About Me



KISS Linux

Right off the bat in the 1st edition preface to Language, Truth, and
Logic, Ayer brings up what seems to be the analytic synthetic distinction. He
says on Hume's 'relations of ideas' and 'matters of fact' that "the former class
comprises the a priori propositions of logic and pure mathematics, and these I
allow to be necessary and certain only because they are analytic... propositions
concerning empirical matters of fact, on the other hand, I hold to be
hypotheses, which can be probable but never certain" (31). He does not name the
matters of fact as synthetic propositions, but from what I understand of Hume
this is to be the case. However, his 'allowance' of the analytic to be necessary
solely because they are analytic and that of the synthetic to be contingent
solely because of their synthetic nature seems dubious. In my first reading
response, I asked the question of whether or not it was the case that the
analytic-synthetic distinction amounted to a discussion of contingent facts
versus necessary truths, and the comments you provided seem to directly
contradict what Ayer is saying here. Would this be a correct understanding of
Ayer's position on the distinction? If this is indeed the case, it lessens my
troubles with the analytic-synthetic distinction, if only because I now feel
vindicated in rejecting the notion of a synthetic proposition. As a strict
necessetarian, I frequently found myself unable to be convinced by discussions
on whether certain purportedly synthetic statements ("water is H2O")
were actually synthetic. What seems synthetic seems to me to reduce to simply
not knowing enough about the words in question (for instance, not being aware of
the chemical composition of water), and not that these things could have merely
'been otherwise' (as I don't know what it would mean to be water and not be
water, in a sense). If Ayer's take on the distinction is precisely a contingent
versus necessary divide, then it seems to only harm his empiricist position -
all truths that are determined would actually be necessarily the case (if they
are actually true), and the scientific enterprise amounts to determining which
facts are facts and which facts are confusions. While this would indeed appear
to be his primary aim, it simply seems to point out that we cannot know what are
facts without adequately refined scientific mechanisms, which is problematic if
part of his position is a pragmatic or empiricist one rather than a rational one
(I don't think Ayer would like to claim that all truths are in principle
knowable). From what I have read later on in this book, the distinction isn't
something that is worrying me much more beyond this, but it is certainly
something worth considering. 


Dilyn Corner (C) 2020-2022