Willard Van Orman Quine

Willard Van Orman Quine (/kwaɪn/; known to intimates as "Van";[7] June 25, 1908 – December 25, 2000) was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition, recognized as "one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century."[8] From 1930 until his death 70 years later, Quine was continually affiliated with Harvard University in one way or another, first as a student, then as a professor of philosophy and a teacher of logic and set theory, and finally as a professor emeritus who published or revised several books in retirement. He filled the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard from 1956 to 1978. A 2009 poll conducted among analytic philosophers named Quine as the fifth most important philosopher of the past two centuries.[9][10] He won the first Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy in 1993 for "his systematical and penetrating discussions of how learning of language and communication are based on socially available evidence and of the consequences of this for theories on knowledge and linguistic meaning."[11] In 1996 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for his "outstanding contributions to the progress of philosophy in the 20th century by proposing numerous theories based on keen insights in logic, epistemology, philosophy of science and philosophy of language."[12]

Quine falls squarely into the analytic philosophy tradition while also being the main proponent of the view that philosophy is not conceptual analysis but the abstract branch of the empirical sciences. His major writings include "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (1951), which attacked the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions and advocated a form of semantic holism, and Word and Object (1960), which further developed these positions and introduced Quine's famous indeterminacy of translation thesis, advocating a behaviorist theory of meaning. He also developed an influential naturalized epistemology that tried to provide "an improved scientific explanation of how we have developed elaborate scientific theories on the basis of meager sensory input."[13] He is also important in philosophy of science for his "systematic attempt to understand science from within the resources of science itself"[13] and for his conception of philosophy as continuous with science. This led to his famous quip that "philosophy of science is philosophy enough."[14] In philosophy of mathematics, he and his Harvard colleague Hilary Putnam developed the "Quine–Putnam indispensability thesis," an argument for the reality of mathematical entities.[15]

Willard Van Orman Quine
BornJune 25, 1908
DiedDecember 25, 2000 (aged 92)
EducationOberlin College (B.A., 1930)
Harvard University (Ph.D., 1932)
Naomi Clayton
(m. 1932; div. 1947)

Marjorie Boynton
(m. 1948; died 1998)
AwardsRolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy (1993)
Kyoto Prize (1996)
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Immanent realism[1]
Mathematical quasi-empiricism
Logical behaviorism[4]
InstitutionsHarvard University
ThesisThe Logic of Sequences: A Generalization of Principia Mathematica (1932)
Doctoral advisorAlfred North Whitehead
Other academic advisorsC. I. Lewis[5]
Doctoral studentsDavid Lewis, Gilbert Harman, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Hao Wang, Frank Thompson, Burton Dreben, Charles Parsons
Other notable studentsDonald Davidson, Daniel Dennett
Main interests
Logic, ontology, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, set theory
Notable ideas
New Foundations, abstract objects, indeterminacy of translation (holophrastic indeterminacy, inscrutability of reference), radical translation, naturalized epistemology, ontological relativity, meta-ontology, natural kind, Quine's paradox, Duhem–Quine thesis, Quine–Putnam indispensability thesis, semantic holism (confirmation holism), problem of empty names, two dogmas of empiricism, cognitive synonymy, observational statement, mathematical quasi-empiricism, Quine–McCluskey algorithm, Quine–Morse set theory, vivid designator, predicate functor logic, Quine quotation, Quine corners, Quine atom, Plato's beard, existential generalization/universal instantiation, veridical vs falsidical paradoxes[6]


According to his autobiography, The Time of My Life (1986), Quine grew up in Akron, Ohio, where he lived with his parents and older brother Robert Cloyd. His father, Cloyd Robert,[16] was a manufacturing entrepreneur (founder of the Akron Equipment Company, which produced tire molds)[17] and his mother, Harriett E., was a schoolteacher and later a housewife.[7] He received his B.A. in mathematics from Oberlin College in 1930, and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University in 1932. His thesis supervisor was Alfred North Whitehead. He was then appointed a Harvard Junior Fellow, which excused him from having to teach for four years. During the academic year 1932–33, he travelled in Europe thanks to a Sheldon fellowship, meeting Polish logicians (including Stanislaw Lesniewski and Alfred Tarski) and members of the Vienna Circle (including Rudolf Carnap), as well as the logical positivist A. J. Ayer.[7]

It was Quine who arranged for Tarski to be invited to the September 1939 Unity of Science Congress in Cambridge, for which Tarski sailed on the last ship to leave Danzig before the Third Reich invaded Poland. Tarski survived the war and worked another 44 years in the US.

During World War II, Quine lectured on logic in Brazil, in Portuguese, and served in the United States Navy in a military intelligence role, deciphering messages from German submarines, and reaching the rank of lieutenant commander.[7]

At Harvard, Quine helped supervise the Harvard graduate theses of, among others, David Lewis, Daniel Dennett, Gilbert Harman, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Hao Wang, Hugues LeBlanc, Henry Hiz and George Myro. For the academic year 1964–1965, Quine was a fellow on the faculty in the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University.[18] In 1980 Quine received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Humanities at Uppsala University, Sweden.[19]

Quine was an atheist when he was a teenager.[20]

He had four children by two marriages.[7] Guitarist Robert Quine was his nephew.

In the foreword to the new edition of Word and Object, Quine's student Dagfinn Føllesdal noted that Quine began to lose his memory toward the end of his life. The deterioration of his short-term memory was so severe that he struggled to continue following arguments. Quine also had considerable difficulty in his project to make the desired revisions to Word and Object. Before passing away, Quine noted to Morton White, "I do not remember what my illness is called, Althusser or Alzheimer, but since I cannot remember it, it must be Alzheimer." He died from the illness on Christmas Day in 2000.[21]

Political beliefs

Quine was politically conservative, but the bulk of his writing was in technical areas of philosophy removed from direct political issues.[22] He did, however, write in defense of several conservative positions: for example, in Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary, he wrote a defense of moral censorship;[23] while, in his autobiography, he made some criticisms of American postwar academic culture.[24][25]


Quine's Ph.D. thesis and early publications were on formal logic and set theory. Only after World War II did he, by virtue of seminal papers on ontology, epistemology and language, emerge as a major philosopher. By the 1960s, he had worked out his "naturalized epistemology" whose aim was to answer all substantive questions of knowledge and meaning using the methods and tools of the natural sciences. Quine roundly rejected the notion that there should be a "first philosophy", a theoretical standpoint somehow prior to natural science and capable of justifying it. These views are intrinsic to his naturalism.

Quine could lecture in French, Spanish, Portuguese and German, as well as his native English. Like the logical positivists, Quine evinced little interest in the philosophical canon: only once did he teach a course in the history of philosophy, on David Hume.

Rejection of the analytic–synthetic distinction

In the 1930s and 40s, discussions with Rudolf Carnap, Nelson Goodman and Alfred Tarski, among others, led Quine to doubt the tenability of the distinction between "analytic" statements—those true simply by the meanings of their words, such as "All bachelors are unmarried"—and "synthetic" statements, those true or false by virtue of facts about the world, such as "There is a cat on the mat." This distinction was central to logical positivism. Although Quine is not normally associated with verificationism, some philosophers believe the tenet is not incompatible with his general philosophy of language, citing his Harvard colleague B. F. Skinner and his analysis of language in Verbal Behavior.[26]

Like other Analytic philosophers before him, Quine accepted the definition of "analytic" as "true in virtue of meaning alone". Unlike them, however, he concluded that ultimately the definition was circular. In other words, Quine accepted that analytic statements are those that are true by definition, then argued that the notion of truth by definition was unsatisfactory.

Quine's chief objection to analyticity is with the notion of synonymy (sameness of meaning), a sentence being analytic, just in case it substitutes a synonym for one "black" in a proposition like "All black things are black" (or any other logical truth). The objection to synonymy hinges upon the problem of collateral information. We intuitively feel that there is a distinction between "All unmarried men are bachelors" and "There have been black dogs", but a competent English speaker will assent to both sentences under all conditions since such speakers also have access to collateral information bearing on the historical existence of black dogs. Quine maintains that there is no distinction between universally known collateral information and conceptual or analytic truths.

Another approach to Quine's objection to analyticity and synonymy emerges from the modal notion of logical possibility. A traditional Wittgensteinian view of meaning held that each meaningful sentence was associated with a region in the space of possible worlds. Quine finds the notion of such a space problematic, arguing that there is no distinction between those truths which are universally and confidently believed and those which are necessarily true.

Confirmation holism and ontological relativity

The central theses underlying the indeterminacy of translation and other extensions of Quine's work are ontological relativity and the related doctrine of confirmation holism. The premise of confirmation holism is that all theories (and the propositions derived from them) are under-determined by empirical data (data, sensory-data, evidence); although some theories are not justifiable, failing to fit with the data or being unworkably complex, there are many equally justifiable alternatives. While the Greeks' assumption that (unobservable) Homeric gods exist is false, and our supposition of (unobservable) electromagnetic waves is true, both are to be justified solely by their ability to explain our observations.

Quine concluded his "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" as follows:

As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer . . . For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.

Quine's ontological relativism (evident in the passage above) led him to agree with Pierre Duhem that for any collection of empirical evidence, there would always be many theories able to account for it. However, Duhem's holism is much more restricted and limited than Quine's. For Duhem, underdetermination applies only to physics or possibly to natural science, while for Quine it applies to all of human knowledge. Thus, while it is possible to verify or falsify whole theories, it is not possible to verify or falsify individual statements. Almost any particular statement can be saved, given sufficiently radical modifications of the containing theory. For Quine, scientific thought forms a coherent web in which any part could be altered in the light of empirical evidence, and in which no empirical evidence could force the revision of a given part.

Existence and its contrary

The problem of non-referring names is an old puzzle in philosophy, which Quine captured when he wrote,

A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put into three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: 'What is there?' It can be answered, moreover, in a word—'Everything'—and everyone will accept this answer as true.[27]

More directly, the controversy goes,

How can we talk about Pegasus? To what does the word 'Pegasus' refer? If our answer is, 'Something,' then we seem to believe in mystical entities; if our answer is, 'nothing', then we seem to talk about nothing and what sense can be made of this? Certainly when we said that Pegasus was a mythological winged horse we make sense, and moreover we speak the truth! If we speak the truth, this must be truth about something. So we cannot be speaking of nothing.

Quine resists the temptation to say that non-referring terms are meaningless for reasons made clear above. Instead he tells us that we must first determine whether our terms refer or not before we know the proper way to understand them. However, Czesław Lejewski criticizes this belief for reducing the matter to empirical discovery when it seems we should have a formal distinction between referring and non-referring terms or elements of our domain. Lejewski writes further,

This state of affairs does not seem to be very satisfactory. The idea that some of our rules of inference should depend on empirical information, which may not be forthcoming, is so foreign to the character of logical inquiry that a thorough re-examination of the two inferences [existential generalization and universal instantiation] may prove worth our while.

Lejewski then goes on to offer a description of free logic, which he claims accommodates an answer to the problem.

Lejewski also points out that free logic additionally can handle the problem of the empty set for statements like . Quine had considered the problem of the empty set unrealistic, which left Lejewski unsatisfied.[28]


Over the course of his career, Quine published numerous technical and expository papers on formal logic, some of which are reprinted in his Selected Logic Papers and in The Ways of Paradox.

Quine confined logic to classical bivalent first-order logic, hence to truth and falsity under any (nonempty) universe of discourse. Hence the following were not logic for Quine:

Quine wrote three undergraduate texts on formal logic:

  • Elementary Logic. While teaching an introductory course in 1940, Quine discovered that extant texts for philosophy students did not do justice to quantification theory or first-order predicate logic. Quine wrote this book in 6 weeks as an ad hoc solution to his teaching needs.
  • Methods of Logic. The four editions of this book resulted from a more advanced undergraduate course in logic Quine taught from the end of World War II until his 1978 retirement.
  • Philosophy of Logic. A concise and witty undergraduate treatment of a number of Quinian themes, such as the prevalence of use-mention confusions, the dubiousness of quantified modal logic, and the non-logical character of higher-order logic.

Mathematical Logic is based on Quine's graduate teaching during the 1930s and '40s. It shows that much of what Principia Mathematica took more than 1000 pages to say can be said in 250 pages. The proofs are concise, even cryptic. The last chapter, on Gödel's incompleteness theorem and Tarski's indefinability theorem, along with the article Quine (1946), became a launching point for Raymond Smullyan's later lucid exposition of these and related results.

Quine's work in logic gradually became dated in some respects. Techniques he did not teach and discuss include analytic tableaux, recursive functions, and model theory. His treatment of metalogic left something to be desired. For example, Mathematical Logic does not include any proofs of soundness and completeness. Early in his career, the notation of his writings on logic was often idiosyncratic. His later writings nearly always employed the now-dated notation of Principia Mathematica. Set against all this are the simplicity of his preferred method (as exposited in his Methods of Logic) for determining the satisfiability of quantified formulas, the richness of his philosophical and linguistic insights, and the fine prose in which he expressed them.

Most of Quine's original work in formal logic from 1960 onwards was on variants of his predicate functor logic, one of several ways that have been proposed for doing logic without quantifiers. For a comprehensive treatment of predicate functor logic and its history, see Quine (1976). For an introduction, see chpt. 45 of his Methods of Logic.

Quine was very warm to the possibility that formal logic would eventually be applied outside of philosophy and mathematics. He wrote several papers on the sort of Boolean algebra employed in electrical engineering, and with Edward J. McCluskey, devised the Quine–McCluskey algorithm of reducing Boolean equations to a minimum covering sum of prime implicants.

Set theory

While his contributions to logic include elegant expositions and a number of technical results, it is in set theory that Quine was most innovative. He always maintained that mathematics required set theory and that set theory was quite distinct from logic. He flirted with Nelson Goodman's nominalism for a while, but backed away when he failed to find a nominalist grounding of mathematics.

Over the course of his career, Quine proposed three variants of axiomatic set theory, each including the axiom of extensionality:

  • New Foundations, NF, creates and manipulates sets using a single axiom schema for set admissibility, namely an axiom schema of stratified comprehension, whereby all individuals satisfying a stratified formula compose a set. A stratified formula is one that type theory would allow, were the ontology to include types. However, Quine's set theory does not feature types. The metamathematics of NF are curious. NF allows many "large" sets the now-canonical ZFC set theory does not allow, even sets for which the axiom of choice does not hold. Since the axiom of choice holds for all finite sets, the failure of this axiom in NF proves that NF includes infinite sets. The consistency of NF relative to other formal systems adequate for mathematics is an open question, albeit that a number of candidate proofs are current in the NF community suggesting that NF is equiconsistent with Zermelo set theory without Choice. A modification of NF, NFU, due to R. B. Jensen and admitting urelements (entities that can be members of sets but that lack elements), turns out to be consistent relative to Peano arithmetic, thus vindicating the intuition behind NF. NF and NFU are the only Quinean set theories with a following. For a derivation of foundational mathematics in NF, see Rosser (1952);
  • The set theory of Mathematical Logic is NF augmented by the proper classes of von Neumann–Bernays–Gödel set theory, except axiomatized in a much simpler way;
  • The set theory of Set Theory and Its Logic does away with stratification and is almost entirely derived from a single axiom schema. Quine derived the foundations of mathematics once again. This book includes the definitive exposition of Quine's theory of virtual sets and relations, and surveyed axiomatic set theory as it stood circa 1960.

All three set theories admit a universal class, but since they are free of any hierarchy of types, they have no need for a distinct universal class at each type level.

Quine's set theory and its background logic were driven by a desire to minimize posits; each innovation is pushed as far as it can be pushed before further innovations are introduced. For Quine, there is but one connective, the Sheffer stroke, and one quantifier, the universal quantifier. All polyadic predicates can be reduced to one dyadic predicate, interpretable as set membership. His rules of proof were limited to modus ponens and substitution. He preferred conjunction to either disjunction or the conditional, because conjunction has the least semantic ambiguity. He was delighted to discover early in his career that all of first order logic and set theory could be grounded in a mere two primitive notions: abstraction and inclusion. For an elegant introduction to the parsimony of Quine's approach to logic, see his "New Foundations for Mathematical Logic," ch. 5 in his From a Logical Point of View.


Just as he challenged the dominant analytic–synthetic distinction, Quine also took aim at traditional normative epistemology. According to Quine, traditional epistemology tried to justify the sciences, but this effort (as exemplified by Rudolf Carnap) failed, and so we should replace traditional epistemology with an empirical study of what sensory inputs produce what theoretical outputs:[29] "Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science. It studies a natural phenomenon, viz., a physical human subject. This human subject is accorded a certain experimentally controlled input — certain patterns of irradiation in assorted frequencies, for instance — and in the fullness of time the subject delivers as output a description of the three-dimensional external world and its history. The relation between the meager input and the torrential output is a relation that we are prompted to study for somewhat the same reasons that always prompted epistemology: namely, in order to see how evidence relates to theory, and in what ways one's theory of nature transcends any available evidence...But a conspicuous difference between old epistemology and the epistemological enterprise in this new psychological setting is that we can now make free use of empirical psychology." (Quine, 1969: 82–3)

Quine's proposal is controversial among contemporary philosophers and has several critics, with Jaegwon Kim the most prominent among them.[30]

In popular culture


Selected books

  • 1934 A System of Logistic. Harvard Univ. Press.[33]
  • 1951 (1940). Mathematical Logic. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-55451-5.
  • 1966. Selected Logic Papers. New York: Random House.
  • 1970 (2nd ed., 1978). With J. S. Ullian. The Web of Belief. New York: Random House.
  • 1980 (1941). Elementary Logic. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-24451-6.
  • 1982 (1950). Methods of Logic. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1980 (1953). From a Logical Point of View. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-32351-3. Contains "Two dogmas of Empiricism."
  • 1960 Word and Object. MIT Press; ISBN 0-262-67001-1. The closest thing Quine wrote to a philosophical treatise. Chpt. 2 sets out the indeterminacy of translation thesis.
  • 1974 (1971) The Roots of Reference. Open Court Publishing Company ISBN 0-8126-9101-6 (developed from Quine's Carus Lectures)
  • 1976 (1966). The Ways of Paradox. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1969 Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. Columbia Univ. Press. ISBN 0-231-08357-2. Contains chapters on ontological relativity, naturalized epistemology, and natural kinds.
  • 1969 (1963). Set Theory and Its Logic. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1985 The Time of My Life: An Autobiography. Cambridge, The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-17003-5. 1986: Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1986 (1970). The Philosophy of Logic. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1987 Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-14-012522-1. A work of essays, many subtly humorous, for lay readers, very revealing of the breadth of his interests.
  • 1992 (1990). Pursuit of Truth. Harvard Univ. Press. A short, lively synthesis of his thought for advanced students and general readers not fooled by its simplicity. ISBN 0-674-73951-5.
  • 1995, From Stimulus to Science. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-32635-0.

Important articles

  • 1946, "Concatenation as a basis for arithmetic." Reprinted in his Selected Logic Papers. Harvard Univ. Press.
  • 1948, "On What There Is", Review of Metaphysics 2(5) (JSTOR). Reprinted in his 1953 From a Logical Point of View. Harvard University Press.[34]
  • 1951, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", The Philosophical Review 60: 20–43. Reprinted in his 1953 From a Logical Point of View. Harvard University Press.
  • 1956, "Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes," Journal of Philosophy 53. Reprinted in his 1976 Ways of Paradox. Harvard Univ. Press: 185–96.
  • 1969, "Epistemology Naturalized" in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press: 69–90.
  • "Truth by Convention," first published in 1936. Reprinted in the book, Readings in Philosophical Analysis, edited by Herbert Feigl and Wilfrid Sellars, pp. 250–273, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949.


  • Bryan Magee, The Ideas of Quine, 1977.

See also


  1. ^ Scientific Realism and Antirealism – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. ^ Pragmatism – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  3. ^ Ted Poston, "Foundationalism" (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  4. ^ Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Behaviorism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  5. ^ a b Hunter, Bruce, 2016 "Clarence Irving Lewis" in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  6. ^ Quine, W.V. (1966). "The Ways of Paradox". The Ways of Paradox, and Other Essays. New York: Random House.
  7. ^ a b c d e O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F. (October 2003), "Willard Van Orman Quine", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
  8. ^ "W. V. Quine, Philosopher Who Analyzed Language and Reality, Dies at 92"
  9. ^ "So who *is* the most important philosopher of the past 200 years?" Leiter Reports. Leiterreports.typepad.com. March 11, 2009. Accessed March 8, 2010.
  10. ^ Poll Results: Who is the most important philosopher of the past 200 years? Brian Leiter. March 11, 2009. Accessed October 24, 2014.
  11. ^ "Prize winner page". The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Kva.se. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  12. ^ "Willard Van Orman Quine". Inamori Foundation. Archived from the original on July 20, 2013. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  13. ^ a b "Quine's Philosophy of Science". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Iep.utm.edu. July 27, 2009. Accessed March 8, 2010.
  14. ^ "Mr Strawson on Logical Theory". WV Quine. Mind Vol. 62 No. 248. Oct. 1953.
  15. ^ Colyvan, Mark, "Indispensability Arguments in the Philosophy of Mathematics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  16. ^ The Cambridge Companion to Quine, ed. Roger F. Gibson, Jr, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pg 1
  17. ^ The Cambridge Companion to Quine, ed. Roger F. Gibson, Jr, Cambridge University Press, 2004, pg 1
  18. ^ "Guide to the Center for Advanced Studies Records, 1958–1969" Archived March 14, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. Weselyan University. Wesleyan.edu. Accessed March 8, 2010.
  19. ^ http://www.uu.se/en/about-uu/traditions/prizes/honorary-doctorates/
  20. ^ Quine, Willard Van Orman; Hahn, Lewis Edwin (1986). The Philosophy of W.V. Quine. Open Court. p. 6. ISBN 9780812690101. In my third year of high school I walked often with my new Jamaican friends, Fred and Harold Cassidy, trying to convert them from their Episcopalian faith to atheism.
  21. ^ W.V. Quine. Word and Object 2013. MIT Press.
  22. ^ The Wall Street Journal, obituary for W V Quine – January 4, 2001
  23. ^ Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary, entry for Tolerance (pp. 206–8)
  24. ^ "Paradoxes of Plenty" in Theories and Things, p. 197
  25. ^ The Time of My Life: An Autobiography, pp. 352–3.
  26. ^ Prawitz, Dag. 'Quine and Verificationism.' In Inquiry, Stockholm, 1994, pp 487–494
  27. ^ W. V. O. Quine, "On What There Is", The Review of Metaphysics 2(5), 1948.
  28. ^ Czeslaw Lejewski, "Logic and Existence". British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Vol. 5 (1954–55), pp. 104–119.
  29. ^ "Naturalized Epistemology". stanford.edu.
  30. ^ "Naturalized Epistemology". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Plato.stanford.edu. July 5, 2001. Accessed March 8, 2010.
  31. ^ [1]. Existential Comics. Accessed November 24, 2014
  32. ^ "The Pantheon of Skeptics". CSI. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on January 31, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  33. ^ Church, Alonzo (1935). "Review: A System of Logistic by Willard Van Orman Quine" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 41 (9): 598–603. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1935-06146-4.
  34. ^ In this paper, Quine explicitly connected each of the three main medieval ontological positions, namely realism/conceptualism/nominalism, with one of three dominant schools in modern philosophy of mathematics: logicism/intuitionism/formalism respectively.

Further reading

External links

Cognitive synonymy

Cognitive synonymy is a type of synonymy in which synonyms are so similar in meaning that they cannot be differentiated either denotatively or connotatively, that is, not even by mental associations, connotations, emotive responses, and poetic value. It is a stricter (more precise) technical definition of synonymy, specifically for theoretical (e.g., linguistic and philosophical) purposes. In usage employing this definition, synonyms with greater differences are often called near-synonyms rather than synonyms.

Confirmation holism

In philosophy of science, confirmation holism, also called epistemological holism, is the view that no individual statement can be confirmed or disconfirmed by an empirical test, but only a set of statements (a whole theory).

It is attributed to Willard Van Orman Quine who motivated his holism through extending Pierre Duhem's problem of underdetermination in physical theory to all knowledge claims. Duhem's idea was, roughly, that no theory of any type can be tested in isolation but only when embedded in a background of other hypotheses, e.g. hypotheses about initial conditions. Quine thought that this background involved not only such hypotheses but also our whole web-of-belief, which, among other things, includes our mathematical and logical theories and our scientific theories. This last claim is sometimes known as the Duhem–Quine thesis. A related claim made by Quine, though contested by some (see Adolf Grünbaum 1962), is that one can always protect one's theory against refutation by attributing failure to some other part of our web-of-belief. In his own words, "Any statement can be held true come what may, if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system."

Duhem–Quine thesis

The Duhem–Quine thesis, also called the Duhem–Quine problem, after Pierre Duhem and Willard Van Orman Quine, is that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation, because an empirical test of the hypothesis requires one or more background assumptions (also called auxiliary assumptions or auxiliary hypotheses). In recent decades the set of associated assumptions supporting a thesis sometimes is called a bundle of hypotheses.

Hold come what may

Hold come what may is a phrase popularized by logician Willard Van Orman Quine. Beliefs that are "held come what may" are beliefs one is unwilling to give up, regardless of any evidence with which one might be presented. Quine held (on a perhaps simplistic construal) that there are no beliefs that one ought to hold come what may—in other words, that all beliefs are rationally revisable ("no statement is immune to revision"), and compared this to the simplification of quantum mechanics.Many philosophers argue to the contrary, believing that, for example, the laws of thought cannot be revised and may be "held come what may". Quine believed that all beliefs are linked by a web of beliefs, in which a belief is linked to another belief by supporting relations, but if one belief is found untrue, there is ground to find the linked beliefs also untrue.A closely related concept is hold more stubbornly at least, also popularized by Quine. Some beliefs may be more useful than others, or may be implied by a large number of beliefs. Examples might be laws of logic, or the belief in an external world of physical objects. Altering such central portions of the web of beliefs would have immense, ramifying consequences, and affect many other beliefs. It is better to alter auxiliary beliefs around the edges of the web of beliefs (considered to be sense beliefs, rather than main beliefs) in the face of new evidence unfriendly to one's central principles. Thus, while one might agree that there is no belief one can hold come what may, there are some for which there is ample practical ground to "hold more stubbornly at least".

Holophrastic indeterminacy

Holophrastic indeterminacy, or indeterminacy of sentence translation, is one of two kinds of indeterminacy of translation to appear in the writings of philosopher W. V. O. Quine. According to Quine, "there is more than one correct method of translating sentences where the two translations differ not merely in the meanings attributed to the sub-sentential parts of speech but also in the net import of the whole sentence". It is holophrastic indeterminacy that underlies Quine's argument against synonymy, the basis of his objections to Rudolf Carnap's analytic/synthetic distinction. The other kind of indeterminacy introduced by Quine is the "inscrutability of reference", which refers to parts of a sentence or individual words.

Indeterminacy of translation

The indeterminacy of translation is a thesis propounded by 20th-century American analytic philosopher W. V. Quine. The classic statement of this thesis can be found in his 1960 book Word and Object, which gathered together and refined much of Quine's previous work on subjects other than formal logic and set theory. The indeterminacy of translation is also discussed at length in his Ontological Relativity. Crispin Wright suggests that this "has been among the most widely discussed and controversial theses in modern analytical philosophy". This view is endorsed by Putnam who states that it is "the most fascinating and the most discussed philosophical argument since Kant's Transcendental Deduction of the Categories".Three aspects of indeterminacy arise, of which two relate to indeterminacy of translation. The three indeterminacies are (i) inscrutability of reference, and (ii) holophrastic indeterminacy, and (iii) the underdetermination of scientific theory. The last of these, not discussed here, refers to Quine's assessment that evidence alone does not dictate the choice of a scientific theory. The first refers to indeterminacy in interpreting individual words or sub-sentences. The second refers to indeterminacy in entire sentences or more extensive portions of discourse.

Inscrutability of reference

The inscrutability or indeterminacy of reference (also referential inscrutability) is a thesis propounded by 20th century analytic philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine in his book Word and Object. The main claim of this theory is that any given sentence can be changed into a variety of other sentences where the parts of the sentence will change in what they reference, but they will nonetheless maintain the meaning of the sentence as a whole. The referential relation is inscrutable, because it is subject to the background language and ontological commitments of the speaker.

Naturalized epistemology

Naturalized epistemology, coined by W. V. O. Quine, is a collection of philosophic views concerned with the theory of knowledge that emphasize the role of natural scientific methods. This shared emphasis on scientific methods of studying knowledge shifts focus to the empirical processes of knowledge acquisition and away from many traditional philosophical questions. There are noteworthy distinctions within naturalized epistemology. Replacement naturalism maintains that traditional epistemology should be abandoned and replaced with the methodologies of the natural sciences. The general thesis of cooperative naturalism is that traditional epistemology can benefit in its inquiry by using the knowledge we have gained from the cognitive sciences. Substantive naturalism focuses on an asserted equality of facts of knowledge and natural facts.

Objections to naturalized epistemology have targeted features of the general project as well as characteristics of specific versions. Some objectors suggest that natural scientific knowledge cannot be circularly grounded by the knowledge obtained through cognitive science, which is itself a natural science. This objection from circularity has been aimed specifically at strict replacement naturalism. There are similar challenges to substance naturalism that maintain that the substance naturalists' thesis that all facts of knowledge are natural facts is not only circular but fails to accommodate certain facts. Several other objectors have found fault in the inability of naturalized methods to adequately address questions about what value forms of potential knowledge have or lack. Naturalized epistemology is generally opposed to the antipsychologism of Immanuel Kant, Gottlob Frege, Karl Popper, Edmund Husserl and others.

Neurathian bootstrap

Neurath's boat is a simile used in anti-foundational accounts of knowledge, especially in the philosophy of science, which was first formulated by Otto Neurath. It is based in part on the Ship of Theseus which, however, is standardly used to illustrate other philosophical questions, to do with problems of identity. It was popularised by Willard Van Orman Quine in Word and Object (1960).

New riddle of induction

Grue and bleen are examples of logical predicates coined by Nelson Goodman in Fact, Fiction, and Forecast to illustrate the "new riddle of induction" – a successor to Hume's original problem. These predicates are unusual because their application is time-dependent; many have tried to solve the new riddle on those terms, but Hilary Putnam and others have argued such time-dependency depends on the language adopted, and in some languages it is equally true for natural-sounding predicates such as "green." For Goodman they illustrate the problem of projectible predicates and ultimately, which empirical generalizations are law-like and which are not.

Goodman's construction and use of grue and bleen illustrates how philosophers use simple examples in conceptual analysis.

Plato's beard

Plato's beard refers to a paradoxical argument dubbed by Willard Van Orman Quine in his 1948 paper On What There Is. Since the Greek philosopher did not have a beard, the phrase came to be identified as the philosophy of understanding something based on what does not exist.

Quine's paradox

Quine's paradox is a paradox concerning truth values, stated by Willard Van Orman Quine. It is related to the liar paradox as a problem, and it purports to show that a sentence can be paradoxical even if it is not self-referring and does not use demonstratives or indexicals (i.e. it does not explicitly refer to itself). The paradox can be expressed as follows:

"yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation" yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.If the paradox is not clear, consider each part of the above description of the paradox incrementally:

it = yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation

its quotation = "yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation"

it preceded by its quotation = "yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation" yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.With these tools, the description of the paradox may now be reconsidered; it can be seen to assert the following:

The statement "'yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation' yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation" is false.In other words, the sentence implies that it is false, which is paradoxical—for if it is false, what it states is in fact true.

Quine (computing)

A quine is a computer program which takes no input and produces a copy of its own source code as its only output. The standard terms for these programs in the computability theory and computer science literature are "self-replicating programs", "self-reproducing programs", and "self-copying programs".

A quine is a fixed point of an execution environment, when the execution environment is viewed as a function transforming programs into their outputs. Quines are possible in any Turing complete programming language, as a direct consequence of Kleene's recursion theorem. For amusement, programmers sometimes attempt to develop the shortest possible quine in any given programming language.

The name "quine" was coined by Douglas Hofstadter, in his popular science book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, in honor of philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine (1908–2000), who made an extensive study of indirect self-reference, and in particular for the following paradox-producing expression, known as Quine's paradox:

"Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation" yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.

In some languages, particularly scripting languages, an empty source file is a fixed point of the language, being a valid program that produces no output. Such an empty program, submitted as "the world's smallest self reproducing program", once won the "worst abuse of the rules" prize in the International Obfuscated C Code Contest. The program was not actually compiled, but used cp to copy the file into another file, which could be executed to print nothing.

Radical translation

Radical translation is a thought experiment in Word and Object, a major philosophical work from American philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine. It is used as an introduction to his theory of the indeterminacy of translation, and specifically to prove the point of inscrutability of reference. Using this concept of radical translation, Quine paints a setting where a linguist discovers a native linguistic community whose linguistic system is completely unrelated to any language familiar to the linguist. Quine then describes the steps taken by the linguist in his attempt to fully translate this unfamiliar language based on the only data he has; the events happening around him combined with the verbal and non-verbal behaviour of natives.

The Philosophical Lexicon

The Philosophical Lexicon is a humorous dictionary founded by philosopher Daniel Dennett and now edited by Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen. It lists neologisms that have been humorously coined from the names of (mostly) contemporary philosophers. For example, the following definition refers to the philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine:quine, v. (1) To deny resolutely the existence or 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!" (2) n. The total aggregate sensory surface of the world; hence quinitis, irritation of the quine.

The Roots of Reference

The Roots of Reference is a 1974 book by philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine, in which the author expands on his earlier concepts about the inscrutability of reference and examines problems with traditional empiricism, arguing for a naturalized epistemology based on holism.

Two Dogmas of Empiricism

"Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is a paper by analytic philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine published in 1951. According to University of Sydney professor of philosophy Peter Godfrey-Smith, this "paper [is] sometimes regarded as the most important in all of twentieth-century philosophy". The paper is an attack on two central aspects of the logical positivists' philosophy. One is the analytic–synthetic distinction between analytic truths and synthetic truths, explained by Quine as truths grounded only in meanings and independent of facts, and truths grounded in facts. The other is reductionism, the theory that each meaningful statement gets its meaning from some logical construction of terms that refers exclusively to immediate experience.

"Two Dogmas" has six sections. The first four focus on analyticity, the last two on reductionism. There, Quine turns the focus to the logical positivists' theory of meaning. He also presents his own holistic theory of meaning.

Vivid designator

In modal logic and the philosophy of language, a vivid designator is a term which is believed to designate the same thing in all possible worlds and nothing else where such an object does not exist in a possible world. It is the analogue, in the sense of believing, of a rigid designator, which is (refers to) the same in all possible worlds, rather than is just believed to be so.

Word and Object

Word and Object is a 1960 work by philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine, in which the author expands upon the line of thought of his earlier writings in From a Logical Point of View (1953), and reformulates some of his earlier arguments, such as his attack in "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" on the analytic-synthetic distinction. The thought experiment of radical translation and the accompanying notion of indeterminacy of translation are original to Word and Object, which is Quine's most famous book.

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