The Philosophical Lexicon defines the verb ‘to quine’ as follows
quine, v. (1) To deny resolutely the existence o[r] importance of something real or significant. “Some philosophers have quined classes, and some have even quined physical objects.” Occasionally used intr., e.g., “You think I quine, sir. I assure you I do not!”
The joke, of course, is that Quine denied the existence of the analytic/synthetic distinction which is both real and important. So is there any reason to think that there is something wrong with this distinction?
Examples of analytic truths are things like ‘bachlors are unmarried males’ and ‘an aniverssary is one year after an event’. Now there are alleged to be counter-examples to these kinds of claims and this is taken to be evidence that there are no alalytic truths. So, to take an excellent example of David Rosenthal’s, consider the following case.
Suppose that I am married (I am not) and that my wife and I decide to get a divorce. We get lawyers and hold meetings and hammer out an agreement. The lawyers draw up the papers and my (soon to be) ex-wife signs the papers on Friday afternoon. I can’t come in on Friday and so arrange with the lawyers to come in first thing Monday morning and sign the papers. Now let us suppose that I go out on Sunday night and meet another woman and let’s further suppose that I somehow get lucky and we end up sleeping together. Now it seems that I cannot be accused of commiting adultry and since only married people can commit adultry there is a sense in which I am not married (and so a bachlor). But technically I am still married (I have not finalized the divorce). So it looks like on Sunday night I am a married bachlor.
Now, people usually resist the conclusion of this scenerio, but let us suppose that it is accurate. Is it a counter-example to the alleged analytic truth that bachlors are unmarried males? I don’t think so. Rather what is at issue here is what counts as being married. Once we settle whether I am really married or not then we will settle whether or not I am a bachlor.
Similarly, consider an alleged counter-example to the anniversay business. Suppose that I get married on Leap year. Then my anniversery will not occur one year later, right? Again, I do not think that this is a counter-example. What is at issue here is ‘what counts as one year?’
So it seems to me that these kinds of cases are not serious threats to the analytic/syntetic distinction and so y’all should stop your quining!