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Modal Conventionalism and Textbook Analyticities

  • Stephen BiggsEmail author
Chapter
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Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 378)

Abstract

We once thought of ‘water is H2O’ as being synthetic, knowable only a posteriori, and expressing a contingent truth. We once thought of ‘bachelors are unmarried’ as being analytic, knowable a priori, and expressing a necessary truth. We once thought of ‘water is clear’ as akin to the latter, that is, as being analytic, knowable a priori, and expressing a necessary truth. Then Putnam (1962a, 1975) introduced semantic externalism. We learned that ‘water is H2O’ expresses a necessary truth despite being synthetic. We learned that ‘water is clear’ expresses a contingent truth even if it is analytic. With some refinement from Kripke (1972/1980), we learned that ‘water is H2O’ expresses a necessary truth even though it is only knowable a posteriori, and that ‘water is clear’ expresses a contingent truth even if it is knowable a priori. We learned that this is all so because ‘water’, unlike ‘bachelor’, is a natural kind term, and thus, its extension is determined at least partly by the “external” (i.e., extra-psychological) world. More broadly, the discovery of semantic externalism taught us that the categories analytic, a priori, and necessary are not coextensive, even though they coincide for textbook analyticities such as ‘bachelors are unmarried’.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Iowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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