Willard Van Orman Quine
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Western Philosophy 20thcentury philosophy 

Willard Van Orman Quine 

Full name  Willard Van Orman Quine 

School/tradition  Analytic 
Main interests  Logic, Ontology, Epistemology, Philosophy of language, Philosophy of mathematics, Philosophy of science, Set theory. 
Notable ideas  Indeterminacy of translation, Inscrutability of reference, Ontological relativity, Quine's paradox, Radical translation, Confirmation holism, QuineMcCluskey algorithm, Philosophical naturalism. 
Influenced by


Influenced

Willard Van Orman Quine (June 25, 1908 Akron, Ohio – December 25, 2000) (known to intimates as "Van"), was an American analytic philosopher and logician. From 1930 until his death 70 years later, Quine was affiliated in some way with Harvard University, first as a student, then as a professor of philosophy and a teacher of mathematics, and finally as an emeritus elder statesman who published or revised seven books in retirement. He filled the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard, 195678. Quine falls squarely into the analytic philosophy tradition while also being the main proponent of the view that philosophy is not conceptual analysis. His major writings include "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", which attacked the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions and advocated a form of semantic holism, and Word and Object which further developed these positions and introduced the notorious indeterminacy of translation thesis.
Contents 
[edit] Biography
The Time of My Life (1986) is his autobiography. Quine grew up in Akron, Ohio. His father was a manufacturing entrepreneur and his mother was a schoolteacher. He received his B.A. in mathematics and philosophy 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 193233, he travelled in Europe thanks to a Sheldon fellowship, meeting Polish logicians (including Alfred Tarski) and members of the Vienna Circle (including Rudolf Carnap).
It was through Quine's good offices that Alfred Tarski was invited to attend the September 1939 Unity of Science Congress in Cambridge. To attend that Congress, Tarski sailed for the USA on the last ship to leave Gdańsk before the Third Reich invaded Poland. Tarski survived the war and worked another 44 years in the USA.
During WWII, Quine lectured on logic in Brazil, in Portuguese, and served in the United States Navy in a military intelligence role, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
At Harvard, Quine helped supervise the Harvard theses of, among others, Donald Davidson, David Lewis, Daniel Dennett, Gilbert Harman, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Hao Wang, Hugues LeBlanc and Henry Hiz.
Quine had four children by two marriages.
[edit] Work
Quine's Ph.D. thesis and early publications were on formal logic and set theory. Only after WWII 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 often wrote superbly crafted and witty English prose. He had a gift for languages and could lecture in French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. But like the logical positivists, he evinced little interest in the philosophical canon: only once did he teach a course in the history of philosophy, on Hume.
Academic Genealogy  

Notable teachers  Notable students 
Rudolf Carnap Clarence Irving Lewis Alfred North Whitehead 
Donald Davidson Daniel Dennett Dagfinn Føllesdal Gilbert Harman David Lewis Hao Wang Theodore Kaczynski Tom Lehrer Michael Silverstein 
[edit] Rejection of the analyticsynthetic distinction
In the 1930s and 40s, discussions with 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's criticisms played a major role in the decline of logical positivism, he remained a verificationist, to the point of invoking verificationism to undermine the analyticsynthetic distinction. As a verificationist, he drew on several sources including his Harvard colleague B.F. Skinner, and particularly on his analysis of language in Verbal Behavior. Quine was a major editor of the journal Behaviorism.
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 is synonymous with "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.
[edit] 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 underdetermined by empirical data (data, sensorydata, 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 statements 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.
Quine's writings have led to the wide acceptance of instrumentalism in the philosophy of science.
[edit] Existence and Its Contrary
The problem of nonreferring names is an old puzzle in philosophy, which Quine captured eloquently when he wrote,
"A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put into three AngloSaxon monosyllables: 'What is there?' It can be answered, moreover, in a word'Everything'and everyone will accept this answer as true."^{[1]}
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 nonreferring 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, Czeslaw Lejewski criticizes this belief for reducing the matter to empirical discovery when it seems we should have a formal distinction between referring and nonreferring terms or elements of our domain. He 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 reexamination of the two inferences [existential generalization and universal instantiation] may prove worth our while." He then goes on to offer a description of free logic, which he claims accommodates an answer to the problem.
Lejewski then 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.^{[2]}
[edit] Logic
Over the course of his career, Quine published a number of technical and expository papers on formal logic, a number of which are reprinted in his Selected Logic Papers and in The Ways of Paradox.
Quine confined logic to classical bivalent firstorder logic, hence to truth and falsity under any (nonempty) universe of discourse. Hence the following were not logic for Quine:
 Higher order logic and set theory. He famously referred to higher order logic as "set theory in disguise";
 Much of Principia Mathematica included in logic was not logic for Quine.
 Formal systems involving intensional notions, especially modality. Quine was especially hostile to modal logic with quantification, a battle he largely lost when Saul Kripke's possible worlds semantics became canonical for modal logics.
Quine wrote three undergraduate texts on 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 firstorder 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 WWII until his 1978 retirement.
 Philosophy of Logic. A concise and witty undergraduate treatment of a number of Quinian themes, such as the prevalence of usemention confusions, the dubiousness of quantified modal logic, and the nonlogical character of higherorder 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 of 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 nowdated 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 QuineMcCluskey algorithm of reducing Boolean equations to a minimum covering sum of prime implicants.
[edit] 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 allowed by type theory would allow, were the ontology to include types. However, Quine's set theory do not feature types. The metamathematics of NF are curious. NF allows many "large" sets the nowcanonical 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 (relative) consistency of NF is an open question. 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 Quinian set theories with a following. For a derivation of foundational mathematics in NF, see Rosser (1953);
 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. However, Fraenkel, BarHillel and Levy (1973) do a better job of surveying set theory as it stood at midcentury.
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. His 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: set 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.
[edit] Quine's Epistemology
Just as he challenged the dominant analyticsynthetic distinction, Quine also took aim at traditional normative epistemology. According to Quine, normative epistemology is the trend that assigns ought claims to conditions of knowledge. This approach, he argued, has failed to give us any real understanding of the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge. Quine recommended that, as an alternative, we look to natural sciences like psychology for a full explanation of knowledge. Thus, we must totally replace our entire epistemological paradigm. Quine's proposal is extremely controversial among contemporary philosphers and has several important critics, with Jaegwon Kim the most prominent among them.^{[3]}
[edit] Quine's Reductio of the Library of Babel
In a short essay, Quine noted the interesting fact that the Library of Babel is finite (i.e., we will theoretically come to a point in history where everything has been written), and that the Library of Babel can be constructed in its entirety simply by two volumes, one consisting in nothing but a dot and the other a dash. These two volumes could then be alternated back and forth at random by the bearer, who then be able to read the resulting text in binary. This, according to Quine shows that "everything worth saying, and everything else as well, can be said with two characters."^{[4]}
[edit] In popular culture
 A computer program whose output is its source code is named a "quine" after W.V. Quine.
 The rock and roll guitarist Robert Quine was his nephew.
 The book Armadillo by William Boyd contains a quote from W.V. Quine.
 The Mexican short story Valenta, Marek features a chess player who studied the writings of Quine and blurred the distinction between reality and chess.
[edit] Writings by Quine
[edit] Selected books
 1951 (1940). Mathematical Logic. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0674554515.
 1966. Selected Logic Papers. New York: Random House.
 1970. The Web of Belief. New York: Random House.
 1980 (1941). Elementary Logic. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0674244516.
 1982 (1950). Methods of Logic. Harvard Univ. Press.
 1980 (1953). From a Logical Point of View. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0674323513. Contains "Two dogmas of Empiricism."
 1960 Word and Object. MIT Press; ISBN 0262670011. The closest thing Quine wrote to a philosophical treatise. Chpt. 2 sets out the indeterminacy of translation thesis.
 1976 (1966). The Ways of Paradox. Harvard Univ. Press.
 1969 Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. Columbia Univ. Press. ISBN 0231083572. 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 0262170035. 1986: Harvard Univ. Press.
 1986 (1970). The Philosophy of Logic. Harvard Univ. Press.
 1987 Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0140125221. 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 0674739515.
[edit] 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. Reprinted in his 1953 From a Logical Point of View. Harvard University Press.
 1951, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism," The Philosophical Review 60: 2043. 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: 18596.
 1969, "Epistemology Naturalized" in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press: 6990.
[edit] About Quine
 Gibson, Roger F., 1982/86. The Philosophy of W.V. Quine: An Expository Essay. Tampa: University of South Florida.
 , 1988. Enlightened Empiricism: An Examination of W. V. Quine's Theory of Knowledge (Tampa: University of South Florida.
 , ed., 2004. The Cambridge Companion to Quine. Cambridge University Press.
 , 2004. Quintessence: Basic Readings from the Philosophy of W. V. Quine. Harvard Univ. Press.
  and Barrett, R., eds., 1990. Perspectives on Quine. Oxford: Blackwell.
 Paul Gochet, 1978. Quine en perspective, Paris, Flammarion.
 Ivor GrattanGuinness, 2000. The Search for Mathematical Roots 18701940. Princeton University Press.
 Hahn, L. E., and Schilpp, P. A., eds., 1986. The Philosophy of W. V. O. Quine (The Library of Living Philosophers). Open Court.
 Köhler, Dieter, 1999/2003. Sinnesreize, Sprache und Erfahrung: eine Studie zur Quineschen Erkenntnistheorie. Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Heidelberg.
 Orenstein, Alex (2002). W.V. Quine. Princeton University Press.
 John Barkley Rosser, 1953.
 Valore, Paolo, 2001. Questioni di ontologia quineana, Milano: Cusi.
[edit] References
 ^ W.V.O. Quine, "On What There Is" The Review of Metaphysics, New Haven 1948, 2, 21
 ^ Czeslaw Lejewski, "Logic and Existence" British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Vol. 5 (19545), pp. 104119
 ^ http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemologynaturalized/
 ^ "Universal Library" by W.V.O Quine
[edit] See also
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Willard Van Orman Quine 
[edit] External links
 Willard Van Orman Quine—Philosopher and Mathematician. By his son; includes complete bibliography of Quine's writings, students, art, memorials, and list of travels
 Obituary from The Guardian: "Philosopher whose revolutionary ideas challenged the accepted way we look at ourselves and our universe "
 Text of "Two Dogmas of Empiricism"
 Text of "On Simple Theories Of A Complex World"
 Text of "On What There Is"



Persondata  

NAME  Quine, Willard Van Orman 
ALTERNATIVE NAMES  
SHORT DESCRIPTION  American philosopher 
DATE OF BIRTH  June 25, 1908 
PLACE OF BIRTH  Akron, Ohio, United States 
DATE OF DEATH  December 25, 2000 
PLACE OF DEATH  Boston, Massachusetts, United States 