Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies

By E. D. Klemke | Go to book overview

25. On What There Is

W. V. Quine

A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: "What is there?" It can be answered, moreover, in a word — "Everything" — and everyone will accept this answer as true. However, this is merely to say that there is what there is. There remains room for disagreement over cases; and so the issue has stayed alive down the centuries.

Suppose now that two philosophers, McX and I, differ over ontology. Suppose McX maintains there is something which I maintain there is not. McX can, quite consistently with his own point of view, describe our difference of opinion by saying that I refuse to recognize certain entities. I should protest of course that he is wrong in his formulation of our disagreement, for I maintain that there are no entities, of the kind which he alleges, for me to recognize; but my finding him wrong in his formulation of our disagreement is unimportant, for I am committed to considering him wrong in his ontology anyway.

When I try to formulate our difference of opinion, on the other hand, I seem to be in a predicament. I cannot admit that there are some things which McX countenances and I do not, for in admitting that there are such things I should be contradicting my own rejection of them.

It would appear, if this reasoning were sound, that in any ontological dispute the proponent of the negative side suffers the disadvantage of not being able to admit that his opponent disagrees with him.

This is the old Platonic riddle of non-being. Non-being must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? This tangled doctrine might be nicknamed Plato's beard; historically it has proved tough, frequently dulling the edge of Occam's razor.

It is some such line of thought that leads philosophers like McX to impute being where they might otherwise be quite content to recognize that there is nothing. Thus, take Pegasus. If Pegasus were not, McX argues, we should not be talking about anything when we use the word; therefore it would be nonsense

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Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgments 11
  • Introduction - The Rise of Analytic Philosophy 15
  • Notes 20
  • The Pre-Analytic Tradition 21
  • Introduction 23
  • Idealism 31
  • Reality and Idealism 31
  • Selected Bibliography 53
  • Pragmatism 55
  • How to Make Our Ideas Clear 55
  • Notes 69
  • Pragmaticism 71
  • Selected Bibliography 78
  • American Realism 79
  • The Program and First Platform of Six Realists 79
  • Notes 86
  • The Approach to Critical Realism 87
  • Notes 104
  • Selected Bibligraphy 107
  • Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies 109
  • Introduction 111
  • Notes 119
  • Realism and Common Sense 121
  • The Refutation of Idealism 121
  • Note 137
  • The Subject-Matter of Ethics 138
  • Notes 162
  • A Defence of Common Sense 163
  • Proof of an External World 184
  • Note 201
  • Selected Bibliography 203
  • Logical Atomism 205
  • Facts and Propositions 205
  • Note 212
  • Particulars, Predicates, and Relations 213
  • Note 222
  • Excursus into Metaphysics What There Is 223
  • Note 232
  • Selected Bibliography 233
  • Logical Positivism 235
  • The Elimination of Metaphysics 235
  • Notes 246
  • The Futiction of Philosophy 247
  • Notes 252
  • The a Priori 253
  • Notes 264
  • Truth and Probability 265
  • Notes 270
  • Critique of Ethics and Theology 271
  • Notes 284
  • Selected Bibliography 286
  • Conceptual Analysis 287
  • Systematically Misleading Expressions 287
  • Wittgenstein's Lectures in 1930-33 307
  • Notes 319
  • Philosophical Perplexity 320
  • Notes 331
  • Philosophy, Anxiety, and Novelty 332
  • Notes 337
  • Gods 338
  • Notes 351
  • Descartes' Myth 353
  • Selected Bibliography 365
  • Logico-Metaphysical Analysis 367
  • Logical Positivism, Language, and the Reconstruction of Metaphysics 367
  • Note 377
  • On What There Is 378
  • Notes 390
  • Two Dogmas of Empiricism 391
  • Notes 409
  • Selected Bibliography 410
  • Linguistic Analysis 411
  • Performative-Constative 411
  • Notes 419
  • Intention and Convention in Speech Acts 421
  • Notes 436
  • What is a Speech Act? 437
  • Notes 451
  • Selected Bibliography 452
  • General Works on Analytic Philosophy 453
  • Sources of More Complete Bibliographies 454
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