One criticism of the analytic trend
in philosophy has been that it uses an ill-founded (logicist
) model of truth
. A pragmatic critique
that some principle based on utility
would be better.
Wittgenstein, whose slogan was 'meaning is use', employed a chess analogy for language (see language games) which I would like to over-extend a little.
When we use language, we have an 'uncertainty horizon.' Beyond a certain point we can't see the consequences of our choices of words - this is like a scaled-up version of the limit of our ability to see ahead in chess.
We may liken the normal, practical use of language to tactical moves with obvious immediate consequences. By contrast, the philosophical use of language is like making 'deep', 'positional' moves. These may have no immediate practical import, but nonetheless, as the game unfolds, they will have their effect. That is why objects - atoms - that were discovered only recently have a name that dates from ancient Greece.
The view that Wittgenstein criticised (the Augustinian Picture) was that our statements are true or false in virtue of some deep logical correspondence between them and the world. A 'strong' pragmatic view might be that if truth is anything at all, it is an index of the usefulness of a proposition in a practical, human, context.
In the everyday world, we quite regularly distinguish true from false statements, and one construction that is very useful for this is simple boolean logic. Other algebras, multivalue or fuzzy logic, modal logics, paraconsistent logics, quantum logic, whatever, may also be employed usefully in dealing with information.
I see no reason to assume that any particular one of these is the best description of how language comes to be actually useful. Let's face it,
a convincing and adequate mathematical model of language is not remotely in sight - personally, I would be looking in the connectionist and computational complexity directions for that - even insofar as language itself can be treated mathematically, and perhaps we shouldn't make the assumption that all of it can be.
Rather, these logical algebras are themselves linguistic objects, schemas in the cognitive sense, perhaps, or language-games, which are part of the representational systems we employ.
Here the analogy breaks, because in the chess analogy these schemas are more like moves or pieces than rules; their adoption would be like a deep positional move.
Does language model reality? Despite its possible biological origins as a system for maintaining order in the social hierarchy,
we should agree at least that language thinks it models something. The linguistic practice of "talking about" is an important one - a deep move, made early in the game. It has obviously been useful in certain areas, and to a high degree, to bring the Boolean schema into play in conjunction with "talking about"; hence: law, the sciences.
Rorty has stated (or at least he has been represented as stating) that it is no longer the business of philosophy to argue about such things as the relation between the mental and physical. Instead we are to neologise, to 'keep the conversation going', to become 'edifying philosophers.' But even if we use a new label for our edifying concept, we had better explain it using existing terms. Whether we re-define, humpty-dumpty-like, an existing word or invent a new one will not, in the end, matter much; what matters (to myself or Rorty) will be whether our term or distinction proves useful in the conversation.
When we do analytic philosophy, perhaps particularly when considering the mind, it may well be that there are areas where the adoption of a particular logical schema gives us little purchase on some of what is discussed. But perhaps it may be said that this adoption gives useful (or not useful) a purchase on the contributions to the discussion, a purchase that 'useful' does not have when we are just 'keeping the conversation going'. At least it may be clear when the rules have been broken. We can set out sights on universal standards.
Rorty might say that this 'usefulness' is illusory, and only helps with getting university money, the respect of similarly deluded analytic philosophers,
etc. and that our arguing achieves nothing outside analytic philosphy. This is a view with which I have some sympathy, but which really only establishes that there is a lot of bad analytic philosophy. A counterfeit coin only exists because there is true gold, we might say.
In my struggle to keep the conversation going, I can only neologise my own picture of analytic philosophy - that by analysis, in which we play the game of adopting the logical schemas, we develop the capacity of our language to function consistently at the limits of what is universal. To me this looks like a useful argument against Rorty, but on Rorty's view, who's to say?
This writeup is a response to the pragmatic critique of analytic philosophy, by jderrida, prompted by the /msg'ed request I received for a 'critique of my critique'. I've tried to argue above that analytic philosophy has its place, where it is useful in firming up and developing our philosophical vocabulary; that is, in the production and maintenance of philosphical meaning. In general, I wouldn't seek to defend the supremacy of analytic philosophy, as practiced today, by any means. A lot hangs by that term, analysis.