The ontological status of gold

December 22, 2009

I was pleasantly surprised by the volume of email response I got to a passing reference to Kripkenstein on this blog — clearly quite a lot of you enjoy a bit of analytical philosophy! I went out to lunch today with a couple of philosophically-inclined finance types as a result, and, since I’m still high on Sichuan peppercorns and it seems to be something of a slow news day, I thought I’d put up a poll.

Remember this wonderful graph, from Paul Kedrosky, showing the price of gold in gold? Pay attention, there will be a quiz.

So here’s the question, for those of you who remember the analytic-synthetic distinction:

Or to put it another way: Can an analytic a priori statement be funny?

Update: With 125 votes cast, a clear majority of you (59%) are voting for the first option, analytic a priori. But you’re wrong, as dsquared explained to me in an email this morning — what happens to the graph if the price of gold goes to zero?

The assertion that the price of gold, in gold, is 1, is not analytic because it depends on the truth of at least one other proposition (that gold has a nonzero price) and is not a priori because there are possible worlds in which gold does not have a nonzero price.

Which just goes to prove, if nothing else, that philosophy is probably not best conducted by polling blog readers.

Update 2: Natecha defends the analytic-a-priori crew against dsquared, saying that the statement “x/x=1″ isn’t false when x=0, just undefined. He adds for good measure that “Daniel’s comment flies in the face of philosophical orthodoxy about analyticity and apriority”. Which is a statement I daresay Daniel would agree with.


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