The Illusion of Analyticity Part 5: Conclusions

Assessing the Implications of Quine’s attack

All too often high quality assignments from coursework ends up gathering dust on shelves or in forgotten folders. In an effort to publicize some of my work, this is part five of my final paper from an Epistemology course this past semester.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

While this is primarily meant for an audience with a working understanding of epistemology, I’ll provide relevant links to explain common terms. The paper primarily deals with the distinction between analytic and synthetic truths, so skimming through that explanation will be useful.


Despite Grice and Strawson’s criticisms, Quine’s original criticism still instills doubt about the existence of analyticity and strongly motivates a holistic view of epistemology. Rather than being philosophically useful and reasonably explained, analyticity causes problems in epistemology and warrants critical examination. Abandoning a foundationalist grounding on analytic truths, Quine instead proposes that beliefs function as a corporate body, a web of beliefs with indiscernible ties between concepts. The outer edges of the web touch experience and inner portions are the most strongly held beliefs, resistant to change. One can think of strong concepts related to epistemic justification at the center of the web influencing how one evaluates individual beliefs in their system. Frameworks like logical deduction or empirical validity might be closely held beliefs with strong confidence in their truth, but they don’t possess the illusory quality of analyticity. With his deep questioning of analyticity, Quine motivates an epistemic system that attempts to explain the reasons for our justification but does not fall back on claimed analytic truths that have no potential for refutation.

That all unmarried men are bachelors is not a necessary truth come what may, just a phrase that we believe to be true and straightforward in meaning based upon an entire, complex system of beliefs. Thinking of beliefs in this way allows for debate about which epistemic values and concepts provide good justification rather than dissecting each logical deduction as decomposable parts of complicated beliefs. This frees theories of justification from relying on claimed matters of fact and allows for rich discussion of the theories of justification which provide the most satisfactory outcomes. This holistic view offers a great deal more promise than dead ends veiled in analyticity.


Feldman, Richard. Epistemology. 2003. Print.

Grice, H.P and Strawson, P. F. “In Defense of a Dogma.” Philosophical Review, vol 65 (2), p. 141–158. 1956. Print.

Quine, Willard V. O. Two Dogmas of Empiricism.” Philosophical Review , vol 60 (1), p. 20–43. 1951.