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Title:Explication, similarity, and analogy: a defense and application of philosophical method
Author(s):Broom, Kyle
Director of Research:Ebbs, Gary
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Ebbs, Gary
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cummins, Robert; McCarthy, Timothy G.; Wagner, Steven J.
Department / Program:Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Analogical Arguments
Psychological Similarity
Abstract:With his 1951 publication of “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”, W.V.O. Quine launched a series of arguments against the idea that analyticity – “truth in virtue of meaning alone” – could be a philosophically explanatory notion. While his rejection represents a significant philosophical stride in its own right, to which many in the contemporary philosophical scene pay verbal respects, the revolutionary consequences of this insight often go ignored today. Much of current professional philosophy in virtually every sub-discipline carries on as though analyticity were a viable notion, because much of it aims at conceptual analysis – the “discovery” of the meanings of philosophical concepts, such as ‘mind’, ‘truth’, ‘meaning’, ‘person’, and ‘right’. Rejecting analyticity as a viable philosophical notion undermines such efforts insofar as they aim at conceptual analysis. If philosophers give up the notion of analyticity, as they should, they are left with the questions of what goals and methods are viable for the analysis of concepts. One option is to concentrate effort on explication of familiar concepts; explication is an alternative to conceptual analysis in that it does not aim to dig out analytic truths about given concepts. Rather, it identifies what is interesting about a certain vague concept, and generates a new, more rigorous and precise concept to replace the old one. The justification for the replacement, in the most appealing cases, is in the possibilities for understanding that are introduced by the new explication. Examples of explication in my sense are the replacement of ordinary grammatical terms by the operators of first order logic, replacement of ‘game’ with a decision theoretic notion of games in game theory, and replacement of ‘true’ with ‘true-in-L’ in Tarskian semantics. Advances of this sort depart consciously in some ways from ordinary usage of the terms they focus on, but in so departing, they develop new possibilities and perspectives for rigorously understanding the world. In the dissertation that follows, I not only recommend explication as a method, I also put it into practice. I develop an explication of the sameness and difference relations that relies solely on the relation of denotation between a predicate and objects of which it is true. Two things are the same with respect to R just in case there is at least one R-predicate that denotes them in common. I used this explication to develop related explications of similarity and analogy. These latter explications, I use to critique the current fashion of research on similarity and analogy in cognitive psychology. These studies have produced an immense body of interesting and promising work in the past several decades; however, much of the research design and data interpretation harbors philosophical errors and so often imports unjustified prejudices from the researchers themselves. My explication offers alternative formulations of the most salient aspects of these research traditions, formulations that avoid the errors of past research and, more importantly, suggest new research questions and possibilities that would not occur under the previous, philosophically muddled paradigm. The project closes with an application of my explication of analogy to a discussion and critique of the philosophical literature on analogical arguments. While philosophers and logicians have developed workable theories for deductive and inductive reasoning, very little work of promise has been done on analogical arguments. My explication of analogy is used to diagnose the problems of past attempts by philosophers to develop logics for analogical arguments and suggest, in light of the psychological research on analogy and the use of analogies in scientific thought, that philosophers should focus on analogical arguments as creative, heuristic devices, rather than as truth-preserving inference structures.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Kyle M. Broom
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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