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The Controversy Over the Limits of the Applicability of Logical Methods

  • Janina Kotarbinska
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 119)

Abstract

The controversy which we have in mind is a family quarrel. The parties are representatives of analytic philosophy, a field which embraces all those who regard the analysis of language as the principal task, or at least one of the principal tasks, of philosophy. According to some, the subject of analysis consists of the terminology and statements of philosophy itself; for others, it consists of the terminology and statements which occur in specialized disciplines; while still others see it as including both philosophy and specialized disciplines. This difference in standpoints is not, however, essential for the controversy which is to be discussed here. The essential difference is that which is revealed in the opinions on the nature and tasks of the said analysis. The clash is between two conceptions, the reconstructionist and the descriptionist, or, in other terminology, the formalistic and the linguistic. It may be said that both take as their standard the style of analysis carried out by Russell, Carnap, and to some extent by Woodger, but for the representatives of the former approach that standard is positive, whereas for those of the latter, it is negative.

Keywords

Natural Language Situational Context Logical Method Semantic Function Everyday Language 
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.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 2nd ed., Oxford 1958, pp. 31ff.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cf. M. Black, ‘Definitions and Presuppositions’, in: Problems of Analysis, New York 1954; and M. Scriven ‘Definitions, Explanations and Theories’, in Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science, Vol. II, Minneapolis 1958.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    An alternative definition is not accepted by the descriptionists for other reasons as well. Some reject it because, contrary to the development trends in everyday language, it turns “open” terms into “closed” ones by restricting the alternative of admissible criteria to those which are known from the accepted usage of the term to be defined, which eliminates other possibilities of fluctuation of meanings, fluctuations which are in fact inevitable (cf. L. Wittgenstein, op. cit., pp. 32ff). Others reject it because the various shades of meaning of expressions in ordinary language come so close to one another and are so closely intertwined as to form a nebula as it were, a conglomerate of meanings, a unity that cannot be broken down into elements. Hence the formulation of an alternative definition adjusted to the accepted usage of such words is an impossible task (cf. F. Waismann, ‘Language Strata’, in: A. Flew (ed.), Logic and Language, London 1963, pp. 12–13).Google Scholar
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    L. Wittgenstein, op. cit., pp. 31ff, 46, et passim; M. Scriven, op. cit., pp. 105ff; see also M. Black, op. cit., pp. 24ff.Google Scholar
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    Cf. J. Kotarbinska, ‘Definicja’ (On Definition), Studia Logica, II, 1955. The examples mentioned above can be found in papers by A. Flew, ‘Philosophy and Language’, and J. O. Urmson,’ some Questions Concerning Validity’, in: A. Flew (ed.), Essays in Conceptual Analysis, London 1956.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The schemata suggested here are naturally not claimed to be completely precise. The point is rather to make them differ as little as possible from the examples which are to serve as generalizations. For instance, there is no restriction here to any specified language — a restriction which must in one way or another be introduced.Google Scholar
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    L. Wittgenstein, op. cit., pp. 35ff, 52, 13ff, et passim. His brief formulation: “One cannot guess how a word functions. One has to look at its use and learn from that” (p. 109) is particularly significant.Google Scholar
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    J. Kotarbiéska, ‘On Ostensive Definitions’, Philosophy and Science 27[I], 1960, or in Twenty-Five Years of Logical Methodology in Poland (ed. by M. Przelecki and R. Wójcicki), Warsaw 1977.Google Scholar
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    In each of these cases we mean a similarity which is sufficient to be taken as a criterion of applicability of the term N (see the paper mentioned in footnote8).Google Scholar
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    Cf. P. F. Strawson, Introduction to Logical Theory, London 1952, Chaps. 1–3.Google Scholar
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    This is clearly formulated by Quine (cf. Methods of Logic, New York 1950, pp. xi, xii, 43), whom the descriptionists class as a typical representative of their opponents. This is also the position taken by almost all authors of handbooks of school logic, which is proved by the fact that they warn against the error of equivocation and that of quaternio terminorum.Google Scholar
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    This idea has been developed by K. Ajdukiewicz in his paper ‘Okres warunkowy a implikacja materialna’ (Conditional Sentence and Material Implication), Studia Logica, IV, 1956. Quine’s position is similar. It is worth noting that the Oxford School also attaches considerable importance to distinguishing between the conditions of the truth of statements and the conditions of their correct use (cf. P. F. Strawson, op. cit., pp. 18, 82ff, 175-9, et passim).Google Scholar
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    Cf. Z. Czerwinski, ‘O paradoksie implikacji’ (On the Paradox of Implication), Studia Logica, VII, 1958. See also H. Reichenbach, Elements of Symbolic Logic, New York 1947, Sec. 7 et passim. This relationship between the logical interpretations of sentential connectives and the current interpretation of conjunctions is also borne out by P. F. Strawson (cf. op. cit., p. 86).Google Scholar
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    L. Borkowski, ‘Uwagi o okresie warunkowym oraz implikacji materialnej i ścisłej’ (Comments on Conditional Sentences and on Material and Strict Implication), in: The Book in Honour of Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Warsaw 1964.Google Scholar
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    Cf. P. F. Strawson, Construction and Analysis, pp. 102–4, and ‘Analyse, science et métaphysique’, in: La philosophie analytique, Paris 1962, p. 110. See also J. O. Urmson, L’histoire de l’analyse, pp. 15-6.Google Scholar
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    See J. S. Mill, System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive, Vol. 2, Chapter IV.Google Scholar
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    See McKay, The Logic of Language, published in the United States in the 1940’s and L. Petrazycki, Wstęp do teorii prawa i moralności (Introduction to the Theory of Law and Morals — first published in Russian in St. Petersburg before World War I), Warsaw 1930, pp. 109-10.Google Scholar
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    R. Carnap, Logical Foundations of Probability, 2nd ed., London 1957, p. 7.Google Scholar
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    The mechanism of those processes has already been mentioned in Sec. 3 above.Google Scholar
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    Cf. M. Scriven, op. cit., p. 109. It is difficult to refrain from commenting here that one would be equally justified in recommending one to give up weeding, since new weeds will come up, or to stop watering one’s flowers, since the soil will dry up again. Note, too, that as far as the language of science is concerned the programme for making it precise — gradually, of course, and in part — has not only proved feasible, but has already yielded excellent results.Google Scholar
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    See G. Warnock, English Philosophy since 1900, p. 150; J.L.Austin, Presidential Address to the Aristotelian Society, Proceedings 1956–7, p. 11; J.O. Urmson, ‘L’histoire de l’analyse’, in: Philosophie analytique, Paris 1962, p. 16; M. Scriven, op. cit., pp. 106-7; L. Wittgenstein, op. cit., pp. 33, 42ff. (The first two items are quoted from E. Gellner, Words and Things, London 1959, p. 54.)Google Scholar
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    Cf. M. Scriven, op. cit., pp. 110-1; L. Wittgenstein, op. cit., pp. 46-7 et. passim; P. F. Strawson,‘Analyse, science, métaphysique’, éd. cit., pp. 106, 112Google Scholar
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    Cf. L. Wittgenstein, op. cit., p. 46; M. Black, op. cit., p. 28.Google Scholar
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    Cf. L. Wittgenstein, op. cit., pp. 44, 46, 48-9, 51 et passim; M. Scriven, op. cit., p. 167; G. J. Warnock, ‘Metaphysics in Logic’, in: A. Flew (ed.), Essays in Conceptual Analysis, London 1956, pp. 92–3; P. F. Strawson, ‘Construction and Analysis’, in: The Revolution in Philosophy, London 1957, p. 103. See also footnote 28 below.Google Scholar
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    Cf. L. Petrazycki, op. cit., pp. 96ff; J. Kotarbinska, ‘Definicja’ (On Definition), Studia Logica, II, 1955: M. Przelęcki, ‘Prawa a definicje’ (Laws Versus Definitions), in: J. Pelc, M. Przelęcki, K. Szaniawski, Prawa nauki (The Laws of Science), Warsaw 1957; T. Pawłowski, ‘Z logiki pojęć przyrodoznawstwa’ (Issues in the Logic of Concepts used in Natural Science), Studia Filozoficzne, No. 1, 1957.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    The origin of descriptionism is easier to understand if we realize the role played by the fear of all kinds of hypostases and the hostility toward all that savours of idealistic metaplysics in the Platonic spirit. The’ superterms’, which, as Wittgenstein claims, would be the result of all operations striving at precision, would have their meanings so sharply defined that no concrete object could meet the conditions of their use; they would also include certain abstract terms introduced to make analyses more precise. Examples: ‘ideal gas’, ‘perfectly isolated system’, ‘proposition’, ‘linguistic expression’ (understood as an abstract entity), ‘denotation’, ‘meaning’, etc. The same motif can be found in Ryle, who is far from pleased by the idealistic theories of language formulated by Meinong and Husserl, and by some ideas of contemporary logicians (cf. G. Ryle, ‘The Theory of Meaning’, in: C. A. Mace (ed.), British Philosophy in Mid-Century, London 1957, pp. 249–51, 255-7). Note, too, that one of the reasons for which Wittgenstein and Ryle turned away from definitions is that definitions are meant to define meanings, and meaning is an ideal, abstract, object whose existence one cannot legitimately assume. The misunderstanding is obvious.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Instructive reflections can be found in J. Giedymin’s discussion of Carnap’s analysis of the structure of empirical sciences (cf. J. Giedymin, ‘O teoretycznym sensie tzw. terminów i zdan obserwacyjnych’ (The Theoretical Sense of Observation Term’s and Observation Statements), Studia Filozoficzne, No. 3 (38), 1964).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    S. Ossowski, O osobliwosciach nauk spolecznych (The Peculiarities of the Social Sciences), Warsaw 1962, p. 254. On pp. 251-6 are to be found examples of such behaviour, drawn from the sphere of the social sciences.Google Scholar

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© PWN — Polish Scientific Publishers — Warszawa 1979

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  • Janina Kotarbinska

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