By John Wilson (auth.)
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Extra resources for What Philosophy Can Do
For the existence of analytic truth follows from the existence of words. Roughly, words must have meaning if they are to be words, and the meaning must remain sufficiently constant for us to use the words effectively: words may change their meaning (though this is a rarer and a slower process than is often supposed), but Mistakes about Conceptual Analysis 25 they must remain intelligible and therefore, for however short a time, consistent in what they denote. At any one time, then, any word must entail or imply some things and disallow or rule out others.
2) More usually, and more cautiously, philosophers say that facts 'about the world', or empirical facts, or whatever we want to call them, cannot be established by conceptual argument alone. The idea is, I suppose, that there has to be some kind of empirical or experiental input if there is to be a similar output. To use our previous example, we might set out a syllogism as follows: 1. There are some mammals in that part of the zoo: 2. 'Mammals' means 'animals which suckle their young': 3. Some animals in that part of the zoo suckle their young.
Thirdly, there are goods for both individuals and society (though different for each, to some extent) not all of which are moral virtues, or even virtues at all. One thinks of such things as power, invulnerability, intelligence, good communications, the use of one's physical organs, freedom from pain, beauty, and many others. We often tend to overlook these because we take them for granted: but it is difficult to imagine any serious political or moral discussion (meaning, here, discussion about a society or an individual) which did not rely on their desirability.
What Philosophy Can Do by John Wilson (auth.)