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W. V. Quine’s criticisms of Rudolf Carnap’s efforts to draw a boundary between analytic and synthetic sentences shook mid-twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy to its foundations, leaving logical empiricism in ruins and sparking the development of radically new ways of theorizing that continue to shape philosophy today. Despite decades of discussion, however, neither Carnap’s analytic–synthetic distinction nor Quine’s criticisms of it are well understood. My central goals here are to summarize and clarify them, evaluate influential objections to Quine’s criticisms, survey related work on analyticity and apriority by Hilary Putnam, Saul Kripke, David Chalmers, Paul Boghossian, and Gillian Russell, among others, and briefly discuss whether meaning is determinate in ways that recent explications of analyticity require.
Carnap, Quine, and Putnam held that in our pursuit of truth we can do no better than to start in the middle, relying on already-established beliefs and inferences and applying our best methods for re-evaluating particular beliefs and inferences and arriving at new ones. In this collection of essays, Gary Ebbs interprets these thinkers' methodological views in the light of their own philosophical commitments, and in the process refutes some widespread misunderstandings of their views, reveals the real strengths of their arguments, and exposes a number of problems that they face. To solve these problems, in many of the essays Ebbs also develops new philosophical approaches, including new theories of logical truth, language use, reference and truth, truth by convention, realism, trans-theoretical terms, agreement and disagreement, radical belief revision, and contextually a priori statements. His essays will be valuable for a wide range of readers in analytic philosophy.