Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Kenelm Digby, Willard Quine and Brian R. Martin

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26 ideas

10. Modality / A. Necessity / 2. Nature of Necessity
Necessity can attach to statement-names, to statements, and to open sentences [Quine]
     Full Idea: Three degrees necessity in logic or semantics: first and least is attaching a semantical predicate to the names of statements (as Nec '9>5'); second and more drastic attaches to statements themselves; third and gravest attaches to open sentences.
     From: Willard Quine (Three Grades of Modal Involvement [1953], p.158)
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 4. De re / De dicto modality
To be necessarily greater than 7 is not a trait of 7, but depends on how 7 is referred to [Quine]
     Full Idea: To be necessarily greater than 7 is not a trait of a number, but depends on the manner of referring to the number.
     From: Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953], §2)
     A reaction: The most concise quotation of Quine's objection to 'de re' modality. The point is whether the number might have been referred to as 'the number of planets'. So many of these problems are solved by fixing unambiguous propositions first.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 6. Logical Necessity
Contrary to some claims, Quine does not deny logical necessity [Quine, by McFetridge]
     Full Idea: Nothing in Quine's argument seems to be said directly against the view that the propositions of logic are necessary truths, ..though Crispin Wright has represented him as saying this at the end of 'Two Dogmas'.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Ian McFetridge - Logical Necessity: Some Issues §3
     A reaction: Quine famously denies that logical truths are merely a matter of convention, so the question is, if he believes in logical necessity, what does he think is the basis of it? Answers, as always, on a postcard.
Frege moved Kant's question about a priori synthetic to 'how is logical certainty possible?' [Quine]
     Full Idea: When Kant's arithmetical examples of a priori synthetic judgements were sweepingly disqualified by Frege's reduction of arithmetic to logic, attention moved to the less tendentious and logically prior question 'How is logical certainty possible?'
     From: Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954], I)
     A reaction: A nice summary of the story so far, from someone who should know. This still leaves the question open of whether any synthetic truths can be derived from the logical certainties which are available.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 11. Denial of Necessity
Necessity is in the way in which we say things, and not things themselves [Quine]
     Full Idea: Necessity resides in the way in which we say things, and not in the things we talk about.
     From: Willard Quine (Three Grades of Modal Involvement [1953], p.176)
     A reaction: This is a culminating idea of Quine's thoroughgoing empiricism, as filtered through logical positivism. I would hardly dare to accuse Quine of a use/mention confusion (his own bęte noir), but one seems to me to be lurking here.
Whether 9 is necessarily greater than 7 depends on how '9' is described [Quine, by Fine,K]
     Full Idea: Quine's metaphysical argument is that if 9 is 7+2 the number 9 will be necessarily greater than 7, but when 9 is described as the number of planets, the number will not be necessarily greater than 7. The necessity depends on how it is described.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953]) by Kit Fine - Intro to 'Modality and Tense' p. 3
     A reaction: Thus necessity would be entirely 'de dicto' and not 'de re'. It sounds like a feeble argument. If I describe the law of identity (a=a) as 'my least favourite logical principle', that won't make it contingent. Describe 9, or refer to it? See Idea 9203.
Quine's attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction undermined necessary truths [Quine, by Shoemaker]
     Full Idea: Quine's attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction sought to contract, if not to empty, the class of truths that are called necessary.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Sydney Shoemaker - Causal and Metaphysical Necessity I
     A reaction: The thought was that absolutely everything, including, for example, basic logic, became potentially revisable. See the last section of Quine's paper.
Necessity only applies to objects if they are distinctively specified [Quine]
     Full Idea: Necessity does not properly apply to the fulfilment of conditions by objects (such as the number which numbers the planets), apart from special ways of specifying them.
     From: Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953], §3)
     A reaction: This appears to say that the only necessity is 'de dicto', and that there is no such thing as 'de re' necessity (of the thing in itself). How can Quine deny that there might be de re necessities? His point is epistemological - how can we know them?
There is no necessity higher than natural necessity, and that is just regularity [Quine]
     Full Idea: In principle I see no higher or more austere necessity than natural necessity; and in natural necessity, or our attribution of it, I see only Hume's regularities
     From: Willard Quine (Necessary Truth [1963], p.76)
     A reaction: Presumably this allows logical necessity as a 'lower' necessity, but denies 'metaphysical' necessity, in line with Hume and other tough empiricists. Personally I adore metaphysical necessities, but they are a bit hard to establish conclusively.
Necessity could be just generalisation over classes, or (maybe) quantifying over possibilia [Quine]
     Full Idea: The need to add a note of necessity to 'all black crows are black' could be met by a generalisation over classes (what belongs to sets x and y belongs to y), or maybe be quantifying over possible particulars.
     From: Willard Quine (On Multiplying Entities [1974], p.262)
     A reaction: He dislikes the second strategy because 'unactualized particulars are an obscure and troublesome lot'. The second is the strategy of Lewis. I think necessity starts to creep back in as soon as you ask WHY a generalisation holds true.
Necessity is relative to context; it is what is assumed in an inquiry [Quine]
     Full Idea: The very notion of necessity makes sense to me only relative to context. Typically it is applied to what is assumed in an inquiry, as against what has yet to transpire.
     From: Willard Quine (Intensions Revisited [1977], p.121)
     A reaction: Lots of things are assumed by an inquiry without an assumption that they must be true. Quine is the greatest opponent of necessity in all of philosophy. Asserting necessities, though, is too much fun to give up. It would ruin philosophy.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
Quine wants identity and individuation-conditions for possibilia [Quine, by Lycan]
     Full Idea: Quine notoriously demands identity and individuation-conditions for mere possibilia.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by William Lycan - The Trouble with Possible Worlds 01
     A reaction: Demanding individuation before speaking of anything strikes me as dubious. 'Whoever did this should own up'. 'There must be something we can do'. Obviously you need some idea of what you are talking about - but not much.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 8. Conditionals / b. Types of conditional
Some conditionals can be explained just by negation and conjunction: not(p and not-q) [Quine]
     Full Idea: Often the purpose of a conditional, 'if p, q', can be served simply by negation and conjunction: not(p and not-q), the so-called 'material conditional'.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.2)
     A reaction: Logicians love the neatness of that, but get into trouble elsewhere with conditionals, particularly over the implications of not-p.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 8. Conditionals / c. Truth-function conditionals
Normal conditionals have a truth-value gap when the antecedent is false. [Quine]
     Full Idea: In its unquantified form 'If p then q' the indicative conditional is perhaps best represented as suffering a truth-value gap whenever its antecedent is false.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46)
     A reaction: That is, the clear truth-functional reading of the conditional (favoured by Lewis, his pupil) is unacceptable. Quine favours the Edgington line, that we are only interested in situations where the antecedent might be true.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 8. Conditionals / e. Supposition conditionals
Conditionals are pointless if the truth value of the antecedent is known [Quine]
     Full Idea: The ordinary conditional loses its point when the truth value of its antecedent is known.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46)
     A reaction: A beautifully simple point that reveals a lot about what conditionals are.
Normally conditionals have no truth value; it is the consequent which has a conditional truth value [Quine]
     Full Idea: Ordinarily the conditional is not thought of as true or false at all, but rather the consequent is thought of as conditionally true or false given the antecedent.
     From: Willard Quine (Mr Strawson on Logical Theory [1953], III)
     A reaction: At first this seems obvious, but a conditional asserts a relationship between two propositions, and so presumably it is true if that relationship exists. 'Is it actually true that if it is Monday then everyone in the office is depressed?'.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 9. Counterfactuals
What stays the same in assessing a counterfactual antecedent depends on context [Quine]
     Full Idea: The traits to suppose preserved in a counterfactual depend on sympathy for the fabulist's purpose. Compare 'If Caesar were in command, he would use the atom bomb', and 'If Caesar were in command, he would use catapults'.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46)
     A reaction: This seems to be an important example for the Lewis approach, since you are asked to consider the 'nearest' possible world, but that will depend on context.
Counterfactuals are plausible when dispositions are involved, as they imply structures [Quine]
     Full Idea: The subjunctive conditional is seen at its most respectable in the disposition terms. ...The reason is that they are conceived as built-in, enduring structural traits.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46)
     A reaction: Surprisingly, this is very sympathetic to a metaphysical view that seems a long way from Quine, since dispositions seem to invite commitment to modal features of reality. But the structural traits are not, of course, modal, in any way!
We feign belief in counterfactual antecedents, and assess how convincing the consequent is [Quine]
     Full Idea: The subjunctive conditional depends, like indirect quotation and more so, on a dramatic projection: we feign belief in the antececent and see how convincing we then find the consequent.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46)
     A reaction: This seems accurate. It means that we are only interested in when the antecedent is true, and when it is false is irrelevant.
Counterfactuals have no place in a strict account of science [Quine]
     Full Idea: The subjunctive conditional has no place in an austere canonical notation for science - but that ban is less restrictive than would at first appear.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46)
     A reaction: Idea 15723 shows what he has in mind - that what science aims for is accounts of dispositional mechanisms, which then leave talk of other possible worlds (in Lewis style) as unnecessary. I may be with Quine one this one.
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 3. A Posteriori Necessary
For Quine the only way to know a necessity is empirically [Quine, by Dancy,J]
     Full Idea: Quine argues that no necessity can be known other than empirically.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Jonathan Dancy - Intro to Contemporary Epistemology 14.6
Quine's indispensability argument said arguments for abstracta were a posteriori [Quine, by Yablo]
     Full Idea: Fifty years ago, Quine convinced everyone who cared that the argument for abstract objects, if there were going to be one, would have to be a posteriori in nature; an argument that numbers, for example, are indispensable entities for 'total science'.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], §1) by Stephen Yablo - Apriority and Existence
     A reaction: This sets the scene for the modern debate on the a priori. The claim that abstractions are indispensable for a factual account of the physical world strikes me as highly implausible.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 1. Possible Worlds / e. Against possible worlds
Possible worlds are a way to dramatise essentialism, and yet they presuppose essentialism [Quine]
     Full Idea: Talk of possible worlds is a graphic way of waging the essentialist philosophy, but it is only that; it is not an explication. Essence is needed to identify an object from one possible world to another.
     From: Willard Quine (Intensions Revisited [1977], p.118)
     A reaction: He makes the proposal sound circular, but I take a commitment to essences to be prior to talk of possible worlds. Possible worlds are a tool for clarifying modalities, not for clarifying essential identities.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / a. Transworld identity
Can an unactualized possible have self-identity, and be distinct from other possibles? [Quine]
     Full Idea: Is the concept of identity simply inapplicable to unactualized possibles? But what sense can be found in talking of entities which cannot meaningfully be said to be identical with themselve and distinct from one another.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.4)
     A reaction: Can he seriously mean that we are not allowed to talk about possible objects? If I design a house, it is presumably identical to the house I am designing, and distinct from houses I'm not designing.
We can't quantify in modal contexts, because the modality depends on descriptions, not objects [Quine, by Fine,K]
     Full Idea: 'Necessarily 9>7' may be true while the sentence 'necessarily the number of planets < 7' is false, even though it is obtained by substituting a coreferential term. So quantification in these contexts is unintelligible, without a clear object.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953]) by Kit Fine - Intro to 'Modality and Tense' p. 4
     A reaction: This is Quine's second argument against modality. See Idea 9201 for his first. Fine attempts to refute it. The standard reply seems to be to insist that 9 must therefore be an object, which pushes materialist philosophers into reluctant platonism.
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / b. Rigid designation
A rigid designator (for all possible worlds) picks out an object by its essential traits [Quine]
     Full Idea: A rigid designator differs from others in that it picks out its object by essential traits. It designates the object in all possible worlds in which it exists.
     From: Willard Quine (Intensions Revisited [1977], p.118)
     A reaction: This states the point more clearly than Kripke ever does, and I presume it is right. Thus when we say that we wish 'our' Hubert Humphrey had won the election, we can allow that his victory elation would change him a bit. Kripke is right.