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Analytic truths

February 7, 2014

Ever since the “Theory of Forms” philosophers have always sought to express in less and less grandiose terms Plato’s fundamental insight: in rough terms, that in the long run there will turn out to be a connection between reality and language, between the way things are and the way we’re able to talk about them. This one is the most minimalistic versions I’ve yet encountered:

‘You cannot fool all of the people all of the time’ is ‘analytic’.

–J.L. Austin, footnote to “Other Minds,” from Philosophical Papers, third edition, p. 113.

Of course, the paper immediately preceding this one is “The Meaning of a Word,” which rejects the analytic-synthetic distinction entirely. So who knows what exactly Austin was trying to say.

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