The paper criticizes epistemological conceptions of analytic or conceptual truth, on which assent to such truths is a necessary condition of understanding them. The critique involves no Quinean scepticism about meaning. Rather, even granted that a paradigmatic candidate for analyticity is synonymy with a logical truth, both the former and the latter can be intelligibly doubted by linguistically competent deviant logicians, who, although mistaken, still constitute counterexamples to the claim that assent is necessary for understanding. There are no analytic or conceptual truths in the epistemological sense. The critique is extended to purportedly analytic inference rules. An alternative account is sketched on which understanding a word is a matter of participation in a linguistic practice, while synonymy and concept identity consist in sameness of truth-conditional semantic properties. Although there are philosophical questions about concepts, the idea that philosophical questions in general are conceptual questions generates only an illusion of insight into philosophical methodology.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: New College, Oxford
Publication date: 2006-06-01