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Arguing against what he calls the metaphysical notion of analyticity, Paul Boghossina says (in “Analyticity”):

For how can we make sense of the idea that something is made true by our meaning something by a sentence?

Consider the sentence ‘Either P or not P’. It is easy, of course, to understand how the fact that we mean what we do by the ingredient terms fixes what is expressed by the sentence as a whole; and it is easy to understand, in consequence, how the fact that we mean what we do by the sentence determines whether the sentence expresses something true or false.  But as Quine points out, that is just the normal dependence of truth on meaning.  What is far more mysterious is the claim that the truth of what the sentence expresses depends on the fact that it is expressed by that sentence, so that we can say that what is expressed wouldn’t have been true at all, had it not been for the fact that it is expressed by that sentence.

I wonder if this is so.  Consider:

  •  1. “I bid you good afternoon this fine day”

1 is made true by my meaning it.  Of course, the sentence might have been true even if it had not been expressed (if, for example, I had simple said “Good afternoon”, 1 would be true even though it was not expressed).

So consider,

  •  2. “I now pronounce you man and wife”

Let’s say 2 is uttered by a priest in front of John and Mary at 12:03 on April 11, 2009.  The indexical creates an interesting feature: If, for example, the priest utters the same words at some other time than the actual time of utterance, he is expressing some other statement than 2.  Thus, 2 is only true given that it is expressed at that very time.  2 would thus not have been true at all had it not been expressed by that very statement.


Jason Thibodeau

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