Logical vs. Nonlogical Concepts: An Untenable Dualism?

  • Jaakko Hintikka
Part of the Logic, Epistemology, And The Unity Of Science book series (LEUS, volume 1)

One of the greatest disasters that befell twentieth-century analytic philosophy was Quine's (1953) rejection of the distinction between analytic and synthetic truths as an “untenable dualism”, to use Morton White's (1950) phrase. Or rather, the disaster was the widespread acceptance of this untenable rejection. It deprived philosophers of the means of mastering the defining concept of our era, the notion of information. It made it apparently pointless for them to use axiomatization or other kind of logical systematization as a tool of serious philosophical analysis, and hence encouraged the currently popular no-brainer appeals to “intuitions”. (cf. Hintikka 1999) These unfortunate consequences follow because on Quine's view a deduction of a theorem from axioms (and more generally a deduction of a consequence from premises) can introduce what for us is new factual information, for according to Quine such information cannot be separated from what for us is purely linguistic information. Hence the cognitive content (factual information) of a theory cannot be summed up in its axioms, for new assumptions can be introduced by the logical and mathematical methods used in the derivation of the theorems. This was precisely the kind of conundrum that the great David Hilbert sought to eliminate by means of his axiomatic approach, as shown by the sixth problem in his famous list of open problems. (See here e.g., Cory 1997, 1998; Majer 2001; and Yandell 2002)

In this paper, I will discuss one of the assumptions on which Quine's argument for rejecting the analytic-synthetic distinction rests. As I have pointed out before (Hintikka forthcoming (c)) the terms “analytic” and “synthetic” are most unfortunate from a historical point of view. What is meant is in fact a distinction between conceptual and factual information. Quine is right in effect pointing out that one cannot tell from a person's behavior whether the information he is relying on is factual or conceptual. But this interwovenness of factual and conceptual information can be much better explained by distinguishing from each other two different kinds of logical truths and accordingly two different kinds of information — much better than by abolishing the borderline between logical (conceptual) truths and factual truths, as Quine wants to do. (See here Hintikka, forthcoming (c)) Accordingly, Quine's accurate insight into (in effect) the behavioral indistinguishability of the two kinds of information does not mean that one cannot define the distinction by some other means. Indeed, it can be shown beyond any reasonable doubt that the usual logical truths of first-order logic are uninformative aka “tautological” in one basic sense of information.


Winning Strategy Logical Truth Logical Constant Game Rule Skolem Function 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Carnap, Rudolf: 1937 (original 1934), The Logical Syntax of Language, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  2. Cory, Leo: 1998, ‘Hilbert on Kinetic Theory and Radiation Theory (1912–1914)’, The Mathematical Intelligencer 20, 52–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cory, Leo: 1997, ‘David Hilbert and the Axiomatization of Physics (1894–1905)’, Archive of the History of Exact Sciences 51, 83–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Etchemendy, John: 1990, The Concept of Logical Consequence, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Hintikka, Jaakko: forthcoming a, ‘An Epistemology for Game-theoretical Semantics’.Google Scholar
  6. Hintikka, Jaakko: forthcoming b, ‘What is the True Algebra of Logic?’.Google Scholar
  7. Hintikka, Jaakko: forthcoming c, ‘A Distinction Too Many or Too Few?.Google Scholar
  8. Hintikka, Jaakko: 2002, ‘Quantum Logic as a Fragment of Independence-friendly Logic’, Journal of Philosophical Logic 31, 197–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hintikka, Jaakko: 1999, ‘The Emperor's New Intuitions’, Journal of Philosophy 96, 127–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hintikka, Jaakko: 1996, Ludwig Wittgenstein: Half-Truths and One-and-a Half Truths, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  11. Hintikka, Jaakko, and Gabriel Sandu: 1996, ‘Game-theoretical Semantics’, in Johan van Benthem and Alice ter Meulen (eds.), Handbook of Logic and Language, Amsterdam, Elsevier, pp. 361– 410.Google Scholar
  12. Hintikka, Merrill B. and Jaakko Hintikka: 1986, Investigating Wittgenstein, Oxford, Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  13. Köhler, Eckehart: 1991, ‘Gödel und der Wiener Kreis’, in Paul Kruntorad (ed.), Jour fixe der Vernunft: Der Wiener Kreis und die Folgen, Vienna, Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, pp. 127–158.Google Scholar
  14. Majer, Ulrich: 2001, ‘The Axiomatic Method and the Foundations of Science’, in Miklós Redei and Michael Stöltzner (eds.), John von Neumann and the Foundations of Quantum Physics, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic, pp. 11–33.Google Scholar
  15. Quine, W. V.: 1953 (original 1951), ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’, in From a Logical Point of View, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, pp. 20–46.Google Scholar
  16. Quine, W. V.: 1970, Philosophy of Logic, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  17. White, Morton, N. J.: 1950, ‘The Analytic and the Synthetic: An Untenable Dualism’, in Sidney Hook (ed.), John Dewey: Philosopher of Science and Freedom, New York, Dial Press, pp. 316–330.Google Scholar
  18. Wittgenstein, Ludwig: 192, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  19. Wittgenstein, Ludwig: 1953, Philosophical Investigations, Oxfored, Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Yandell, Benjamin H., 2002, The Honors Class: Hilbert's Problems and Their Solvers, Natck, MA, A.K. Peters.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaakko Hintikka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBoston UniversityU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations