- Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Dominic Alford-Duguid
Abstract: In his Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell distinguished knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge of truths. This paper argues for a new interpretation of the relationship between these two species of knowledge. I argue that knowledge by acquaintance of an object neither suffices for knowledge that one is acquainted with the object, nor puts a subject in a position to know that she is acquainted with the object. These conclusions emerge from a thorough examination of the central role played by attention in Russell’s theory of knowledge. Attention bridges the gap between knowledge by acquaintance and our capacity to form judgements about the objects of acquaintance.Export citation in BibTeX formatExport text citationView this text on PhilPapersExport citation in Reference Manager formatExport citation in EndNote formatExport citation in Zotero format
- Added by: Giada Fratantonio and Berta Grimau, Contributed by:
Publisher’s Note: The analytic/synthetic distinction looks simple. It is a distinction between two different kinds of sentence. Synthetic sentences are true in part because of the way the world is, and in part because of what they mean. Analytic sentences – like all bachelors are unmarried and triangles have three sides – are different. They are true in virtue of meaning, so no matter what the world is like, as long as the sentence means what it does, it will be true.
This distinction seems powerful because analytic sentences seem to be knowable in a special way. One can know that all bachelors are unmarried, for example, just by thinking about what it means. But many twentieth-century philosophers, with Quine in the lead, argued that there were no analytic sentences, that the idea of analyticity didn’t even make sense, and that the analytic/synthetic distinction was therefore an illusion. Others couldn’t see how there could fail to be a distinction, however ingenious the arguments of Quine and his supporters.
But since the heyday of the debate, things have changed in the philosophy of language. Tools have been refined, confusions cleared up, and most significantly, many philosophers now accept a view of language – semantic externalism – on which it is possible to see how the distinction could fail. One might be tempted to think that ultimately the distinction has fallen for reasons other than those proposed in the original debate.
In Truth in Virtue of Meaning, Gillian Russell argues that it hasn’t. Using the tools of contemporary philosophy of language, she outlines a view of analytic sentences which is compatible with semantic externalism and defends that view against the old Quinean arguments. She then goes on to draw out the surprising epistemological consequences of her approach.
Comment: This can be used as further/secondary reading for a postgraduate course on epistemology or philosophy of language, focusing on Quine and on the analytic/synthetic distinction.Export citation in BibTeX formatExport text citationView this text on PhilPapersExport citation in Reference Manager formatExport citation in EndNote formatExport citation in Zotero format