Printer Friendly

American Philosophical Quarterly: July 2011, Vol. 48, No. 3.

Quine's Nominalism, CHARLES PARSONS

During the time since World War II, nominalism as a philosophical tendency or research program has been largely identified with what was inaugurated by Nelson Goodman in such works as The Structure of Appearance. What was definitive of nominalism for Goodman was the rejection of the assumption of classes in philosophical and logical construction. Quine joined the research program in one well-known joint article with Goodman, "Steps toward a Constructive Nominalism," which inaugurated postwar nominalism in the philosophy of mathematics. The opening sentence of that article, "We do not believe in abstract entities," could serve as the slogan for recent nominalism. As is well-known, if that is what is meant by nominalism with reference to Quine, his nominalism was short-lived, whether one focuses on a philosophical doctrine or on the research program. But the period of his engagement with nominalism in that sense--toward the end of the 1930s through the 1940s--almost coincides with the period during which he developed his well-known views on ontology and crystallized the views that especially concern this investigation. So we will not be able to ignore nominalism in the now current sense.


According to philosophical lore, Quine wanted to eliminate the proper name "Socrates" from his regimented language by replacing it with a predicate taking the form either of a verbized name, "Socratizes," or of a definite description embedding a nominalization of one, "the Socratizer." In this case, lore is false. If one looks back at Quine's main discussions of how to eliminate singular terms, one will see that neither the word "Socratize," nor any of its "ize" cognates, actually ever shows up. In one of the relatively early works, "On What There Is" (1948), one does see Quine using the verbized-name predicate "Pegasize" in connection with his discussion of negative existential claims. This article argues, though, that by the time Quine gets to his discussion in Word and Object (1960) of the uncontroversially existent Socrates, he has dramatically shifted his analysis of names in a way that merits more emphasis than it has received.

Quine and Duhem on Holistic Hypothesis Testing, GERALD J. MASSEY

In the first sentence of The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, Pierre Duhem characterizes his treatise as "a simple logical analysis of the method by which physical science [mathematical physics] makes progress." Later in the work, Duhem formulates the principal result of this simple logical analysis, the thesis or claim that we will call Duhem's infirmational holism (D-holism), as follows: When a physicist decides to demonstrate the inaccuracy of a proposition, in order to deduce from this proposition the prediction of a phenomenon and institute the experiment that is to show whether this phenomenon is or is not produced, and in order to interpret the results of this experiment and establish that the predicted phenomenon is not produced, he does not confine himself to making use of the proposition in question; he makes use also of a whole group of theories accepted by him as beyond dispute.

The Legacy of "Two Dogmas", CATHERINE Z. ELGIN

W. V. Quine is famous, or perhaps infamous, for his repudiation of the analytic/synthetic distinction and kindred dualisms--the necessary/ contingent dichotomy and the a priori/a posteriori dichotomy. As these dualisms have come back into vogue in recent years, it might seem that the denial of the dualisms is no part of Quine's enduring legacy. Such a conclusion is unwarranted--not only because the dualisms are deeply problematic, but because "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" haunts even those who want to retain them. "Two Dogmas" reconfigured the philosophical terrain and issued a challenge to philosophy's self-understanding--a challenge that has yet to be fully met. The commitment to the analytic/synthetic distinction derives from the recognition that the truth of any sentence depends on two things: the way the world is and what the sentence means. It seems natural, then, that each sentence should be subject to a sort of factor analysis that disentangles the contribution of language to its truth value from the contribution of the world. Just how much each contributes varies from one sentence to the next. When the contribution of the world goes to zero, the sentence is analytic.

Developments in Quine's Behaviorism, DAGFINN FOLLESDAL

One often hears that Quine took his behaviorism from Skinner, whom he met in 1933 when they joined the first group of Harvard Junior Fellows. However, Quine reports that his behaviorism came earlier: "Back in the 20s I had imbibed behaviorism at Oberlin from Raymond Stetson, who had wisely required us to study John B. Watson's Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist. In Czechoslovakia a few years later I had been confirmed in my behaviorism by Rudolf Carnap's physicalism, his Psychologie in physikalischer Sprache. So Fred [Skinner] and I met on common ground in our scorn of mental entities. Mind shmind; on that proposition we were agreed. The things of the mind were strictly for the birds, to say nothing of freedom and dignity." Quine's behaviorism changed considerably during his life. This article will trace these changes and their motivation. As a background for the discussion, the following two questions will be briefly discussed: What is behaviorism? Why should anybody be a behaviorist?

Quine's Semantic Relativity, GILBERT HARMAN

Philosophers sometimes approach meaning metaphorically, for example, by speaking of "grasping" meanings, as if understanding consists in getting mental hands around something. Philosophers say that a theory of meaning should be a theory about the meanings that people assign to expressions in their language, that to understand other people requires identifying the meanings they associate with what they are saying, and that to translate an expression of another language into your own is to find an expression in your language with the same meaning as the expression in the other language. One difficulty with taking seriously such metaphors of grasping, assigning, and attaching meanings is that people are not aware of doing these things in the way that they are aware of grasping doorknobs, attaching post-it notes, and assigning tasks to employees. In any event, Quine did not find such metaphors to be useful. In his view, to understand someone else is to interpret them--that is, to find a way to translate from their outlook into one's own. Interpretation is translation. And translation is indeterminate.

Roots of Ontological Relativity, THOMAS RICKETTS

Quine's discussions of ontological relativity have long puzzled many admirers of Word and Object, for ontological relativity seems somehow to undermine the compelling view of ontology that Quine presents in the last chapter of that book. Hilary Putnam expresses this puzzlement when he says Quine holds that Tarski has rehabilitated the notion of truth (and of reference). He also holds that there is no fact of the matter as to what the truth conditions of a sentence in an arbitrary "alien language" are. How can he reconcile these views? This is the most subtle question in the whole of Quinian philosophy. Putnam himself has argued that there is no reconciliation to be found within Quine's views. Something has to go. In one telling objection, Putnam converts Quine's modus ponens into a modus tollens: Quine's demands for precise criteria for synonymy lead him to reject not only the existence of an objective relation of synonymy, but also the existence of a fact of the matter as to whether or not two terms (in another language) are the same or different in reference. To avoid having to abandon the notion of reference as he has abandoned the notion of synonymy, Quine must then claim that in his "home language" the situation is different. One can be a "robust realist" with respect to one's home language and give a nonrealist or antirealist account of the functioning of every other language.


The word "quinean" appears in the Oxford English Dictionary. (The word "quine" does too, but it is a rare, indeed obsolete, botanical term applying to leaves and so need not concern us.) We can be confident that W. V. Quine knew of this entry, as the word appeared in the second edition of 1989, and we can be confident that he was pleased. The entry given there is "Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Quine or his theories." It does not take us far. (Though it is pleasing to note that the OED uses just "Quine" to mention Quine; not "Willard Van Orman Quine," not "W. V. O. Quine," not "W. V. Quine"--just "Quine.") Perhaps Quine would have been even more tickled to learn that the OED chose to revise its definition in December 2007. The dictionary does not record whether it was led to this revision through deeper reflections on meaning or a more extensive empirical inquiry. No doubt, this is a forbearance Quine would have praised, though it is not one that we can, without a stretch, reckon as part of his legacy. The content of the change itself may, however, point us in a more fruitful direction.

Quine in My Life, DANIEL DENNETT

I discovered W. V. O. Quine in 1959 late at night in the mathematics library at Wesleyan University, where I was a seventeen-year-old freshman. I was working through the problem sets in Quine's Mathematical Logic (1940), assigned to me by Henry Kyburg, then a young instructor in the math department at Wesleyan, who had decided--mistakenly--that I was something of a mathematics prodigy he could force-feed with logic. Drowning in a high tide of formal symbols and derivations, I spotted Quine's From a Logical Point of View (1951) on the shelf and discovered it was filled with wonderful, vivid English sentences. I stayed up all night long reading it. This Quine person was very, very interesting--but wrong. I couldn't yet say exactly how or why, but I was quite sure. So I decided, as only a freshman could, that I had to confront him directly and see what I could learn from him--and teach him! The next day I began planning to transfer to Harvard.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Philosophy Education Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Previous Article:American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Summer 2011, Vol. 85, No. 3.
Next Article:Australasian Journal Of Philosophy: December 2011, Vol. 89, No. 4.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters