The analytic and the synthetic


  • Heinrich Alt University of the Free State, South Africa


Philosophers like Kant and Frege simply associate analytical truths with obvious definition, meaning and synonymy yet without clarification. Quine raises serious questions about these ‘truths’. He argues that there is no clear boundary between analytic and synthetic statements. Because Quine regards the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements to be an ‘unempirical dogma’, he has chosen to replace this with his ‘doctrine of epistemological holism’, one that has contributed to the idea that a sufficient theory of the senses of sentences needs to take account of the relations of a sentence to other sentences. However, not all philosophers agree with Quine’s ideas, examples being Kripke and Putnam, who believe that a selected class of analytic statements adheres to certain criteria.

In Christian philosophy, Dooyeweerd has contested the heritage of the Kantian analytic and synthetic distinction, mainly because of a lack of insight into both the coherence of the modal aspects of reality and the modal, logical subject-object relation. The problem with this Kantian distinction is that it reduces the lingual aspect to the analytical aspect of reality, which results in a circularity – as Quine has indicated.

A new approach is required to clear up this circularity and, in this paper, I explore possible approaches.

To this end, I shall trace the ideas of Kant, Bolzano and Frege with regard to the distinction between the analytic and the synthetic. Both Quine’s (important) critique of this distinction and Putnam’s ideas are to be explored in detail. However, to understand this problem, Dooyeweerd and Strauss’s unique contribution within the Christian philosophical paradigm also needs to be explored.



How to Cite

Alt, H. (2020). The analytic and the synthetic. Tydskrif Vir Christelike Wetenskap | Journal for Christian Scholarship, 56(1&2), 1-27. Retrieved from