external object, will also fail because they are still fundamentally referential and
ignore the primary importance of social action.32
208 Chapter 6

It is the grounding of language in socially responsible action that

differentiates Wittgenstein from Quine. There is a kind of necessity in language for
Wittgenstein that Quine refuses to grant. For Wittgenstein, there is a pre-theoretical
framework of social norms that are not a matter of individual choice but which have
evolved historically. There are rules that bind us in a given context of the activities
oflife. Quine would argue that ifthere is any necessity it must be in symbols (i.e.,
syntax). Failing to find it there, Quine rejects the whole notion of necessity. Kripke,
as a neo-Carnapian referentialist, looks for it outside. Wittgenstein, on the contrary,
would argue that there are necessities but they are conventional, hence Copernican.
In addition to distinguishing logical concepts from ordinary concepts, Wittgenstein
would also argue that it is only from within the perspective of ordinary concepts that
it makes sense to talk about 'existence' and 'experience'. From Wittgenstein's point
of view, Quine is still a residual referentialist since Quine still thinks that 'existence'
and 'experience' have external, realist metaphysical import.
4. For Wittgenstein, both syntax and semantics are parasitic on pragmatics,
while pragmatics must be explained conventionally, historically, socially, culturally,
i.e., by explication of prior cultural norms which continue to evolve:

When I talk about language (words, sentences, etc.) I must speak

the language of everyday. Is this language somehow too coarse
and material for what we want to say? Then how is another one to
be constructed? - And how strange that we should be able to do
anything at all with the one we have!
In giving explanations I already have to use language
full-blown (not some sort of preparatory, provisional one) .... 33

For those still committed to the naturalist program, Wittgenstein would

appear as a defeatist,34 precisely because he denied that the pre-theoretical could be
conceptualized. It can be discussed from within the perspective of common sense
but not from without, certainly not from a scientific perspective. If Wittgenstein is
correct, then the philosophy of language cannot be a technical discipline wherein
technical distinctions can solve metaphysical and/or epistemological problems.

Philosophy of Language as Exploration (Neo-Carnapians)

There is an historical or evolutionary pattern in analytic philosophy, one to which we
have already called attention. In the initial phase, analytic philosophers proclaim the
truth of scientism as understood from a modem naturalist point of view in an
unqualified manner. The result is a view of philosophy as a mode of eliminative
thinking. With regard to language this meant the elevation of logic and syntax and
the dismissal of actual or natural languages. "Inadequate" natural languages were to
be replaced by a formal artificial language using the syntax of the Principia
Mathematica and simple observation terms making direct contact with experienced
reality. In the second phase, after the generally recognized failure of elimination, we
see a 'Kantian Tum' in which cognitive structures or activities that are not reducible
to or capable of being eliminated in favor of overt empirical entities are recognized.
The recognition ofthe non-empirical entities leads to a view of philosophy as a mode
Analytic Philosophy And Language 209

of exploratory thinking. An exploration begins with our ordinary understanding of

something and looks for the hidden structure behind it. This analytic philosophy of
language formulates speculative theories of the hidden structure oflanguage which
try to combine a surface acceptance of actual linguistic practice with some theory
of the hidden structure behind the practice.
The oldest and most well known of these theories is the work of Noam
Chomsky. Chomsky was the first to reject the simplistic empiricist account of
language acquisition in which it was alleged that external stimuli mechanically
produced conceptual-linguistic responses. Chomsky's specific target was Skinner's
behaviorist theory. The significance of the critique of behaviorism in particular and
simplistic empiricism in general is that it is a rejection of elimination. In order to
take elimination seriously it would be necessary to believe that the superiority of one
explanatory theory over another can be directly established by appeal to experience.
But as we have seen, again and again, no such direct test of conceptual (and
linguistic) structures is possible. Chomsky tried to explain why this was so.
According to Chomsky it is not possible to understand a sentence as a linear
sequence of components each of which is to be explained inductively, i.e.,
empirically. Put another way, the syntax and the semantics in a linguistic unity
cannot be treated separately. Rather, the surface structure of language can only be
explained by reference to deep structure (an internal code). In what clearly amounts
to a 'Kantian Turn' in linguistics, Chomsky argued that there is an internal pre-
theoretical framework. At the same time, Chomsky still treated this framework as
a form of representation, a knowing that, that precedes our use of language, which
is a knowing how. "It is the deep structure underlying the actual utterance, a
structure that is purely mental, that conveys the semantic content ofthe sentence."35
Chomsky believed that there was some psychological process to account for
the existence and functioning of this internal structure, but he does not concern
himself either with the physiology or the philosophical problems raised by this
empirical hypothesis about intensional entities. We are reminded here of the as yet
undiscovered physiological mechanism introduced with the Enlightenment project.
Although Chomsky himself focused primarily on syntax, his students, Fodor and
Katz, emphasized the semantic dimension of Chomsky's initiative. As Fodor put it:

... a theory oflanguage must say, in some way or other, what the
terms in the language refer to. For this reason, a 'real' semantic
theory would have to be part of a theory of the internal code. 36

In Fodor's version, there is a finite set of concepts embedded in a "language of

thought." This finite set can be explained, in principle, by biology independent of
culture. This is clearly anti-agency or anti-Copernican. It is also clear that the shift
from elimination to exploration parallels and reflects the shift of emphasis from
syntax to semantics.
We should not be misled here by the appeal to innate mechanisms. Some
kind of internal processing or innate mechanism has always been part of empiricism.
The important question has to do with the extent and nature of those innate
mechanisms and how such mechanisms connect with and explain competence or
210 Chapter 6

successful performance. Curiously, no such account is ever given. In their concern

to work out a science ofJinguistic competence, Chomsky, Fodor, and Katz beg the
question of the philosophical foundations of that science. Specifically, Chomsky,
Fodor, and Katz use the Tractatus notion of a meaning locus without ever analyzing
or explaining it. The meaning locus is a mental (intentional) entity that accompanies
the public linguistic entity and which is inferred from the public linguistic entity by
the quasi-mechanistic application of rules. The public linguistic entity, i.e., the
propositional sign, touches reality by "going through" something else, namely the
meaning terminus, which means that state of affairs. The meaning terminus itself
does not go through something else. Wittgenstein, as we saw, came to reject this
notion in the Philosophical Investigations largely because it reflected the perennially
baffling Aristotelian epistemological problem of how we abstract the "form" from
the matter. Like all modern naturalist epistemologists/ 7 Chomsky, Fodor, and Katz
use a type of argument in which a series comes to an end or terminus that is uniquely
different from the other members ofthe series, but the uniqueness is never explained.
The 'Kantian Tum,' the shift from elimination and syntax to exploration and
semantics, led to a renewed appreciation of Frege's distinction between sense and
denotation. It was now clear to many that meaning could not be reduced to reference
(denotation). One of the new appreciators of Frege is Michael Dummett. Inspired
by what he takes Frege's views to be, Dummett contends that the philosophy of
language is the most fundamental part of philosophy; it is "the part of the subject
which underlies all the rest."38 Without an understanding of language, we do not,
according to Dummett, understand the world. The understanding of meaning is prior
to the determination of truth. Moreover, for Dummett, the philosophy ofJanguage
is the exploration of the hidden structure of natural language .

. . . formalized language is a more perfect instrument for doing the

same thing as that which we normally do by means of natural
language, as if, therefore ... we are studying the ideal which
natural language strives after, but fails to attain. 39

While agreeing with Quine that philosophy must become a science,

Dummett thinks of the philosophy oflanguage as an exploration, a theory of meaning
and not an elimination. He further demurs from holism, specifically attacking
Davidson's version, in favor of an analysis of the parts ofJanguage. Unfortunately,
the basic units never get specified. Like all explorers, Dummett has come to the
conclusion that there is a class of statements which do not possess objective truth
value independently of our means of knowing them. In other words, like all
explorers, Dummett recognizes a conventional (pre-theoretical, "Kantian") element
in language and thought, but disagrees on the issue of its locus. This notion of a
conventional element Dummett calls his anti-realism. The reader should not take this
"anti-realism" to be a rejection of either scientism or naturalism. Dummett's position
remains programmatic. Dummett is also a severe critic of explication as witnessed
by his condemnation of "psychologism" and Wittgenstein. By far the most
substantial exploratory program emerged out of the work of the later Carnap,40
specifically the work of the "neo-Carnapians" Montague and Kripke. Neo-Camapian
Analytic Philosophy And Language 211

exploration emanates from the following world view: since language is a natural
object like other natural objects, the relation of language to other natural objects is
a complex which must itself be capable of study just as we study any natural
interaction. It follows that a concept like "truth" is a kind of natural object, as are all
the norms of thought and language (i.e., the pre-theoretical).41 The exploration of
this natural object (language) and its relation to other natural objects proceeds via
hypothesizing about the substructure of language. In hypothesizing about the
substructure, neo-Carnapians all subscribe to the following Traclatus views (later
repudiated by Wittgenstein himself in his Philosophical Investigations):
1. substructure is limited by theoretical considerations;
2. substructure is like classical, first order logic;
3. sentences are constructed from smaller' atoms' by means of logical
operations (or rules);
4. substructure is describable extensionally.

Richard Montague was a student of Tarski's, but he was greatly influenced

by Carnap, whom he frequently cited. It was Montague's goal to conceptualize the
pre-theoretical, i.e., to give a formal analysis not only of syntax and semantics but
of pragmatics as well. Montague made semantic analysis fundamental. Thus, he
disagreed with the Chomskians on the relation between syntax and semantics.
Montague maintained that semantics is not reducible to syntax and syntax is not
reducible to psychology. The explanation of semantic concepts like 'truth' cannot
be t:vaded by appeal to internal codes. Rather, a formal meta-mathematical analysis
of all of these concepts is possible using set theory.
Montague also argued that pragmatics could be reduced to semantics.
Borrowing from Yehoshua Bar-Hillel the notion of an "indexical" expression to
cover the concepts in pragmatics of tense and first and second person pronouns (i.e.,
the role of the speaker and the context such as'!', 'you', 'here', 'now', etc.),
Montague defined pragmatics as the extension of semantic truth-definitions to formal
languages containing indexical terms. "Truth" became one such indexical term.
Montague devised an intensional logic that made use of set theory. From
within set theory, he proposed to "justify" a language that transcended set theory.
All of this assumed that (a) there is a meta-language which would enable us to
formulate rules that relate situations to utterances, i.e., a revival of the Tractatus
world picture, and that (b) there could be total knowledge of all possible situations.
The latter assumption revives the Hegelian specter of holism. Moreover, if one were
to accept the notion of a language as an on-going historical-cultural entity, then we
would require the further Hegelian assumption that our present incomplete analysis
hooks up in some guaranteed way with the final totality. Montague's position
remained programmatic.
The most influential and impressive attempt to develop an exploration of
language is to be found in the work of Saul Kripke. Kripke exemplifies the second
alternative or neo-Carnapian approach to the substitution of language for experience
within analytic epistemology. This second approach declares that philosophy is a
science with Talk2 as its special subject matter. It will argue that there is a kind of
"higher semantics" that can only be understood if we take a 'Kantian Tum.' So, in
212 Chapter 6

effect, it claims that, as opposed to Wittgenstein, we can theorize about the

unmentionable zone of discourse, and, as opposed to Quine, Talk2 cannot be reduced
to Talk l (hence traditional social science cannot handle it) but can in some special
way be made compatible with Talkl.42 It contemplates and proposes a more radical
revision of our conception of Talk l to make this possible.
Kripke first attracted attention for his work in modal logic. Modal logics,
as discussed earlier, were developed initially as alternatives to Russell's
unsatisfactory explanation of implication. One of the things that could not be
satisfactorily explained in Russell's tenns were counterfactual statements. Following
Russell, Quine and others had even proposed that scientific discourse abandon
counterfactuals. It was in opposition to Quine and in order to legitimate the presence
of counterfactuals in genuine scientific discourse (scientism!) that modal logics were
applied to counterfactual discourse.
Counterfactual statements talk about possible worlds, that is, about what
would have happened (consequent) if something else had happened (antecedent),
when historically that antecedent did not occur: "Ifthere were a tenth planet in our
solar system, then it too would have an elliptical orbit around the sun." One way of
handling this kind of discourse is Copernican and it suggests that such statements can
be explicated by reference to linguistic agents in a social context. That is,
counterfactuals do not tell us something about the world but about our speech and
our pre-theoretical framework. Analytic philosophers, however, would reject such
a non-realist solution out of hand. Kripke agrees that we need a realist solution to the
problem of counterfactuals, so much so that his treatment of possible worlds echoes
an Aristotelian essentialism.
Invoking a "possible world" requires an intensional logic. 43 Kripke
attempted to develop a semantics for "possible worlds" that was similar to
Montague's. That is, Kripke was trying to conceptualize the pre-theoretical. It was
in the working out of this semantics that Kripke came into direct conflict with the
eliminative views of Russell and then Quine. This conflict can be best seen by
turning our attention to the status of singular terms.
Singular terms appear in natural languages as proper names. They are
problematic for analytic philosophy (and all fOnTIS of empiricism) both because some
proper names do not denote, e.g., 'Pegasus', and because they can be part of true
negative statements, e.g., 'Pegasus does not exist'. The empiricist program seems
to require that all meaningful terms denote something. Russell thought he had
resolved the difficulty with his theory of descriptions, and Quine had concurred.
According to the theory of descriptions, proper names have both a denotation and a
meaning, and the meaning could be formalized into a description. Whereas the
meaning is fixed, the reference is not. This effectively eliminates singular terms in
favor of a description, but at the same time it blocks second order discourse. The
blocking of second order discourse makes it illegitimate to employ modal discourse.
Kripke is committed to the viability of modal logic (second order discourse
or intensional logic). Therefore, he challenged the Russell-Quine theory of
descriptions. In its place, he argued that proper names have denotation only. That
is, proper names such as "Socrates" can refer independently of an identifying
description. In effect this amounts to saying that proper names have no intension.
Analytic Philosophy And Language 213

Even more significant is the further application of this thesis about proper names to
common nouns. The end result is that all of the terms that allegedly refer to and
reflect the objective external structure of the world can be explained without appeal
to any concept or philosophical preconceptions that might possibly attribute a role
to the subject/agent.
In Kripke's terminology, names are rigid designators. In saying that names
are rigid designators, Kripke argued that names are not definable by any set of
predicates as in the theory of descriptions, rather names are definable by reference
to essential predicates as determined by science. Science is the final arbiter of the
range of possible worlds. A rigid designator would refer to the same entity in all
possible worlds. A possible world is explained by appeal to counterfactuals, and
counterfactuals are explained by invoking modal logic.
Kripke's views may be summarized:
I. proper names are archetypes that
a. do not require intensions or definite descriptions, and
b. are explainable solely in terms of reference;
2. proper names are rigid designators;
3. rigid designators refer in all possible worlds;
4. possible worlds are counterfactual conditionals;
5. counterfactuals require the use of modal logic;
6. the use of modal logic justifies a second order discourse or Talk 2 that is
not ultimately eliminable in favor ofTalk J •
7. Talk2 can be assimilated to Talk J only by reconceptualizing the process
of how reference operates within Talk 1•
Kripke supplemented this view with a causal account of the pragmatics of
using names. The concept of a rigid designator and the causal theory of meaning
amounted to a potentially new theory of reference which, if successful, would be a
solution of the perennial Aristotelian epistemological problem of abstraction.
Specifically, Kripke invoked Carnapian foundationalism modified by a conventional
element, and all of this is in opposition to Quine's holism. Kripke also invoked a
strong analytic version of Tarski's semantic conception of truth where 'truth' is the
result of how individual terms link up. The entire analysis makes no appeal to the
speaker's knowledge, and hence it is anti-agent. In order to avoid misunderstanding,
we stress that Kripke has not restored the grammatical subject to a special status by
calling it a rigid designator. Since a rigid designator can refer independently of any
associated description, a rigid designator has, in the most traditional sense of the
term, no meaning. Hence, like Quine, Kripke has got rid of the subject.
Reference, according to Kripke, is explainable through the use of a causal
chain originating with a kind of baptism that establishes the initial use of a name.
This initial use is then handed on and down from speaker to speaker and from
generation to generation. Reference thus involves a relationship among three
elements: (I) a speaker, (2) a social context, and (3) a physical environment.
Reference, and therefore meaning, depend upon this chain of acquisition and the
physical environment. Reference does not depend upon the attitude or internal
condition of the speaker (i.e., the subject/agent). By eliminating any appeal to the
internal condition of the speaker, Kripke seemingly evades the traditional
214 Chapter 6

Aristotelian problem of how the subject abstracts the form from the matter.
Moreover, Kripke, with a bow to Wittgenstein, does seem to take social context into
account. However, the social context is construed as a natural object whose relation
to the physical environment can be explained scientifically!
The crucial question about Kripke's exploratory alternative is whether in
fact he provides a satisfactory solution to the perennial Aristotelian epistemological
problem of abstraction, or what analytic philosophers now call the theory of
reference. The answer is that he does not! No account is forthcoming of the causal
theory of the pragmatics of using names. We can, apparently, only name entities
after we have intuited the necessary properties (i.e., essences) which define those
entities. A property is a necessary one if, and only if, there are no logically
conceivable states of affairs (i.e., possible worlds) where the entity might lack that
property and still remain the same entity or individual. No non-controversial
example is ever given by Kripke. Instead, Kripke argues by counter-example.
Reference, in Kripke, depends upon intuition, and intuition is conceived of
as exploration or hypothesis formation. A model of the act of intuition would
presumably explain how the relation of social context to physical environment can
be construed as itself an objective entity. In short, precisely at the point where we
require a model of the act of intuition, none can be or is given. There is a recurrent
problem faced by the neo-Carnapian exploratory approach. Neo-Carnapians want
to use the present technical language, with some modifications, to talk about or to
conceptualize the pre-theoretical (what they conceive of as the relation among
speaker, social context, and physical environment). But how do they know that the
present technical language is adequate to the task? Wouldn't there have to be, still,
some external position from which the issue could be surveyed and resolved?
Wouldn't this external position then be the pre-theoretical position that is beyond
conceptualization? This seemingly infinite regress is what Kripke tries to rule out
as illegitimate in his treatment of the liar paradox, and it is the fear of this regress that
leads Kripke, Field, and other like-minded analytic philosophers to suggest an
Aristotelian series in which we come to a terminal entity which is different from the
other entities in the series. That is what the causal theory of reference was supposed
to do but fails to do.
As we have expressed it on previous occasions, no exploration can proceed
unless there is a prior consensus on explication. Not having a prior consensus on
explication makes it impossible to resolve disputes about essences or necessary
properties. 44 Many analytic philosophers are adamant in their opposition to making
explication basic, for that amounts to embracing the Copernican Revolution in
philosophy and the dreaded alleged fallacy of "psychologism." Kripke's attempt to
discuss examples and thereby link up with a theory of reference is doubly
confounded because his original theory is an exploration which depends upon
subsidiary theories like intuition which are themselves explorations. Explorations
are backed up by other explorations which, in turn, are backed up only by still further
explorations. There does not seem to be any way of breaking out of this circle
(Quine's objection). In the end, Kripke's formalism falls back upon question-
begging informal arguments in which he begins to speak of a "better picture." Since
there are no criteria for judging "better pictures" or explorations in the absence of a
Analytic Philosophy And Language 215

prior consensus on explication, Kripke even hesitates to call his view a theory. There
is a peculiar sort of double circularity here in that the use of abstractions, like
"quantifier" and "sets," to explain ordinary English is then supplemented with an
explanation of the abstractions by reference to informal arguments in ordinary
English. In practice this makes ordinary English a kind of meta-met a-language.
Here we also see a common and recurrent pattern of argument amongst neo-
Carnapians who are attempting to conceptualize or formalize the pre-theoretical
element in our thinking and speech. As in Tarski's appeal to 'satisfaction', or Lewis'
appeal to 'similarity', or Kripke's appeal to 'intuition', the pre-theoretical is always
tentatively conceptualized or formalized by appeal to some other still non-formal
notion. The more remote non-formal notion would then have to be formalized, but
it never is. Moreover, there is no clearly discernible progressive movement in which
the specific earlier non-formal notions are formalized later. Rather, what we find is
a host of seemingly endless but non-cumulative "new and innovative" programs.
To summarize then the difficulties with Kripke's approach to solving the
problems of analytic philosophy's epistemological agenda by focusing on language
we note the following; first, the actual mechanism by which form is abstracted from
matter is no clearer when treated as a purely linguistic object, that is, Kripke does not
give us in the end the promised scientific account of reference; second, the causal
chain in Kripke's account reintroduces the subject and the community; third,
Kripke's account does not subsume the metaphysical problems of analytic
philosophy as purely epistemological ones, but rather raises them again in a new
locus; finally, Kripke teeters on the edge of the abyss of exploration.

Quine's Elimination vs. Kripke's Exploration

Kripke's work attracted a great deal of attention. Although much of Kripke's
methodology had been articulated earlier by others, Kripke's timing could not have
been better. The overall analytic shift from the limited empiricism of elimination to
the various Kantian Turns of exploration created an environment of great receptivity
to neo-Carnapian semantics. However, along with all of the attention came serious
Modal logic is an intensional formalism. Contemporary modal sentence
logic originated in 1918 with C.1. Lewis, who was dissatisfied with the paradoxes of
material implication because they fail to capture our intuitive notion of implication.
Specifically, material implication failed to capture the idea that causal connections
in nature must reflect some necessary structure, otherwise science cannot be the self-
contained truth. In the 1940's Ruth Barcan Marcus extended C. I. Lewis' system to
predicate logic. The biggest boost came when it was pointed out that scientific
discourse encompasses dispositional terms. In 1973, David Lewis went on to argue
that dispositional terms, which are expressed in the SUbjunctive conditional mode,
could only be represented by a rnodallogic.
Quine's response was that dispositionals could ultimately be dispensed with,
at least in principle given certain assumptions about the future of science. Moreover,
Quine argued that modal logic invokes a view of necessity which is highly
questionable. Recalling his attack on the notion of analyticity, Quine argued that
necessity is a property of language (de dicta), not a property of things (de re).
216 Chapter 6

Quine's criticisms are focused on the role of the quantifier. Quantifiers, according
to Quine's ontology, are about things (Talk l ), whereas in modal logic quantifiers
range over (Talk 2) talk about things. So modal logic becomes a talk about talk whose
referential nature remains obscure.
In response to Quine's criticisms, Marcus and Kripke defended the view that
modality is talk about things. If so, then necessity would be a property of things;
hence some version of essentialism is true. This, in turn, means that some identities
at least are necessary.
Quine responded by stressing that modal logics are not truth functional, i.e.,
modal formulas do not depend for their truth upon the truth values of their
component parts, and they do not have finite characteristic matrices.
Subsequent discussions of the transworld identity of possible individuals
confirmed Quine's worst fears. Nobody seems to know what modal logics are about.
To the older generation of analytic philosophers, like Quine, the whole validity of the
analytic enterprise rests upon its being extensional, that is an empirical understanding
of science. To put all of this in our language, there is no empirical way to evaluate
exploratory hypotheses. Kripke's failure to develop an adequate theory of reference
merely confirms this fatal flaw of all exploration. 45
Second and third generation analytic philosophers have been so accustomed
to the idea that philosophy is hypothesis exploration that many of them cannot
imagine it being any other way. But why is hypothesis exploration so important?
It seems to be important because physical science is largely hypothesis exploration,
and philosophy has to be like physical science (i.e., scientism). But why is physical
science so important that it should serve as the paradigm of all meaningful
intellectual activity? It seemed to be important because physical science is
empirically confirmable truth. If this is so, then exploration is only a legitimate
mode oftheorizing ifit is empirically confirmable. However, intensional logics are
not empirically confirmable. It would seem to follow that intensional logics are not
legitimate modes of theorizing.
The situation is even worse when we recall that we have arrived at this point
in the story precisely because ofthe inability even of physical science to be empirical
(i.e., to meet the modern naturalist epistemological demands made on physical
science by many analytic philosophers), and this inability led to the promise of
empirical redemption at some more remote and exotic level. The redemption does
not appear to be forthcoming at any level. Nor will it do to respond that intensional
logics no longer have to be empirically confirmable explorations since science is not.
This response merely highlights that once the empiricist pretensions of science are
surrendered we are not only left wondering why physical science is the paradigm of
all legitimate intellectual activity but we must also question the whole raison d'erre
of the naturalist program. Pointless and unredeemable exploration is a form of self-
immolation. 46
Does the notion of semantics, not itself grounded in pragmatics, make any
sense? It would make sense if there were some way to study the relation of words
or linguistic units to reality. In the naturalistic endeavor within analytic philosophy,
there is a continuous tendency to reduce semantics to the correspondence theory of
truth. What is not clear is exactly what are the elements being related. Moreover,
Analytic Philosophy And Language 217

any attempt to explain this relationship presupposes that our present mode of
discourse is adequate to do the job. If it is, then do we not already have to know
what it is we are looking to explain or to understand? This is exactly why Quine
keeps harping on the indisputable point that the language for which truth is defined
presupposes a meta-language whose notion of truth is antecedently accepted. The
understanding of the meaning of words presupposes, Quine claims, a prior
understanding of the truth conditions of the sentences in which they appear. The real
force of Quine's critique of Kripke and all neo-Carnapians is that they treat questions
of meaning prior to questions of truth, but when they offer a theory of meaning they
fail to make sense of how such theories (explorations) can themselves be true. 47
As Quine sees it, using our terminology, if scientism and modern naturalist-
realism are correct, then there cannot even be a second level intensional discourse
(Talk2) about our first level technical discourse (Talk[). Any discourse (Talk2) about
our technical discourse would have to be the province of some other empirical
science. The latter science would use the logic of the lower functional calculus.
Moreover, this other empirical science would have to be a social science like
behavioral psychology.
What we have said so far indicates just how severe the criticism of
exploration can be on the part of those who still subscribe to elimination. Lest we
take this to be a vindication of elimination, we should remind ourselves that
exploration was itself a response to the perceived inadequacies of elimination.
Quinean elimination is no stronger because neo-Carnapian exploration is fatally
flawed. In fact, looking back over the work done in exploration reinforces the
inadequacies of Quinean elimination. The main Quinean objection to neo-Carnapian
exploration is that the latter is trying to get at the external view from the inside. We
grant Quine the validity of this objection. However, as we have already argued,
Quine is guilty of the same thing. In denying the legitimacy of the semantic
enterprise, Quine is, at one and the same time, pretending to stand and speak from
outside the monistic and holistic system he champions, and, from within that system,
Quine denies that one can talk about the system as a whole from inside the system.
It is precisely this kind of internal incoherence that neo-Carnapians see in Quine.
After all is said and done, what we have in the confrontation between Quine
and Kripke is a mutually destructive family quarrel. The quarrel concerns the level
at which analysis is going to be carried out. Quine's approach to the philosophical
problems of language is to move the resolution of them to the level of a social
science like behavioral psychology in order to maintain the fundamental commitment
to modern naturalist-realism and empiricism. Kripke is looking for a meaningful
resolution on the linguistic level. Despite the differences, both Quine's appeal to
behavioral psychology and Kripke's appeal to social context are attempts to evade
explaining how the subject abstracts the form from the matter.
The neo-Carnapian approach of Kripke and others resurrects in a new guise
all of the unsolved epistemological problems of modern naturalism. Kripke's view
appears as an epicycle within the analytic philosophical movement. At the same
time, shifting the problem to behavioral psychology as Quine suggests has exactly
the same effect of resurrecting unsolved Aristotelian epistemological problems.
218 Chapter 6

After all is said and done, both the Quine and the Kripke approaches lead
us down the Hegelian route and have made no progress. This we have already seen
in Quine's case where in order to save empiricism Quine accepts holism and a
powerful myth about scientific progress toward that whole. The neo-Carnapians are
faced with the same difficulty.48 Pushed by their opponents, the neo-Carnapians are
forced to admit the internal circularity of their position. Like Quine, the neo-
Carnapians take evasive action. Quine remains mum on the nature of the whole,
while the neo-Carnapians try in vain to block reformulations of the liar paradox from
within their position. In their laudable attempt to capture the pre-theoretical, the neo-
Carnapians have made a 'Kantian Turn' in recognizing the important role of meaning
and necessity. But as in the case of all 'Kantian Turns,' we are faced with a plethora
of alternative formal analyses with no possible provision on how to choose among
them. What is needed is a higher synthesis of this 'Kantian Turn,' and in the case of
a movement committed to Aristotelian realism, this can only mean a Hegelian

Summary of the Analytic Philosophy of Language

There is an analytic epistemological agenda. Specifically, that agenda is to establish
that ideas (or words) are internal reflections of an external structure (objects).
Enlightenment empiricism had maintained that the relation of ideas (words) to
objects was itself an object that could, in principle, be explained physiologically and,
in the meantime, could be introspected. Enlightenment empiricism failed to establish
that relation without appeal to a subject which was not itself an object. In order to
avoid the problems of an introspective psychological approach, contemporary
empiricism focused on language and hence construes the relation as one of word to
object. It still wants to construe this relation as itself an object (i.e., something with
a structure external to us).
1. Positivists failed to establish the existence of the relation as an object.
2. Quine construed the relation holistically, but this turns out to be either an
evasive metaphor or an incoherent approach.
3. Neo-Carnapians (Kripke) assert that there is a hidden objective structure
behind surface language, and it is this structure, which is a linguistic object,
that relates to non-linguistic objects. The very statement of the neo-
Carnapian position raises the question of how the truth of such a statement
would be established. Presumably that hidden structure would in principle
be observable. However, neo-Carnapians have never been able to present
the hidden structure as an object. On the other hand, if we have to invoke
a social or communal framework in order to be able to "see" or identify the
structure then we have just raised in a different locus all of the problems
that analytic epistemology is trying to resolve.
4. Those who advocate some version of linguistic coherence 49 recognize,
overtly or tacitly, the failure of the epistemological agenda of analytic
5. Other critics of the analytic epistemological agenda would maintain that
the relation of word to object is not an empirical issue, rather the whole
issue is precisely what we mean by such a fact.
Analytic Philosophy And Language 219

Wittgensteinian Explication vs. Analytic Philosophy of Language

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations was not only a repudiation of the
Tractatus but also a repudiation of the analytic epistemological agenda.
Wittgenstein's approach to language is an explication, not an elimination or an
exploration. How would a Wittgensteinian explication respond to both Quinean
elimination 50 and Kripkean exploration? Wittgenstein would initially agree with
Kripke and the neo-Carnapians that we need a clearer, less evasive, and more self-
conscious conception of the philosopher's task. At the same time, Wittgenstein
would agree with Quine that we cannot do what Kripke wants to without an implicit
or explicit reference to a prior framework or background. That background,
according to Wittgenstein, can never be identified with scientism. It can only be
identified with a way of living.
Some implicit recognition of the pre-theoretical is found even in Quine
when he says the following:

In practice of course we end the regress of coordinate systems by

something like pointing. And in practice we end the regress of
background languages, in discussions of reference, by acquiescing
in our mother tongue and taking its words at face value. 51

But Quine persists in thinking that there can then be some scientific account of
The background, or pre-theoretical frame of reference, is not, according to
Wittgenstein, a theory, 52 nor can it be understood from the perspective of another
theory or kind of theory (like the "science" of psychology). Language itself is not
a theory but rather something learned as part of a community of practices. Language
is not initially a consciously adopted set of practices or a construction. In order to
understand the norms which "structure" or inform language we would have to see
those norms as internal to the linguistic practice. A language is not a structure
independent of the norms of the users, nor are the norms isolable from the language
or agents.

[Quine] is an exemplary 'hedgehog', a methodological monist, a

defender of scientism in philosophy, a naturalized epistemologist
and propounder of an ontology guided by physics and canonical
notation .... [Wittgenstein] is a pardigmatic 'fox', who viewed
scientific method in philosophy as the worst source of
misconceived metaphysics, a methodological pluralist appalled at
the misguided idea that the only forms of knowledge and
understanding are scientific, who socialized epistemology without
naturalizing it, held the canonical notation of mathematical logic
to have completely deformed the thinking of philosophers, and
rejected ontology as conceived by the philosophic tradition. 53

Wittgenstein would agree with Donald Davidson that there cannot be

radically alternative paradigm languages because the whole notion of 'alternatives'
220 Chapter 6

presupposes a common core. Wittgenstein would agree that there is a common core.
However, the real dispute is over how we identify the core.
I. Wittgenstein would deny that in identifying the core we are theorizing
about a hidden structure: " ... we do not seek to learn anything new ... we want to
understand something that is already in plain view."s4
2. He would deny that the norms or actions which ground linguistic practice
can be definitively specified. There is no rule for the interpretation of rules so
disputes are possible. The resolution of those disputes can only be in actions and
never a theory about a further hidden structure.
3. Scientific practices and the language of science are derivative from the
main core. Hence, the core explains science rather than science explaining the core.
Since science is derivative rather than fundamental, there can certainly be rival, and
incommensurable, scientific paradigms which structure our scientific experience or
observations or experiments just as Kuhn said. The possibility of such conflicts is
further explicable by the aforementioned fact that not all conflicts over the
interpretation of rules can be settled by deeper rules. However, the resolution of such
conflicts lies not within science itself, so Kuhn was correct again, but by appeal to
more fundamental core practices which are not themselves scientific. Davidson
missed this point, and Kuhn failed to express it properly, because both Kuhn and
Davidson are among those analytic philosophers who subscribes to scientism.
Let us take a specific issue in the philosophy of language, namely, the status
of universals. Both Wittgenstein and Quine deny that there are universals. But, for
Wittgenstein this is a negative philosophical claim. He would not construe this as
a negative existential claim like 'there are no unicorns'. The negative claim has
nothing to do with ontological commitment as in Quine. Nor is it a negative
theoretical claim like 'there is no such thing as phlogiston'. What possible scientific
developments, for example, could resolve the issue of whether there are universals?
Nor is the rejection of universals a rejection of a conceptual scheme or hypothesis.
Nor is the denial of the existence of universals the exposure of some terrible fault
with the language we speak. If there are alternatives then these alternatives are
philosophical accounts (i.e., explications, not explorations) of the generality of
words. Wittgenstein would also reject Kripke's essentialist claims which tie
meaning to necessity. Concepts do not require sharp boundaries in order to have
meaning, according to Wittgenstein, rather "we require it for special practical
The same sort of approach would be taken toward the status of logical
necessity. Quine is right in contending that the notion of analyticity does not capture
the meaning of logical propositions, but he is wrong to deny necessity. Kripke is
right in recognizing necessity but wrong to treat it as de re or as having ontological
status. For Wittgenstein, the logically necessary is the pre-theoretical, and hence
there is a real difference between logical statements and empirical statements. Quine
is correct that no statements are immune to revision, but then all this amounts to for
Wittgenstein is that no practices are sacrosanct in the light of other practices.
Many philosophers have felt intensely uncomfortable with the collapsing
of the logical realm into the empirical realm, especially in mathematics. It is difficult
to see, for example, how mathematics can in any sense be said to be empirical, and
Analytic Philosophy And Language 221

curiously while theories in physics have been revised and abandoned this has not
happened in mathematics. Non-Euclidean geometries, to the contrary, did not lead
us to abandon Euclidean geometry. The persistent recognition oflogically necessary
statements has been a thorn in the side of Aristotelianism from the very beginnings
of philosophy itself.
In reading the Philosophical Investigations, analytic readers are frequently
frustrated and struck by the fact that Wittgenstein did not give a single
straightforward argument for why exploration will not work. He did not explain why
our ordinary understanding cannot be replaced by an understanding based upon
hidden sub-structures. Yet, the reason for this should be clear. The whole point of
explication is that there cannot be an independent understanding of our ordinary
understanding oflanguage. In order to formulate a knock-down argument to prove
this point, one would have to step outside of our ordinary understanding. In short,
the demand that Wittgenstein provide an independent proof of his position that
explication is the only legitimate approach is a failure to understand Wittgenstein's
Since Wittgenstein does not, and clearly cannot on pain of self-
contradiction, provide a definitive refutation of exploration, there seems to be a
permanent open invitation for some analytic philosophers to keep trying their hand
at exploration. This raises the interesting practical question of how one would go
about making these particular analytic philosophers both understand and/or accept
the claim of the incoherence of their practice of exploration. Incoherence is much
more subtle and less obvious than contradiction so it is more difficult to demonstrate.
Part of the subtlety of incoherence is the extent to which it is embedded in practice!
Wittgenstein solved the practical challenge by taking specific alleged explorations
and showing how in the end these explorations rely upon implicit explications.
The Philosophical Investigations is a brilliant kaleidoscopic example of
such exposures. Artificial languages, to take one example, are not really languages.
Before one can construct an artificial language one must know what a real language
is. Ifwe have a mistaken view about language or we do not fully understand what
a language is, then the model of the artificial language will be a commensurate
distortion. Ifwe do have the correct understanding, then we do not need the artificial
model in the first place.
No more than Wittgenstein can we provide a definitive refutation of
exploration, and for the same reason.56 What we can do, and have been doing, is
showing how the analytic philosophy of language (a) fails to achieve its objectives,
(b) operates even by its own admission with implicit explications which it cannot
discard, and (c) is, when consistently developed, a prelude to Hegelianism. The
exploratory version, in particular, of the analytic philosophy oflanguage looks for
the hidden structure of our ordinary understanding of linguistic usage. Such analytic
philosophers are trying to explain what we mean, but the ultimate data turn out to be
what we mean. This cannot be done unless in some sense we already know what we
mean. There is a peculiar kind of circularity or incoherence here. In order to avoid
incoherence, it becomes necessary to appeal to the Hegelian system in which we
achieve total synthesis and in which we see the earlier unanalyzed meaning as part
of a progressive (teleological) process of clarification wherein the beginning is
222 Chapter 6

subsumed in the end and the end is already contained in the beginning. The analogue
to this Hegelian system in the analytic philosophy of language is the movement from
pre-theoretical common sense discourse (background framework) to theoretical
discourse, and finally, to the suggestion that theoretical discourse can reveal the
secret structure of the original pre-theoretical discourse.
The other thing that can be done is to dwell at length on the persistent and
systematic misunderstanding in the minds of many analytic philosophers about what
their critics and even their analytic opponents are saying. The best recent example
of that misunderstanding is Kripke's (1982) Wittgenstein on Rules and Private
Language. Kripke challenges Wittgenstein's claim that there is no underpinning to
explain how we apply signs. Kripke suggests that we can find the underpinning
(hidden structure) in the user's relation to a community. Wittgenstein, however,
would deny that the user's relation to a community has an underlying objectifiable
structure. That is precisely why we need explication instead of an independent
interpretation. Actions, including speech, for Wittgenstein, are not natural events but
symbolic events. As symbolic events they involve tacit agreements which we seek
to explicate, and they require the ability to follow rules. However, symbolic action
is not reducible to rule following. 57 There cannot be a meta-language relating acts
to anything else. Acts can only be related to other acts, as in Wittgenstein's example
of the bricklayers at the building site.
Kripke, on the other hand, still insists upon seeing language as an object
rather than a practice. Kripke characterizes Wittgenstein's position (and Hume's as
well) as skeptical. Kripke does not actually define what skepticism is. Rather, he
distinguishes between a straightforward solution of the skeptic's challenge and the
skeptical solution to the skeptic's challenge. The straightforward solution is to offer
an argument which shows that skepticism is unwarranted. The skeptical solution, as
in Wittgenstein and Hume, says Kripke (a) concedes that the skeptic's negative
assertions are unanswerable, and (b) claims that ordinary practice or belief is justified
because such practices and beliefs do not require the justification the skeptic shows
to be unattainable.
In one sense Kripke is absolutely correct. The sense in which he is correct
is that the language he uses to say what he says makes sense given his point of view.
What Kripke fails to understand is the Wittgenstein-Hume point of view. For both
Wittgenstein and Hume there is a response to the skeptic. The skeptic's argument
is incoherent. The incoherence is revealed in the conjunction oflanguage (which is
itself one form of action) and action. The skeptic's argument is incoherent because
that argument is itself parasitic upon a shared practice.
In relating skepticism to social action or context we distinguish this
refutation from the traditional rebuttal that skepticism presupposes a truth at another
level. To be sure there is an assumed truth at another level, but it is not a
propositional truth that is assumed. What is assumed or shared is a set of embedded
norms of action.
Philosophical dialogue proceeds on the assumption that there is a common
community of discourse or consensus, not a set of axiomatic rules. The consensus
embodies norms of action, not just sentences. Professional philosophers in the
Anglo-American academic world may lead compartmentalized lives in which
Analytic Philosophy And Language 223

classroom and professional discussions are totally disconnected from other social
actions, but this is hardly true of the rest of the world. Many analytic philosophers
persistently try to avoid coming to terms with this in their discussion of skepticism,
which they insist upon treating as a position despite the fact that no one ever claims
to hold such a position. We all know "in practice" that such a position is incoherent.
Further, these analytic philosophers dismiss the claim that nobody actually holds
such a position as they try to engage in imaginary dialogues with that position. A
real dialogue, of course, would only be possible with a prior consensus among the
discussants. Nor do any of these analytic philosopher interrogate the position of
skepticism, and that is why no serious definition of skepticism ever emerges from
analytic literature. Rather, the implicit rejection of skepticism ('skepticism' is always
a pejorative term in analytic literature) is a surrogate for affirming Aristotelian-
realism without actually having to defend that realism.
The analytic approach obfuscates the fact that skepticism cannot really be
asserted without presupposing the social action framework (the pre-theoretical) that
would instantaneously reveal skepticism to be incoherent. Academic philosophical
arguments and dialogues take place in such an artificial environment that we are apt
to lose sight of their pre-theoretical grounding. It is important, therefore, to remind
ourselves that in our endeavor to achieve intersubjectively shared understanding we
do not go back to axioms or rules in order to achieve consistency, rather we go back
to prior activities in order to achieve coherence. In trying to resolve a dispute about
what something means we return to the aims and activities which either originally
gave rise to the disputed terms or from which the dispute evolved. This is precisely
why the history of philosophy itself is so important. It is not to an isolable truth that
we appeal in times of distress but to a shared context of organically and historically
related norms.
Let us summarize, first, Kripke's critique of Wittgenstein. According to
Kripke, in scientific or theoretical discourse our language is meaningful if it
represents a structure in things that are independent of us. We now wish to raise the
question: "How are we to understand or explain representation, i.e., meaning?"
Analytic philosophers, like Kripke, presume that a correct answer to this question
must be both scientific and naturalistic. An answer is naturalistic if it explains
something by showing that it represents a structure independent of us. We are thus
back to the Aristotelian problem of explaining how form can be abstracted.
Therefore, for Kripke, to explain 'representation' (meaning), we would have to show
that 'representation!' (meaning) has a structure of which we can give a
'representation2'. Wittgenstein claims that this cannot be done, and, in addition, we
face an infinite regress. This is what Kripke thinks of as Wittgenstein's skepticism.
Kripke thinks that this can be done and must be done, but admits that he has not yet
been able to do it.
Now let us summarize a Wittgensteinian answer to Kripke. 58
'Representation!' is not a pictorial process. 'Representation!' is to be understood as
a human action, as 'representing'. 'Representation!' is not the attempt to picture a
structure independent of ourselves. We are certainly interacting with objects outside
of ourselves, but that interaction, even in scientific discourse, is not the picturing of
a structure. Hence, right from the beginning Kripke misunderstands 'meaning'
224 Chapter 6

because Kripke is imposing upon meaning a modern naturalist-realist demand.

Moreover, we can give an account or explanation of 'representation l ', so Kripke is
wrong to accuse Wittgenstein of being skeptical or negative about anything except
Kripke's own metaphysical and epistemological presumptions.
When Wittgensteinians (and Copernicans) give an account of
'representation l ' they see themselves as giving an account or explanation of an
action. No action can be explained by giving a picture of the action's structure. In
fact, nothing can be explained that way. Only modern naturalist-realists believe that
is what an explanation is supposed to be. In order for a Wittgensteinian (Copernican)
to explain an action, that action must be related to other actions. The other actions
are part of a way of life, that is a social, historical, and normative framework. The
other actions are not different in kind from the first action, hence we can dispense
with subscripts and avoid an infinite regress. Someone is said to understand our
explanation when shelhe performs further actions. Speech is a perfect example, for
others are said to understand our meaning when they can speak to us, that is, act (for
speech is an action) in a manner that coheres with our actions. Everyone who
teaches surely understands this. That is why skeptics exist only in fantasy discourses.
The important thing to remember about explaining anything human, like language,
meaning, or representing, is that there cannot be a gap between the account and the
thing explained. This is why there cannot be any natural object with an independent
structure that explains our actions. The serious misunderstanding on the part of
Kripke and other modern naturalist-realists in general is that they distinguish between
the alleged 'representation' and the alleged 'structure' and thereby create a problem
for themselves (not others) that they cannot solve. 59
Critics of explication are apt to charge that in explicating we must pick and
choose "key" practices but that the choice cannot be justified by an appeal to
anything other than an intuition about our practice. The defenders of explication
respond by saying that there is no coherent alternative. That is, advocates of
explication maintain that while human acts can be understood, such acts cannot be
explained, especially when explanation is conceived along eliminative or exploratory
lines. We can give an account of what we understand, but such an account is not an
explanation in the sense in which we explain non-human things, like the behavior of
billiard balls.
In rebuttal, the proponents of explication charge the proponents of
exploration with incoherence. In order to theorize, that is, in order to explore a
hypothesis, about the hidden structure behind our practice we must first identify the
object of analysis, i.e., one must first identify the practice. Therefore, one must
already possess an intuitive common sense understanding of or participation in
practice before it can be analyzed. The theoretical analysis is forever parasitic upon
the shared practice and can never go beyond it. In examining any social practice,
including our cognitive or linguistic or logical practices, we are not really observing
an independent object as the physical sciences presumably do, rather we are
examining what we mean by what we are doing. It is therefore impossible to explore
the hidden structure of our practice because there is either no such structure or any
structure it did have would be irrelevant! This is the crucial difference between
practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge.
Analytic Philosophy And Language 225

Forced to admit the role of agency, the new question that analytic
philosophy had to face is how best to deal with it. The answer is to treat the agent
as an object of scientific scrutiny, i.e., an appeal to the doctrine of scientism. Here
epistemology comes back into fashion, but like all shifts in fashion in a slightly
different way. The agent will reemerge now as a structure within or a set of
functions within the brain. Analytic philosophy oflanguage, in short, will transform
itself into cognitive and neuro-psychology. It puts philosophy onto a carrousel where
the movement from epistemology to language to mind creates the illusion of
progress, but only to find that in the end we are back where we started listening to
the same tune. 60

Ordinary Language Philosophy61

There is yet another view about the philosophy of language, a view that played an
important tangential role in the development of the analytic philosophy of language
in the twentieth-century. Analytic philosophy originated with Russell's rejection of
Hegel. Russell's rejection was shared by, and in fact inspired by, his colleague, G.E.
Moore. Moore also shared Russell's Aristotelian realist metaphysics and
epistemology,62 and one of the consequences of this realism was the further sharing
of Russell's anti-agency view ofthe human self. In short, like Russell, G.E. Moore
sought to circumvent the Copernican Revolution in philosophy. What Moore did not
share with Russell was a doctrinaire commitment to scientism. It is the lack of a
shared commitment to doctrinaire scientism that distinguished Moore from Russell,
that separated Moore from positivism and the Vienna Circle, that led to Moore's
championing of common sense, and finally that established a separate philosophical
movement known as ordinary language philosophy.
What confuses readers is that Moore also favored a methodology in his
approach to philosophical issues that he called "analysis". Moore's conception of
analysis, however, was different from Russell's. One of the reasons that readers
have difficulty in understanding what analytic philosophy is all about is that until
quite recently some writers used the expression 'analytic philosophy' to refer
indiscriminately to every philosopher in the twentieth-century influenced by either
Moore or Russell or both. Since there is an important difference between Moore and
Russell on the issue of scientism, this attempt to find and emphasize a common
ground led either to somewhat superficial characterizations of 'analysis' or to what
under the circumstances is the perfectly defensible claim that there is no such thing
as 'analytic philosophy'.
Using the terminology we have developed, we can say that Moore sharply
disagreed with Russell's eliminative view of philosophy that sprang from Russell's
doctrinaire scientism. Moore insisted upon both the centrality and fundamental truth
of common sense beliefs. Common sense beliefs cannot be and ought not to be
eliminated in favor of some other kind of alleged truth. All philosophical error
springs from the attempt to eliminate common sense beliefs in favor of some
speculative hypothesis.
At the same time, G.E. Moore advocated that philosophers should engage
in the 'analysis' of our common sense beliefs. The purpose of 'analysis' was to
clarify our common sense beliefs so that we would be led to a better understanding
226 Chapter 6

of our metaphysical, epistemological, and axiological presuppositions. The

recognition offundamental presuppositions was the recognition of a pre-theoretical
domain on which all other intellectual activity, including science, rested. This
activity of clarification was not part of the domain of either logic or science,63 and
hence it was a unique role for philosophy. Our fundamental presuppositions were
not just presuppositions, however. In Moore's mind, our fundamental
presuppositions were also objective truths about the world independent of human
attitudes or projects. The belief in the independent truth of our basic presuppositions
reflected Moore's commitment to Aristotelian realism.
This is the locus of all the difficulties in Moore's conception of 'analysis'.
The belief in the independent truth of our presuppositions is itself a substantive
metaphysical and epistemological thesis, namely Aristotelian realism, rather than the
clarification of our metaphysical presuppositions. In the light of the history of
philosophy, Moore not only took a substantive metaphysical position but a
controversial one as well. Certainly the advocates of the Copernican Revolution in
philosophy did not believe that our presuppositions were objectively true in an
Aristotelian realist sense. Moreover, some of Moore's own contemporaries like
Collingwood and the later Wittgenstein would, while agreeing that philosophy is the
clarification of presuppositions, insist that a presupposition is not and cannot be an
objective truth about the world independent of human projects in the world. From
Wittgenstein's perspective, Moore erred not in believing in common sense but in
believing that common sense could be subject to realist analysis. Starting then with
Moore, the ordinary language movement persistently obfuscated the differences
between the clarification of presuppositions and advocacy of a particular theory
about those presuppositions. As a consequence, positivist critics of ordinary
language could always dismiss ordinary language philosophy as either a
rationalization of pre-scientific prejudice (whenever ordinary language philosophers
stressed clarification of presuppositions) or a failure in getting at the deep structure
accessible only to "scientific" methods of analysis (whenever ordinary language
philosophers stressed Aristotelian realism).
When G.E. Moore did engage in 'analysis' it was (a) initially, like all
analysis, a decomposing of a complex into its simple parts, and (b) an attempt to
show that the simple parts were capable of real definition in Aristotle's sense.
However, in order to give a real definition, it is necessary to abstract correctly the
form from the matter. As we have already contended, no Aristotelian philosopher
has ever successfully solved the problem of explaining how one can abstract the form
from the matter. It comes as no surprise therefore that Moore was unable to arrive
at consensual real definitions and that his analyses constantly foundered in the same
way that all modern Aristotelian epistemology founders. For example, what emerged
was the bizarre spectacle of a philosopher who both claimed to champion common
sense and also advocated the existence of sense-data in his "clarification" of common
sense beliefs. In his typically modest and honest fashion, Moore came in his later life
to the conclusion that he was no longer sure what it meant to give an analysis.
As a movement ordinary language philosophy gota new lease on life with
the demise of positivism. When analytic philosophy in general took its 'Kantian
Turn' and rejected eliminative thinking, ordinary language philosophy was viewed
Analytic Philosophy And Language 227

by its practitioners as a revolutionary64 philosophical movement because it had

always recognized the existence of the pre-theoretical and it had always, in
retrospect, been trying to engage in exploration.
Moore was an early prophet of the recognition of a pre-theoretical domain
thalt resists elimination. What Moore and those later inspired by his work (Ryle,
Strawson, and Austin) thought was possible was an Aristotelian exploration of the
pre-theoretical. There is thus a distinct analogy between Husserlian phenomenology
and the "linguistic phenomenology" of ordinary language philosophy. Ordinary
language philosophy focused on language instead of upon experience both because
of the by now recognized difficulties of Aristotelian epistemological analysis of
experience65 and the hope that a focus on publicly accessible entities like language
would escape those difficulties. Moreover, ordinary language became a program for
the dissolution of philosophical problems, for it was alleged that traditional
philosophical problems were almost always generated by speCUlative eliminative
hypotheses rather than exploratory clarifications. So, for example, Berkeley's
immaterialism and Cartesian dualism were speculative eliminative hypotheses rather
than clarifications of the distinctions embedded in ordinary discourse. A careful
exploration of the nuance of ordinary language would show that speculative
eliminative hypotheses were all based on the misuse of or misunderstanding of the
structure of the idiom of ordinary discourse. 66
From the point of view of ordinary language philosophy, scientism is always
an example of eliminative thinking. The critique of scientism is thus formal rather
than substantive. That is, instead of denying the truth of scientism, what ordinary
language does is to stress that it is the wrong model for analysis. Eliminative
thinking was also always equated with an emphasis on syntax as the focus of
linguistic analysis. That is why Ryle was so critical ofCarnap's earlier philosophy
oflanguage,67 and why Strawson attacked both RusselI's discussion of denotation 68
and Quine's colIapsing of the analytic-synthetic distinction. 69 In short, scientism and
syntactical analysis are taken to be rejections of or blindness to the pre-theoretical.
The general program of exploration in ordinary language philosophy can be
represented in the folIowing diagram:

{S} {usage} <----- {LANGUAGE} <-----{O}

To focus only on language per se is either to engage in empirical linguistics or to

treat language as an isolable syntactic structure. Instead, what philosophers are
supposed to be doing is focusing on usage which is the locus of the semantic
structure of our thought and speech. The pre-theoretical, in short, is housed within
the semantics of ordinary language.
Let us remind ourselves here why it is important to capture the pre-
theoretical. The pre-theoretical is important because naive empiricism is a false view
of how we think. Our thoughts and speech are not simply the result of external
stimulation. Rather, our thought and speech is structured in part from an internal or
background perspective. Those who recognize this have made the Kantian Turn.
The job of the philosopher is to clarify70 the pre-theoretical. The main area of