- Willard Van Orman Quine
- Unreferenced|date=August 2007Infobox Philosopher
color = #B0C4DE
image_caption = Willard Van Orman Quine
name = Willard Van Orman Quine
birth = birth date|mf=yes|1908|6|25
death = death date and age|mf=yes|2000|12|25|1908|6|25
school_tradition = Analytic
Logic· Ontology· Epistemology Philosophy of language Philosophy of mathematics Philosophy of science Set theory
Indeterminacy of translation Inscrutability of reference Ontological relativity Radical translation Confirmation holism Philosophical naturalism
Rudolf Carnap· Alfred Tarski Vienna Circle· Bertrand RussellC.I. Lewis· A.N. Whitehead William of Ockham
influenced = Donald Davidson·
Daniel DennettDavid Lewis· Scott SoamesDavid Kaplan· Richard Rorty Gila Sher· Patricia Churchland Noam Chomsky
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 PierceChair of Philosophy at Harvard, 1956-78. Quine falls squarely into the analytic philosophytradition 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 translationthesis.
"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 Collegein 1930 and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard Universityin 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 1932-33, he travelled in Europe thanks to a 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 Tarskiwas invited to attend the September 1939 Unity of ScienceCongress in Cambridge. To attend that Congress, Tarski sailed for the USA on the last ship to leave Gdańskbefore the Third Reichinvaded 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 intelligencerole, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Quine had four children by two marriages.
Quine's Ph.D. thesis and early publications were on
formal logicand set theory. Only after WWII did he, by virtue of seminal papers on ontology, epistemologyand 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.
Rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction
In the 1930s and 40s, discussions with Carnap,
Nelson Goodmanand 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 analytic-synthetic 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".
analyticphilosophers before him, Quine accepted the definitionof "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.
Confirmation holism and ontological relativity
The central theses underlying the
indeterminacy of translationand other extensions of Quine's work are ontological relativityand the related doctrineof confirmation holism. The premise of confirmation holismis that all theories (and the propositions derived from them) are under-determined by empirical data (data, sensory-data, 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".
relativism(evident in the passage above) led him to agree with Pierre Duhemthat for any collection of empirical evidence, there would always be many theories able to account for it. However, Duhem's holismis much more restricted and limited than Quine's. For Duhem, underdetermination applies only to physicsor 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
instrumentalismin the philosophy of science.
Existence and Its Contrary
The problem of non-referring 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 Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: 'What is there?' It can be answered, moreover, in a word--'Everything'--and everyone will accept this answer as true." [W.V.O. Quine, "On What There Is" The Review of Metaphysics, New Haven 1948, 2, 21]
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." To cast the problem in logic, how can we make sense of the sentence "Pegasus does not exist," which would generalize into the form (∃x)(x does not exist)?
Quine resists the temptation to say that non-referring 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 Lejewskicriticizes this belief for reducing the matter to empirical discovery when it seems we should have a formal distinction between referring and non-referring 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 re-examination 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. [Czeslaw Lejewski, "Logic and Existence" British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Vol. 5 (1954-5), pp. 104-119]
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 classic bivalent
first-order 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 logicas "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 theoryor first-order predicate logic. Quine wrote this book in 6 weeks as an ad hocsolution 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 use-mention confusions, the dubiousness of quantified modal logic, and the non-logical character of higher-order 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 Godel's incompleteness theoremof 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 metalogicleft something to be desired. For example, "Mathematical Logic" does not include any proofs of soundnessand completeness. Early in his career, the notation of his writings on logic was often idiosyncratic. His later writings nearly always employed the now-dated 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 algebraemployed in electrical engineering, and with Edward J. McCluskey, devised the Quine-McCluskey algorithmof reducing Boolean equations to a minimum covering sum of prime implicants.
While his contributions to logic include elegant expositions and a number of technical results, it is in
set theorythat 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 nominalismfor 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 theorywould allow, were the ontologyto include types. However, Quine's set theory do not feature types. The metamathematics of NF are curious. NF allows many "large" sets the now-canonical ZFCset theory does not allow, even sets for which the axiom of choicedoes 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, Bar-Hillel and Levy (1973) do a better job of surveying set theory as it stood at mid-century.
All three set theories admit a universal class, but since they are free of any
hierarchyof 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 ponensand substitution. His preferred conjunction to either disjunctionor the conditional, because conjunctionhas 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 abstractionand 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".
Quine's Reductio of the Library of Babel
In one short essay, Quine noted the interesting fact that the
Library of Babelis 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 writing a dot on one piece of paper and a dash on another. These two sheets of paper could then be alternated back and forth at random by the bearer, who would be able to read the resulting text in binary as he flipped them back and forth. This shows that the Library of Babel is actually quite manageable, and that everyone with paper and a pencil can create it. [ [http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscordia/universal_library.html "Universal Library"] by W.V.O Quine]
In popular culture
computer programwhose output is its source code is named a "quine" after W.V. Quine.
rock and rollguitarist Robert Quinewas his nephew.
* The book "Armadillo" by William Boyd contains a quote from W.V. Quine.
Writings by Quine
*1951 (1940). "Mathematical Logic". Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-55451-5.
*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 0-674-24451-6.
*1982 (1950). "Methods of Logic". Harvard Univ. Press.
*1980 (1953). "From a Logical Point of View". Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-32351-3. Contains " [http://www.ditext.com/quine/quine.html Two dogmas of Empiricism.] "
*1960 "Word and Object". MIT Press; ISBN 0-262-67001-1. The closest thing Quine wrote to a philosophical treatise. Chpt. 2 sets out the
indeterminacy of translationthesis.
*1976 (1966). "The Ways of Paradox". Harvard Univ. Press.
*1969 "Ontological Relativity and Other Essays". Columbia Univ. Press. ISBN 0-231-08357-2. Contains chapters on
ontological relativity, naturalized epistemologyand 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 0-262-17003-5. 1986: Harvard Univ. Press.
*1986 (1970). "The Philosophy of Logic". Harvard Univ. Press.
*1987 "Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary". Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-14-012522-1. 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 0-674-73951-5.
*1946, "Concatenation as a basis for arithmetic." Reprinted in his "Selected Logic Papers". Harvard Univ. Press.
On What There Is," "Review of Metaphysics". Reprinted in his 1953 "From a Logical Point of View". Harvard University Press.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism," "The Philosophical Review 60": 20-43. 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: 185-96.
Epistemology Naturalized" in "Ontological Relativity and Other Essays". New York: Columbia University Press: 69-90.
* 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 Grattan-Guinness, 2000. "The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870-1940". 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. " [http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/archiv/3548 Sinnesreize, Sprache und Erfahrung: eine Studie zur Quineschen Erkenntnistheorie] ". Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Heidelberg.
*cite book |last=Orenstein |first=Alex |title=W.V. Quine |year=2002 |publisher=Princeton University Press
John Barkley Rosser, 1953.
* Valore, Paolo, 2001. "Questioni di ontologia quineana", Milano: Cusi.
Hold come what may
Hold more stubbornly at least
Indeterminacy of translation
predicate functor logic
Two Dogmas of Empiricism
* [http://www.wvquine.org/ 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: " [http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,416245,00.html Philosopher whose revolutionary ideas challenged the accepted way we look at ourselves and our universe ] "
* Text of " [http://www.ditext.com/quine/quine.html Two Dogmas of Empiricism] "
* Text of " [http://sveinbjorn.org/simple_theories_of_a_complex_world On Simple Theories Of A Complex World] "
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
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