Willard Van Orman Quine
(m. 1932; div. 1947)
(m. 1948; died 1998)
C. I. Lewis
|Doctoral students||David Lewis, Gilbert Harman, Dagfinn Føllesdal, Hao Wang, Burton Dreben, Charles Parsons, John Myhill, Robert McNaughton|
|Other notable students||Donald Davidson, Daniel Dennett|
|Logic, ontology, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, set theory|
Willard Van Orman Quine (
Quine was a teacher of logic and
His major writings include the papers "On What There Is" (1948), which elucidated
Quine grew up in Akron, Ohio, where he lived with his parents and older brother Robert Cloyd. His father, Cloyd Robert, was a manufacturing entrepreneur (founder of the Akron Equipment Company, which produced tire molds) and his mother, Harriett E., was a schoolteacher and later a housewife. Quine was an atheist when he was a teenager.
Quine received his
World War II
Quine arranged for
Quine was politically conservative, but the bulk of his writing was in technical areas of philosophy removed from direct political issues.
At Harvard, Quine helped supervise the Harvard
Quine's student Dagfinn Føllesdal noted that Quine suffered from memory loss towards his final years. The deterioration of his short-term memory was so severe that he struggled to continue following arguments. Quine also had considerable difficulty in his project to make the desired revisions to Word and Object. Before passing away, Quine noted to
Quine's Ph.D. thesis and early publications were on
Like the majority of analytic philosophers, who were mostly interested in systematic thinking, Quine evinced little interest in the philosophical canon: only once did he teach a course in the history of philosophy, on David Hume, in 1946.[clarification needed]
Over the course of his career, Quine published numerous technical and expository papers on formal logic, some of which are reprinted in his Selected Logic Papers and in The Ways of Paradox. His most well-known collection of papers is From A Logical Point of View. Quine confined logic to classical bivalent
- Higher-order logic and set theory. He referred to higher-order logic as "set theory in disguise";
- Much of what Principia Mathematica included in logic was not logic for Quine.
- Formal systems involving
Quine wrote three undergraduate texts on formal logic:
- Elementary Logic. While teaching an introductory course in 1940, Quine discovered that extant texts for philosophy students did not do justice to 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 World War II 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 1940s. It shows that much of what
Quine's work in logic gradually became dated in some respects. Techniques he did not teach and discuss include
Most of Quine's original work in formal logic from 1960 onwards was on variants of his
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
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 axiomatic set theories.
- Peano arithmetic, thus vindicating the intuition behind NF. NF and NFU are the only Quinean set theories with a following. For a derivation of foundational mathematics in NF, see Rosser (1952);
- 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.
All three set theories admit a universal class, but since they are free of any
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
Rejection of the analytic–synthetic distinction
In the 1930s and 40s, discussions with
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 cognitive synonymy (sameness of meaning). He argues that analytical sentences are typically divided into two kinds; sentences that are clearly logically true (e.g. "no unmarried man is married") and the more dubious ones; sentences like "no bachelor is married". Previously it was thought that if you can prove that there is synonymity between "unmarried man" and "bachelor", you have proved that both sentences are logically true and therefore self evident. Quine however gives several arguments for why this is not possible, for instance that "bachelor" in some contexts mean a Bachelor of Arts, not an unmarried man.
Confirmation holism and ontological relativity
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, known as the Duhem–Quine thesis. 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 statement 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.
Existence and its contrary
The problem of non-referring names is an old puzzle in philosophy, which Quine captured 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.
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 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, Czesław Lejewski criticizes 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. Lejewski 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.
Lejewski then goes on to offer a description of free logic, which he claims accommodates an answer to the problem.
Lejewski also 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.
The notion of
Indispensability argument for mathematical realism
The form of the argument is as follows.
- One must have ontologicalcommitments to all entities that are indispensable to the best scientific theories, and to those entities only (commonly referred to as "all and only").
- Mathematical entities are indispensable to the best scientific theories. Therefore,
- One must have ontological commitments to mathematical entities.
The justification for the first premise is the most controversial. Both Putnam and Quine invoke naturalism to justify the exclusion of all non-scientific entities, and hence to defend the "only" part of "all and only". The assertion that "all" entities postulated in scientific theories, including numbers, should be accepted as real is justified by confirmation holism. Since theories are not confirmed in a piecemeal fashion, but as a whole, there is no justification for excluding any of the entities referred to in well-confirmed theories. This puts the nominalist who wishes to exclude the existence of sets and non-Euclidean geometry, but to include the existence of quarks and other undetectable entities of physics, for example, in a difficult position.
Just as he challenged the dominant analytic–synthetic distinction, Quine also took aim at traditional
Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science. It studies a natural phenomenon, viz., a physical human subject. This human subject is accorded a certain experimentally controlled input—certain patterns of irradiation in assorted frequencies, for instance—and in the fullness of time the subject delivers as output a description of the three-dimensional external world and its history. The relation between the meager input and the torrential output is a relation that we are prompted to study for somewhat the same reasons that always prompted epistemology: namely, in order to see how evidence relates to theory, and in what ways one's theory of nature transcends any available evidence... But a conspicuous difference between old epistemology and the epistemological enterprise in this new psychological setting is that we can now make free use of empirical psychology.
As previously reported, in other occasions Quine used the term "neurology" instead of "empirical psychology".
In popular culture
- A Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.
- Quine is a recurring character in the webcomic "Existential Comics".
- Quine was selected for inclusion in the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry's "Pantheon of Skeptics", which celebrates contributors to the cause of scientific skepticism.
- 1934 A System of Logistic. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1951 (1940). Mathematical Logic. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-55451-5.
- 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.
- 1969 (1963). Set Theory and Its Logic. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1966. Selected Logic Papers. New York: Random House.
- 1976 (1966). The Ways of Paradox. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1969 Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. Columbia Univ. Press.
- 1970 (2nd ed., 1978). With J. S. Ullian. The Web of Belief. New York: Random House.
- 1986 (1970). The Philosophy of Logic. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1974 (1971).
- 1981. Theories and Things. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1985. The Time of My Life: An Autobiography. Cambridge, The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-17003-5.
- 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.
- 1995. From Stimulus to Science. Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-32635-0.
- 2004. Quintessence: Basic Readings from the Philosophy of W V Quine. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 2008. Confessions of a Confirmed Extensionalist and Other Essays. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1946, "Concatenation as a basis for arithmetic". Reprinted in his Selected Logic Papers. Harvard Univ. Press.
- 1948, "
- 1951, "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 Philosophy53. Reprinted in his 1976 Ways of Paradox. Harvard Univ. Press: 185–196.
- 1969, "Epistemology Naturalized" in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press: 69–90.
- "Truth by Convention", first published in 1936. Reprinted in the book, Readings in Philosophical Analysis, edited by Herbert Feigl and Wilfrid Sellars, pp. 250–273, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949.
- Bryan Magee (host), Men of Ideas: "The Ideas of Quine", BBC, 1978.
- Rudolf Fara (host), In conversation: W. V. Quine (7 videocassettes), Philosophy International, Centre for Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences, London School of Economics, 1994.
- Bueno, Otávio (2020). "Nominalism in the Philosophy of Mathematics". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 ed.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
- "Scientific Realism and Antirealism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- "Pragmatism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Poston, Ted. "Foundationalism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). "Behaviorism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Hunter, Bruce (2021). "Clarence Irving Lewis". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2021 ed.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
- Quine, W. V. (1966). "The Ways of Paradox". The Ways of Paradox, and Other Essays. New York: Random House.
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F. (October 2003), "Willard Van Orman Quine", MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, University of St Andrews
- Colyvan, Mark, "Indispensability Arguments in the Philosophy of Mathematics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
- "Quine, Willard Van Orman: Philosophy of Science". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2009.
- The Wall Street Journal, obituary for W. V. Quine – January 4, 2001
- Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary, entry for Tolerance (pp. 206–208).
- "Paradoxes of Plenty" in Theories and Things, p. 197.
- The Time of My Life: An Autobiography, pp. 352–353.
- "Guide to the Center for Advanced Studies Records, 1958–1969" Archived March 14, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. Weselyan University. Wesleyan.edu. Accessed March 8, 2010.
- "Honorary doctorates – Uppsala University, Sweden". June 9, 2023.
- "Willard van Orman Quine; Renowned Philosopher". Los Angeles Times. December 31, 2000.
- Pakaluk, Michael (1989). "Quine's 1946 Lectures on Hume". Journal of the History of Philosophy. 27 (3): 445–459.
- Nelson Goodman and W. V. O. Quine, "Steps Toward a Constructive Nominalism", Journal of Symbolic Logic, 12 (1947): 105–122.
- W. V. O. Quine, "On What There Is", The Review of Metaphysics 2(5), 1948.
- Czeslaw Lejewski, "Logic and Existence". British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 5 (1954–1955), pp. 104–119.
- Craig, Edward (1996). "Ontological commitment". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
- Simons, Peter M. "Ontology". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
- Bricker, Phillip (2016). "Ontological Commitment". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved December 13, 2020.
- Magnus, P. D.; Ichikawa, Jonathan Jenkins (2020). "V. First-order logic". Forall X (UBC ed.). Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.
- Schaffer, Jonathan (2009). "On What Grounds What". Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 347–383.
- Quine, Willard Van Orman (1948). "On What There Is". Review of Metaphysics. 2 (5): 21–38.
- Inwagen, Peter van (2004). "A Theory of Properties". Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Volume 1. Clarendon Press. pp. 107–138.
- Kapelner, Zsolt-kristof (2015). "3. Quinean Metaontology". Reconciling Quinean and neo-Aristotelian Metaontology (PDF).
- Putnam, H. Mathematics, Matter and Method. Philosophical Papers, vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975. 2nd. ed., 1985.
- "Naturalism in Epistemology". Naturalized Epistemology. stanford.edu. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. 2017.
- "Naturalized Epistemology". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Plato.stanford.edu. July 5, 2001. Accessed March 8, 2010.
- C. Mohler. "Existential Comics: The Sighting". Existential Comics. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
- "The Pantheon of Skeptics". CSI. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on January 31, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
- In this paper, Quine explicitly connected each of the three main medieval ontological positions, namely realism/conceptualism/nominalism, with one of three dominant schools in modern philosophy of mathematics: logicism/intuitionism/formalism respectively.
- ISBN 0521639492.
- Gibson, Roger F. (1988). The Philosophy of W. V. Quine: An Expository Essay. Tampa: University of South Florida.
- Gibson, Roger F. (1988). Enlightened Empiricism: An Examination of W. V. Quine's Theory of Knowledge. Tampa: University of South Florida.
- Gibson, Roger F. (2004). Quintessence: Basic Readings from the Philosophy of W. V. Quine. Harvard University Press.
- Gibson, Roger F.; Barrett, R., eds. (1990). Perspectives on Quine. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
- Gochet, Paul, 1978. Quine en perspective, Paris, Flammarion.
- Godfrey-Smith, Peter, 2003. Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science.
- Grattan-Guinness, Ivor, 2000. The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870–1940. Princeton University Press.
- Peter Strawson. "In Defense of a Dogma". The Philosophical Review 65 (1965).
- 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.
- MacFarlane, Alistair (March–April 2013). "W. V. O. Quine (1908-2000)". Philosophy Now. 95: 35–36.
- Murray Murphey, The Development of Quine's Philosophy (Heidelberg, Springer, 2012) (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 291).
- Orenstein, Alex (2002). W.V. Quine. Princeton University Press.
- Putnam, Hilary. "The Greatest Logical Positivist". Reprinted in Realism with a Human Face, ed. James Conant. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.
- Rosser, John Barkley, "The axiom of infinity in Quine's new foundations", Journal of Symbolic Logic 17 (4):238–242, 1952.
- Verhaeg, Sander (2018). Working from Within: The Nature and Development of Quine's Naturalism. Oxford University Press.
- Willard Van Orman Quine at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- "Quine's Rejection of the Analytic/Synthetic Distinction". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- "Quine's Philosophy of Science" at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Quine's New Foundations at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Willard Van Orman Quine at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Obituary from The Guardian
- Summary and Explanation of "On What There Is"
- "Two Dogmas of Empiricism"
- "On Simple Theories Of A Complex World"