The Philosophy of W. V. Quine: An Expository Essay

The Philosophy of W. V. Quine: An Expository Essay

The Philosophy of W. V. Quine: An Expository Essay

The Philosophy of W. V. Quine: An Expository Essay

Excerpt

Not long ago Professor Stuart Hampshire referred to Willard Van Orman Quine (b. 1908) as "the most distinguished living systematic philosopher." Professor Hampshire's remark is both surprising and instructive. Surprising not because he regards Quine to be a distinguished philosopher; most philosophers would go along with that. The surprising thing is to be told that Quine is a system builder, and for at least two reasons: first, because of the generally acknowledged fact that in the twentieth century systematic philosophers are almost as rare as dinosaurs, especially in the Anglo-American strain of which Quine is a significant member; second, because it seems contrary to the generally accepted image of Quine as a philosopher who has focused his analytic talents on a multiplicity of apparently disparate doctrines and theses -- for example, the doctrine of inscrutability of reference, the thesis of indeterminacy of translation, the doctrine of empirical slack (with its dual aspects -- holism, or revisibility, and underdetermination of theory), and the doctrine of ontological relativity. Professor Hampshire's claim is instructive just because it corrects this misconception of Quine's philosophy. For these various philosophical doctrines and theses, which are associated with Quine's name, are not simply a collection of Quine's thoughts on a variety of more or less unrelated topics. They are, on the contrary, related to one another so as to form a systematic whole.

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