Material and Philosophical Analysis

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 757

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With such issues clarified, one is ready to turn to an examination of what Wisdom means by analysis. A distinction must first be made between material analysis and philosophical analysis. To give a material analysis is simply to give a definition, such as “Wealth is defined as what is useful, transferable, and limited in supply.” A definition of wealth as riches would not be materially analytic, for it does nothing to render explicit the connotation of the word defined. A philosophical analysis is given by a rule for translating sentences about any abstraction (“the state”) into sentences about what it is an abstraction from (“the individual citizens”). A second distinction must be made between formal analysis and philosophical analysis. A formal analysis is the replacement of a sentence by another that more clearly indicates the form of the fact asserted: “Two horses passed him” means “A horse passed him and then another.” This would not be a material analysis because two is not an adjective, and it is not a philosophical analysis because it merely exhibits more clearly the structure of something whose structure was not clear. The distinction between the three types of analysis can be illustrated by the statement “Two men are good.” A formal analysis would be “A man is good and another man is good”; a philosophical analysis would be “A mannish pattern of states contains a high proportion of good ones and another mannish pattern does so also”; and a material analysis would be “A mannish pattern of states contains a high proportion of states likely to cause approval and another does so also.”

Analysis (philosophical analysis) cannot be understood without explaining ostentation. Philosophers have always employed ostentation, though because of their preoccupation with philosophy they have had little time to talk about ostentation. Ostentation is a kind of substitution: It is used on a sentence S_ when one substitutes for S_ another sentence S that more clearly reveals the ultimate structure of the fact they assert. Take the sentence “England invaded France.” This has a dyadic structure exhibited by “EIF,” where “E” is a term, “I” is a relation, and “F” is another term. The sentence “EIF” does not, however, exhibit the ultimate structure of its fact. To show this, one would have to formulate sentences about Tom, Dick, and Harry, and about Henri, François, and Jean, and about the former being sent threateningly into land owned by the latter, and so on. One can say that “EIF” directly locates a fact of which England is an element, but it indirectly locates a fact of which Tom, Dick, and the rest are elements. The analysis of the sentence “EIF” into sentences about Englishmen and Frenchmen is a philosophical analysis because the predicates that are applicable to England are definable in terms of the predicates that are applicable to Englishmen. They are, of course, different kinds of predicates because they are exhibited in different kinds of structure. The sentences about Englishmen and Frenchmen become an ostentation of the sentence about England and France; S is an ostentation of S_. When this is the case, the facts displayed, though not two, are not identical.

The distinction between the penumbral and the nonpenumbral facts thus has been recognized, and the question as to whether the former can be “reduced” to the latter (whether the former are “logical constructions out of” the latter) can be discussed intelligently, pro and con. What is introduced by ostentation is not merely a clearer understanding of the structure of a fact but an increased clearness in the apprehension of the ultimate structure of the fact. One should not say that S is merely a translation of S_ but that S displays directly what S_ displays indirectly, or that S_ displays a fact that is secondary to the fact that S displays. The sentence about Tom, Dick, and the others displays directly what the sentence about England and France displays indirectly, or the fact displayed by the sentence about England and France is secondary to the fact displayed by the sentence about Tom, Dick, and the others. Wisdom concludes the discussion of this topic by stating that the philosopher makes a prayer: “Please give me clearer apprehension of the Arrangement of the Elements of the Fact finally located by the sentence aRb.’” (In this statement, Wisdom uses capital letters to indicate that what the philosopher is seeking is the ultimate arrangement of the ultimate elements of the ultimate fact, not merely the structure that is obviously exhibited by “aRb.”)


Philosophy and Linguistic Analysis