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Conceptual Analysis, the Naturalistic Turn, and Legal Philosophy

25 Pages Posted: 23 May 2005  

Kenneth Einar Himma

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: September 2, 2006


Quine's argument that there is no non-circular way to explicate the notion of analyticity, together with his observation that any claim can be revised in the face of recalcitrant experience, is thought by many philosophers to have conclusively refuted traditional views about conceptual analysis and metaphysics. In this essay, I consider what I take to be the major arguments against the possibility of doing conceptual analysis as traditionally conceived. In particular, I consider (1) the denial of the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements; (2) recent research on the fallibility of ordinary intuitions; (3) the idea that all claims are revisable in the face of recalcitrant experience;(4) the claim that even putatively conceptual claim are contingent in character; and (5) the claim that traditional conceptual analysis (henceforth TCA) presupposes a discredited epistemological foundationalism. I argue that these arguments are all vulnerable to serious objections; the matter is not at all as straightforward as some philosophers seem to believe. Although the counterarguments presented below are probably not conclusive, they show that much more work is needed to succeed in showing that philosophy needs to be "naturalized."

Keywords: naturalism, conceptual analysis, legal philosophy, analyticity, Quine, Leiter

Suggested Citation

Himma, Kenneth Einar, Conceptual Analysis, the Naturalistic Turn, and Legal Philosophy (September 2, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Kenneth Einar Himma (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195-3020
United States
206-543-4550 (Phone)

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