Quine on Ontology, Necessity, and Experience: A Philosophical Critique

Quine on Ontology, Necessity, and Experience: A Philosophical Critique

Quine on Ontology, Necessity, and Experience: A Philosophical Critique

Quine on Ontology, Necessity, and Experience: A Philosophical Critique

Excerpt

I have never written before on a philosopher or writer with whom I did not feel at least in partial sympathy. This little book is a first exception. What prompted me to write it is the attention and admiration which Quine's work has received when I continue to see little in it. I toyed, at one point, with the idea of calling this book 'The Emperor's Clothes' because that title does really sum up how Quine's philosophical success looks to me from my own little arc. But while I mean to speak my mind I do not wish to imply any disrespect.

I do not mind admitting that as far as symbolic logic goes I cannot hold a candle to Quine. Here, where he is in his element, he quickly leaves me out of my depth. I have, therefore, concentrated on two or three topics he has treated in well known and widely discussed papers : 'On What there is', 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' (in From a Logical Point of View), and 'Epistemology Naturalised' (in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays). In these papers I do not have any difficulty in following his arguments and appreciating his intentions. A wider, but by no means complete, familiarity with his work, makes it easier for me to see where he is going in these papers and how his thinking has developed from earlier to later ones. In fact, the different things Quine argues for stand together and give each other mutual support. Whether one wishes to speak of an evolving 'system of thought' here or not, Quine's thought is certainly a well defended fortress. Some central point in his philosophy may strike one as implausible, but the various assumptions on which it rests, perhaps themselves implausible, are explicitly stated and supported in other parts of his work. You cannot easily reject any one thing he asserts without questioning much of the rest of what he says. To be able to construct such a fortress obviously takes ingenuity. Quine is undoubtedly a very clever thinker.

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