Ideas of Willard Quine, by Theme

[American, 1908 - 2000, Born in Ohio. Studied with Carnap in Vienna. Professor at Harvard University. Taught Davidson and Lewis.]

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 3. Wisdom Deflated
Inspiration and social improvement need wisdom, but not professional philosophy
     Full Idea: Professional philosophers have no peculiar fitness for inspirational and edifying writing, or helping to get society on an even keel (though we should do what we can). Wisdom may fulfil these crying needs: 'sophia' yes, but 'philosophia' not necessarily.
     From: Willard Quine (Has Philosophy Lost Contact with People? [1979], p.193)
     A reaction: This rather startlingly says that philosophy is unlikely to lead to wisdom, which is rather odd when it is defined as love of that very thing. Does love of horticulture lead to good gardening. I can't agree. Philosophy is the best hope of 'sophia'.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 6. Hopes for Philosophy
For a good theory of the world, we must focus on our flabby foundational vocabulary
     Full Idea: Our traditional introspective notions - of meaning, idea, concept, essence, all undisciplined and undefined - afford a hopelessly flabby and unmanageable foundation for a theory of the world. Control is gained by focusing on words.
     From: Willard Quine (Has Philosophy Lost Contact with People? [1979], p.192)
     A reaction: A very nice statement of the aim of modern language-centred philosophy, though the task offered appears to be that of an under-labourer, when the real target, even according to Quine, is supposed to be a 'theory of the world'.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Quinean metaphysics just lists the beings, which is a domain with no internal structure
     Full Idea: The Quinean task in metaphysics is to say what exists. What exists forms the domain of quantification. The domain is a set (or class, or plurality) - it has no internal structure. In other words, the Quinean task is to list the beings.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Jonathan Schaffer - On What Grounds What 1.1
     A reaction: I really warm to this thesis. The Quinean version is what you get when you think that logic is the best tool for explicating metaphysics. Schaffer goes on to say that the only real aim for Quine is the cardinality of what exists!
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysical Systems
Any statement can be held true if we make enough adjustment to the rest of the system
     Full Idea: Any statement can be held true come what may, if we make drastic enough adjustments elsewhere in the system.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.43)
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 4. Metaphysics as Science
Quine's naturalistic and empirical view is based entirely on first-order logic and set theory
     Full Idea: Quine has aimed at a naturalistic and empirical world-view, and claims that first-order logic and set theory provide a framework sufficient for the articulation of our knowledge of the world.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960]) by Thomas Mautner - Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy p.465
     A reaction: Consequently he is fairly eliminativist about meaning and mental states, and does without universals in his metaphysics. An impressively puritanical enterprise, taking Ockham's Razor to the limit, but I find it hard to swallow.
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 6. Metaphysics as Conceptual
We aren't stuck with our native conceptual scheme; we can gradually change it
     Full Idea: We must not leap to the fatalistic conclusion that we are stuck with the conceptual scheme that we grew up in. We can change it bit by bit, plank by plank.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 5)
     A reaction: This is an interesting commitment to Strawson's 'revisionary' metaphysics, rather than its duller cousin 'descriptive' metaphysics. Good for Quine. Remember, though, Davidson's 'On the Very Idea of Conceptual Scheme'.
Enquiry needs a conceptual scheme, so we should retain the best available
     Full Idea: No enquiry is possible without some conceptual scheme, so we may as well retain and use the best one we know.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §01)
     A reaction: This remark leads to Davidson's splendid paper 'On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme'. Quine's remark raises the question of how we know which conceptual scheme is 'best'.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 6. Logical Analysis
If if time is money then if time is not money then time is money then if if if time is not money...
     Full Idea: If if time is money then if time is not money then time is money then if if if time is not money then time is money then time is money then if time is money then time is money.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.95)
     A reaction: Quine offers this with no hint of a smile. I reproduce it for the benefit of people who hate analytic philosophy, and get tired of continental philosophy being attacked for its obscurity.
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 3. Scientism
Philosophy is continuous with science, and has no external vantage point
     Full Idea: I see philosophy not as an a priori propaedeutic or groundwork for science, but as continuous with science. I see philosophy and science as in the same boat. …There is no external vantage point, no first philosophy.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.126)
     A reaction: Philosophy is generalisation. Science holds the upper hand, because it settles the subject-matter to be generalised.
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 3. Non-Contradiction
If you say that a contradiction is true, you change the meaning of 'not', and so change the subject
     Full Idea: Those who regard the conjunction p.not-p as true think they are talking about negation, 'not', but this ceases to be recognisable as negation. The deviant logician's predicament is when he tries to deny the doctrine he only changes the subject.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.6)
     A reaction: The charge of 'changing the subject' has become a classic move in modern discussions of non-standard logics. It is an important idea in discussions of arguments, and is found in Kant's account of the Ontological Argument.
To affirm 'p and not-p' is to have mislearned 'and' or 'not'
     Full Idea: To affirm a compound of the form 'p and not-p' is just to have mislearned one or both of these particles.
     From: Willard Quine (From Stimulus to Science [1995], p.23), quoted by Robert Fogelin - Walking the Tightrope of Reason Ch.1
     A reaction: Quoted by Fogelin. This summarises the view of logic developed by the young Wittgenstein, that logical terms are 'operators', rather than referring terms. Of course the speaker may have a compartmentalised mind, or not understand 'p' properly.
2. Reason / B. Laws of Thought / 6. Ockham's Razor
The quest for simplicity drove scientists to posit new entities, such as molecules in gases
     Full Idea: It is the quest for system and simplicity that has kept driving the scientist to posit further entities as values of his variables. By positing molecules, Boyles' law of gases could be assimilated into a general theory of bodies in motion.
     From: Willard Quine (On Multiplying Entities [1974], p.262)
     A reaction: Interesting that a desire for simplicity might lead to multiplications of entities. In fact, I presume molecules had been proposed elsewhere in science, and were adopted in gas-theory because they were thought to exist, not because simplicity is nice.
In arithmetic, ratios, negatives, irrationals and imaginaries were created in order to generalise
     Full Idea: In classical arithmetic, ratios were posited to make division generally applicable, negative numbers to make subtraction generally applicable, and irrationals and finally imaginaries to make exponentiation generally applicable.
     From: Willard Quine (On Multiplying Entities [1974], p.263)
     A reaction: This is part of Quine's proposal (c.f. Idea 8207) that entities have to be multiplied in order to produce simplicity. He is speculating. Maybe they are proposed because they are just obvious, and the generality is a nice side-effect.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 1. Definitions
Definition rests on synonymy, rather than explaining it
     Full Idea: Definition rests on synonymy, rather than explaining it.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.26)
2. Reason / D. Definition / 7. Contextual Definition
Definition by words is determinate but relative; fixing contexts could make it absolute
     Full Idea: A definition endows a word with complete determinacy of meaning relative to other words. But we could determine the meaning of a new word absolutely by specifying contexts which are to be true and contexts which are to be false.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.89)
     A reaction: This is the beginning of Quine's distinction between the interior of 'the web' and its edges. The attack on the analytic/synthetic distinction will break down the boundary between the two. Surprising to find 'absolute' anywhere in Quine.
Bentham's contextual definitions preserved terms after their denotation became doubtful
     Full Idea: If Bentham found some term convenient but ontologically embarrassing, contextual definition enabled him in some cases to continue to enjoy the services of the term while disclaiming its denotation.
     From: Willard Quine (Five Milestones of Empiricism [1975], p.68)
     A reaction: In Quine's terms this would be to withdraw the term from the periphery of the theory, where it has to meet the world, and make it part of the inner connections of the theory. He suggests that Bentham invented this technique.
Contextual definition shifted the emphasis from words to whole sentences
     Full Idea: Contextual definition precipitated a revolution in semantics. The primary vehicle of meaning is seen no longer as the word, but as the sentence.
     From: Willard Quine (Five Milestones of Empiricism [1975], p.69)
     A reaction: I think the idea is that the term is now supported entirely by its surrounding language, and not by its denotation of something in the world.
3. Truth / F. Semantic Truth / 2. Semantic Truth
Talk of 'truth' when sentences are mentioned; it reminds us that reality is the point of sentences
     Full Idea: The truth predicate has its utility in places where we are compelled to mention sentences. It then serves to point through the sentence to the reality; it serves as a reminder that though sentences are mentioned, reality is still the whole point.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.1)
     A reaction: A sensible interpretation of the Tarskian account of truth as disquotation. Quine neatly combines a common sense correspondence with a sophisticated logicians view of the role of truth. So what does "I want the truth here" mean?
3. Truth / H. Deflationary Truth / 1. Redundant Truth
Truth is redundant for single sentences; we do better to simply speak the sentence
     Full Idea: Rather than speak of truth, we do better simply to say the sentence and so speak not about language but about the world. Of singly given sentences, the perfect theory of truth is the 'disappearance theory of truth' (Sellars).
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Quine defends truth as the crucial link between language and reality, but only for large groups of sentences. If someone accuses you of lying or being incorrect, you can respond by repeating your sentence in a firmer tone of voice.
4. Formal Logic / B. Propositional Logic PL / 2. Tools of Propositional Logic / e. Axioms of PL
We can eliminate 'or' from our basic theory, by paraphrasing 'p or q' as 'not(not-p and not-q)'
     Full Idea: The construction of 'alternation' (using 'or') is useful in practice, but superfluous in theory. It can be paraphrased using only negation and conjunction. We say that 'p or q' is paraphrased as 'not(not-p and not-q)'.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.2)
     A reaction: Quine treats 'not' and 'and' as the axiomatic logical connectives, and builds the others from those, presumably because that is the smallest number he could get it down to. I quite like it, because it seems to mesh with basic thought procedures.
4. Formal Logic / D. Modal Logic ML / 1. Modal Logic
Maybe we can quantify modally if the objects are intensional, but it seems unlikely
     Full Idea: Perhaps there is no objection to quantifying into modal contexts as long as the values of any variables thus quantified are limited to intensional objects, but they also lead to disturbing examples.
     From: Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953], §3)
     A reaction: [Quine goes on to give his examples] I take it that possibilities are features of actual reality, not merely objects of thought. The problem is that they are harder to know than actual objects.
Quine says quantified modal logic creates nonsense, bad ontology, and false essentialism
     Full Idea: Quine charges quantified modal systems of logic with giving rise to unintended sense or nonsense, committing us to an incomprehensible ontology, and entailing an implausible or unsustainable Aristotelian essentialism.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966]) by Joseph Melia - Modality Ch.3
     A reaction: A nice summary. Personally I like essentialism in accounts of science (see Nature|Laws of Nature|Essentialism), so would like to save it in metaphysics. Possible worlds ontology may be very surprising, rather than 'incomprehensible'.
Quantified modal logic collapses if essence is withdrawn
     Full Idea: The whole of quantified modal logic collapses if essence is withdrawn.
     From: Willard Quine (Intensions Revisited [1977], p.121)
     A reaction: Quine offers an interesting qualification to this crushing remark in Idea 13590. The point is that objects must retain their identity in modal contexts, as if I say 'John Kennedy might have been Richard Nixon'. What could that mean?
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 1. Set Theory
Set theory is full of Platonist metaphysics, so Quine aimed to keep it separate from logic
     Full Idea: Quine has showed us how set theory - now recognised to be positively awash in Platonistic metaphysics - can and should be prevented from infecting logic proper.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by José A. Benardete - Metaphysics: the logical approach Intro
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 4. Axioms for Sets / a. Axioms for sets
NF has no models, but just blocks the comprehension axiom, to avoid contradictions
     Full Idea: Quine's New Foundations system of set theory, devised with no model in mind, but on the basis of a hunch that a purely formal restriction on the comprehension axiom would block all contradictions.
     From: report of Willard Quine (New Foundations for Mathematical Logic [1937]) by Michael Dummett - Frege philosophy of mathematics Ch.18
     A reaction: The point is that Quine (who had an ontological preference for 'desert landscapes') attempted to do without an ontological commitment to objects (and their subsequent models), with a purely formal system. Quine's NF is not now highly regarded.
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 4. Axioms for Sets / o. Axiom of Constructibility V = L
Quine wants V = L for a cleaner theory, despite the scepticism of most theorists
     Full Idea: Quine suggests that V = L be accepted in set theory because it makes for a cleaner theory, even though most set theorists are skeptical of V = L.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Stewart Shapiro - Philosophy of Mathematics Ch.1
     A reaction: Shapiro cites it as a case of a philosopher trying to make recommendations to mathematicians. Maddy supports Quine.
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 4. Axioms for Sets / p. Axiom of Reducibility
The Axiom of Reducibility is self-effacing: if true, it isn't needed
     Full Idea: The Axiom of Reducibility is self-effacing: if it is true, the ramification it is meant to cope with was pointless to begin with.
     From: Willard Quine (Introduction to Russell's Theory of Types [1967], p.152), quoted by Penelope Maddy - Naturalism in Mathematics I.1
     A reaction: Maddy says the rejection of Reducibility collapsed the ramified theory of types into the simple theory.
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 8. Critique of Set Theory
Two things can never entail three things
     Full Idea: Two things can never entail three things.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by José A. Benardete - Metaphysics: the logical approach Ch.17
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 1. Overview of Logic
In order to select the logic justified by experience, we would need to use a lot of logic
     Full Idea: Quine ends up with the logic that is maximally justified by experience, ...but a large number of the core principles of logic will have to be used to select the logic that is maximally justified by experience.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954]) by Paul Boghossian - Knowledge of Logic p.233
     A reaction: In order to grasp some core principles of logic, you will probably need a certain amount of experience. I take logic to be an abstracted feature of reality (unless it is extended by pure fictions). Some basic logic may be hard wired in us.
My logical grammar has sentences by predication, then negation, conjunction, and existential quantification
     Full Idea: We chose a standard grammar in which the simple sentences are got by predication, and all further sentences are generated from these by negation, conjunction, and existential quantification.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.3)
     A reaction: It is interesting that we 'choose' our logic, apparently guided by an imperative to achieve minimal ontology. Of these basic ingredients, negation and predication are the more mysterious, especially the latter. Quine is a bit of an 'ostrich' about that.
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 3. Value of Logic
Maybe logical truth reflects reality, but in different ways in different languages
     Full Idea: Perhaps the logical truths owe their truth to certain traits of reality which are reflected in one way by the grammar of our language, in another way by the grammar of another language, and in a third way by the grammar and lexicon of a third language.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.7)
     A reaction: This explains Quine's subsequent interest in translation, and the interest of his pupil Davidson in charity, and whether there could actually be rival conceptual schemes. I like the link between logical truths and reality, which follows Russell.
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 6. Classical Logic
Elementary logic requires truth-functions, quantifiers (and variables), identity, and also sets of variables
     Full Idea: Elementary logic, as commonly systematized nowadays, comprises truth-function theory (involving 'or', 'and', 'not' etc.), quantifiers (and their variables), and identity theory ('='). In addition, set theory requires classes among values of variables.
     From: Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954], II)
     A reaction: Quine is famous for trying to squeeze properties out of the picture, which would then block higher-order logics (which quantify over properties). Quine's list gives a nice programme for a student of the philosophy of logic to understand.
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 7. Second-Order Logic
Quine says higher-order items are intensional, and lack a clearly defined identity relation
     Full Idea: Quine (in 1941) attacked 'Principia Mathematica' because the items in the range of higher-order variables (attributes etc) are intensional and thus do not have a clearly defined identity relation.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Whitehead and the Rise of Modern Logic [1941]) by Stewart Shapiro - Foundations without Foundationalism 1.3
Various strategies try to deal with the ontological commitments of second-order logic
     Full Idea: Quine said higher-order logic is 'set theory in sheep's clothing', and there is concern about the ontology that is involved. One approach is to deny quantificational ontological commitments, or say that the entities involved are first-order objects.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966]) by B Hale / C Wright - Logicism in the 21st Century 8
     A reaction: [compressed] The second strategy is from Boolos. This question seems to be right at the heart of the strategy of exploring our ontology through the study of our logic.
Quine rejects second-order logic, saying that predicates refer to multiple objects
     Full Idea: Quine is unwilling to suppose second-order logic intelligible. He holds to Mill's account of the referential role of a predicate: it multiply denotes any and all objects to which it applies, and there is no need for a further 'predicative' entity.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970]) by Harold Hodes - Logicism and Ontological Commits. of Arithmetic p.130
     A reaction: If we assume that 'quantifying over' something is a commitment to its existence, then I think I am with Quine, because you end up with a massive commitment to universals, which I prefer to avoid.
Quantifying over predicates is treating them as names of entities
     Full Idea: To put the predicate letter 'F' in a quantifier is to treat predicate position suddenly as name position, and hence to treat predicates as names of entities of some sort.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.5)
     A reaction: It is tricky to distinguish quantifying over predicates in a first-order way (by reifying them), and in a second-order way (where it is not clear whether you are quantifying over a property or a unified set of things.
5. Theory of Logic / B. Logical Consequence / 1. Logical Consequence
Logical consequence is marked by being preserved under all nonlogical substitutions
     Full Idea: Quine's view of logical consequence is that it is when there is no way of uniformly substituting nonlogical expressions in the premises and consequences so that the premises all remain true but the consequence now becomes false.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954], p.103) by Theodore Sider - Logic for Philosophy 1.5
     A reaction: One might just say that the consequence holds if you insert consistent variables for the nonlogical terms, which looks like Aristotle's view of the matter.
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 1. Ontology of Logic
Whether a modal claim is true depends on how the object is described
     Full Idea: Quine says if ∃x□(x>7) makes sense, then for which object x is the condition rendered true? Specify it as '9' and it is apparently rendered true, specify it as 'the number of planets' and it is apparently rendered false.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Three Grades of Modal Involvement [1953]) by Kit Fine - Quine on Quantifying In p.105
     A reaction: This is normally characterised as Quine saying that only de dicto involvement is possible, and not de re involvement. Or that that all essences are nominal, and cannot be real.
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 3. If-Thenism
Quine quickly dismisses If-thenism
     Full Idea: Quine quickly dismisses If-thenism.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.327) by Alan Musgrave - Logicism Revisited §5
     A reaction: [Musgrave quotes a long chunk of Quine which is hard to compress!] Effectively, he says If-thenism is cheating, or begs the question, by eliminating whole sections of perfectly good mathematics, because they cannot be derived from axioms.
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 4. Logic by Convention
Logic needs general conventions, but that needs logic to apply them to individual cases
     Full Idea: Quine argues that logic could not be established by conventions, since the logical truths, being infinite in number, must be given by general conventions rather than singly; and logic is needed in the meta-theory, to apply to individual cases.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935]) by Georges Rey - The Analytic/Synthetic Distinction 3.4
     A reaction: A helpful insight into Quine's claim. If only someone would print these one sentence summaries at the top of classic papers, we would all get far more out of them at first reading. Assuming Rey is right!
Claims that logic and mathematics are conventional are either empty, uninteresting, or false
     Full Idea: If logic and mathematics being true by convention says the primitives can be conventionally described, that works for anything, and is empty; if the conventions are only for those fields, that's uninteresting; if a general practice, that is false.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.102)
     A reaction: This is Quine's famous denial of the traditional platonist view, and the new Wittgensteinian conventional view, preparing the ground for a more naturalistic and empirical view. I feel more sympathy with Quine than with the other two.
Logic isn't conventional, because logic is needed to infer logic from conventions
     Full Idea: If logic is to proceed mediately from conventions, logic is needed for inferring logic from the conventions. Conventions for adopting logical primitives can only be communicated by free use of those very idioms.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.104)
     A reaction: A common pattern of modern argument, which always seems to imply that nothing can ever get off the ground. I suspect that there are far more benign circles in the world of thought than most philosophers imagine.
If a convention cannot be communicated until after its adoption, what is its role?
     Full Idea: When a convention is incapable of being communicated until after its adoption, its role is not clear.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.106)
     A reaction: Quine is discussing the basis of logic, but the point applies to morality - that if there is said to be a convention at work, the concepts of morality must already exist to get the conventional framework off the ground. What is it that comes first?
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 1. Bivalence
Bivalence implies not just to sentences, but that general terms are true or false of each object
     Full Idea: It is in the spirit of bivalence not just to treat each closed sentence as true or false; as Frege stressed, each general term must be definitely true or false of each object, specificiable or not.
     From: Willard Quine (What Price Bivalence? [1981], p.36)
     A reaction: But note that this is only the 'spirit' of the thing. If you had (as I do) doubts about whether predicates actually refer to genuine 'properties', you may want to stick to the whole sentence view, and not be so fine-grained.
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 2. Excluded Middle
Excluded middle has three different definitions
     Full Idea: The law of excluded middle, or 'tertium non datur', may be pictured variously as 1) Every closed sentence is true or false; or 2) Every closed sentence or its negation is true; or 3) Every closed sentence is true or not true.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.6)
     A reaction: Unlike many top philosophers, Quine thinks clearly about such things. 1) is the classical bivalent reading of excluded middle; 2) is the purely syntactic version; 3) leaves open how we interpret the 'not-true' option.
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 4. Identity in Logic
Quantification theory can still be proved complete if we add identity
     Full Idea: Complete proof procedures are available not only for quantification theory, but for quantification theory and identity together. Gödel showed that the theory is still complete if we add self-identity and the indiscernability of identicals.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.5)
     A reaction: Hence one talks of first-order logic 'with identity', even though, as Quine observes, it is unclear whether identity is actually a logical or a mathematical notion.
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 2. Logical Connectives / a. Logical connectives
If logical truths essentially depend on logical constants, we had better define the latter
     Full Idea: Quine said a logical truth is a truth in which only logical constants occur essentially, ...but then a fruitful definition of 'logical constant' is called for.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954]) by Ian Hacking - What is Logic? §02
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 4. Variables in Logic
'Corner quotes' (quasi-quotation) designate 'whatever these terms designate'
     Full Idea: A 'quasi-quotation' [corner quotes, Quine quotes] designates that (unspecified) expression which is obtained from the contents of the corners by replacing the Greek letters by the (unspecified) expressions which they designate.
     From: Willard Quine (Mathematical Logic (revised) [1940], 1.6)
     A reaction: Filed under 'variables', as they seem to be variables that can refer to actual expressions, like algebra. Quine was determined to distinguish clearly between 'mention' and 'use'. 'Half-hearted substitutional quantification', says Fine.
We study bound variables not to know reality, but to know what reality language asserts
     Full Idea: We look to bound variables in connection with ontology not in order to know what there is, but in order to know what a given remark or doctrine, ours or someone else's, says there is.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.15)
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / a. Names
If we had to name objects to make existence claims, we couldn't discuss all the real numbers
     Full Idea: Since one wants to say that real numbers exist and yet one cannot name each of them, it is not unreasonable to relinquish the connection between naming an object and making an existence claim about it.
     From: Willard Quine (works [1961]), quoted by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.2
     A reaction: One could say that same about people, such as 'the most recent citizen of Brazil'. Some sort of successful reference seems to be needed, such as 'the next prime beyond the biggest so far found'. Depends what your predicate is going to be.
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / b. Names as descriptive
Failure of substitutivity shows that a personal name is not purely referential
     Full Idea: Failure of substitutivity shows that the occurrence of a personal name is not purely referential.
     From: Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953], §1)
     A reaction: I don't think I understand the notion of a name being 'purely' referential, as if it somehow ceased to be a word, and was completely transparent to the named object.
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / f. Names eliminated
We might do without names, by converting them into predicates
     Full Idea: Quine suggests that we can have a language with just predicates and no names. Thus for 'Ralph is red' we say 'x Ralphises and x is red'.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Mathematical Logic (revised) [1940]) by Richard L. Kirkham - Theories of Truth: a Critical Introduction 5.6
     A reaction: Kirkham discusses this as a way of getting round the lack of names in Tarski's theory of truth (which just uses objects, predicates and quantifiers). Otherwise you must supplement Tarski with an account of what the names refer to.
Canonical notation needs quantification, variables and predicates, but not names
     Full Idea: Quine says that names need not be part of one's canonical notation; in fact, whatever scientific purposes are accomplished by names can be carried out just as well by the devices of quantification, variables and predicates.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.2
     A reaction: This is part of Quine's analysis of where the ontological commitment of a language is to be found. Kripke's notion that a name baptises an item comes as a challenge to this view.
Quine extended Russell's defining away of definite descriptions, to also define away names
     Full Idea: Quine extended Russell's theory for defining away definite descriptions, so that he could also define away names.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.2
     A reaction: Quine also gets rid of universals and properties, so his ontology is squeezed from both the semantic and the metaphysical directions. Quine seems to be the key figure in modern ontology. If you want to expand it (E.J. Lowe), justify yourself to Quine.
Quine's arguments fail because he naively conflates names with descriptions
     Full Idea: Quine's logical argument against modality presupposes a naďve view of singular terms under which no significant distinction is to be drawn between the use of names and descriptions.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Kit Fine - Intro to 'Modality and Tense' p. 6
     A reaction: See Idea 9201 for Quine's argument. The question is whether '9' and 'the number of planets' are names or descriptions. The 'number of planets' is not remotely descriptive of 9, so it must be referential. So '9' is a name? Hm.
Names are not essential, because naming can be turned into predication
     Full Idea: Names are convenient but redundant, because Fa is equivalent to (an x)(a=x,Fx), so a need only occur in the context a=, but this can be rendered as a simple predicate A, so that Fa gives way to (an x)(Ax.Fx).
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.2)
     A reaction: In eliminating names from analysis, Quine takes Russell's strategy a step further. It is probably this which provoked Kripke into going right back to Mill's view of names as basic labels. The name/description boundary is blurred. Mr Gradgrind.
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 2. Descriptions / c. Theory of definite descriptions
Names can be converted to descriptions, and Russell showed how to eliminate those
     Full Idea: I have shown that names can be converted to descriptions, and Russell has shown that descriptions can be eliminated.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.12)
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 1. Quantification
Objects are the values of variables, so a referentially opaque context cannot be quantified into
     Full Idea: The objects of a theory are not properly describable as the things named by the singular terms; they are the values, rather, of the variables of quantification. ..So a referentially opaque context is one that cannot properly be quantified into.
     From: Willard Quine (Three Grades of Modal Involvement [1953], p.174)
     A reaction: The point being that you cannot accurately pick out the objects in the domain
Quantifying into referentially opaque contexts often produces nonsense
     Full Idea: If to a referentially opaque context of a variable we apply a quantifier, with the intention that it govern that variable from outside the referentially opaque context, then what we commonly end up with is unintended sense or nonsense.
     From: Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953], §2)
Finite quantification can be eliminated in favour of disjunction and conjunction
     Full Idea: Quine even asserts that where we have no infinite domains, quantification can be eliminated in favour of finite disjunction and conjunction.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Michael Dummett - Frege Philosophy of Language (2nd ed) Ch.14
     A reaction: Thus ∃x is expressed as 'this or this or this...', and ∀ is expressed as 'this and this and this...' Dummett raises an eyebrow, but it sounds OK to me.
No sense can be made of quantification into opaque contexts
     Full Idea: Quine says that no good sense can be made of quantification into opaque contexts.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Bob Hale - Abstract Objects Ch.2
     A reaction: This is because poor old Quine was trapped in a world of language, and had lost touch with reality. I can quantify over the things you are thinking about, as long as you are thinking about things that can be quantified over.
Universal quantification is widespread, but it is definable in terms of existential quantification
     Full Idea: Universal quantification is prominent in logical practice but superfluous in theory, since (for all x)Fx obviously amounts to not(exists an x)not-Fx.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.2)
     A reaction: The equivalence between these two works both ways, some you could take the universal quantifier as primitive instead, which would make general truths prior to particular ones. Is there something deep at stake here?
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 4. Substitutional Quantification
Quine thought substitutional quantification confused use and mention, but then saw its nominalist appeal
     Full Idea: Quine at first regarded substitutional quantification as incoherent, behind which there lurked use-mention confusions, but has over the years, given his nominalist dispositions, come to notice its appeal.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Ruth Barcan Marcus - Nominalism and Substitutional Quantifiers p.166
Either reference really matters, or we don't need to replace it with substitutions
     Full Idea: When we reconstrue quantification in terms of substituted expressions rather than real values, we waive reference. ...but if reference matters, we cannot afford to waive it as a category; and if it does not, we do not need to.
     From: Willard Quine (Reply to Professor Marcus [1962], p.183)
     A reaction: An odd dilemma to pose. Presumably the substitution account is an attempt to explain how language actually works, without mentioning dubious direct ontological commitment in the quantifiers.
You can't base quantification on substituting names for variables, if the irrationals cannot all be named
     Full Idea: A customary argument against quantification based on substitution of names for variables refers to the theorem of set theory that irrational numbers cannot all be assigned integers. Although the integers can all be named, the irrationals therefore can't.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.6)
     A reaction: [He names Ruth Marcus as a source of substitutional quantification] This sounds like more than a mere 'argument' against substitutional quantification, but an actual disproof. Or maybe you just can't quantify once you run out of names.
Some quantifications could be false substitutionally and true objectually, because of nameless objects
     Full Idea: An existential quantification could turn out false when substitutionally construed and true when objectually construed, because of there being objects of the purported kind but only nameless ones.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.6)
     A reaction: (Cf. Idea 9025) Some irrational numbers were his candidates for nameless objects, but as decimals they are infinite in length which seems unfair. I don't take even pi or root-2 to be objects in nature, so not naming irrationals doesn't bother me.
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 5. Second-Order Quantification
Putting a predicate letter in a quantifier is to make it the name of an entity
     Full Idea: To put the predicate letter 'F' in a quantifier is to treat predicate positions suddenly as name positions, and hence to treat predicates as names of entities of some sort.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.5)
     A reaction: Quine's famous objection to second-order logic. But Quine then struggles to give an account of predicates and properties, and hence is accused by Armstrong of being an 'ostrich'. Boolos 1975 also attacks Quine here.
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 6. Plural Quantification
Plurals can in principle be paraphrased away altogether
     Full Idea: By certain standardizations of phrasing the contexts that call for plurals can in principle be paraphrased away altogether.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §19)
     A reaction: Laycock, who quotes this, calls it 'unduly optimistic', but I presume that it was the standard view of plural reference until Boolos raised the subject.
5. Theory of Logic / I. Semantics of Logic / 3. Logical Truth
A sentence is logically true if all sentences with that grammatical structure are true
     Full Idea: A sentence is logically true if all sentences with that grammatical structure are true.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.7)
     A reaction: Quine spends some time on the tricky question of deciding which parts of a sentence are grammatical structure ('syncategorematic'), and which parts are what he calls 'lexicon'. I bet there is a Quinean argument which blurs the boundary.
5. Theory of Logic / L. Paradox / 5. Paradoxes in Set Theory / a. Set theory paradoxes
Set theory was struggling with higher infinities, when new paradoxes made it baffling
     Full Idea: Unlike elementary logic, the truths of set theory are not obvious. Set theory was straining at the leash of intuition ever since Cantor discovered higher infinites; and with the added impetus of the paradoxes of set theory the leash snapped.
     From: Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954], II)
     A reaction: This problem seems to have forced Quine into platonism about sets, because he felt they were essential for mathematics and science, but couldn't be constructed with precision. So they must be real, but we don't quite understand them.
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 2. Geometry
If analytic geometry identifies figures with arithmetical relations, logicism can include geometry
     Full Idea: Geometry can be brought into line with logicism simply by identifying figures with arithmetical relations with which they are correlated thought analytic geometry.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.87)
     A reaction: Geometry was effectively reduced to arithmetic by Descartes and Fermat, so this seems right. You wonder, though, whether something isn't missing if you treat geometry as a set of equations. There is more on the screen than what's in the software.
Klein summarised geometry as grouped together by transformations
     Full Idea: Felix Klein's so-called 'Erlangerprogramm' in geometry involved characterizing the various branches of geometry by what transformations were irrelevant to each.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.137)
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Nature of Numbers / e. Ordinal numbers
Any progression will do nicely for numbers; they can all then be used to measure multiplicity
     Full Idea: The condition on an explication of number can be put succinctly: any progression will do nicely. Russell once held that one must also be able to measure multiplicity, but this was a mistake; any progression can be fitted to that further condition.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §54)
     A reaction: [compressed] This is the strongest possible statement that the numbers are the ordinals, and the Peano Axioms will define them. The Fregean view that cardinality comes first is redundant.
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 3. Axioms for Geometry
There are four different possible conventional accounts of geometry
     Full Idea: We can construe geometry by 1) identifying it with algebra, which is then defined on the basis of logic; 2) treating it as hypothetical statements; 3) defining it contextually; or 4) making it true by fiat, without making it part of logic.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.99)
     A reaction: [Very compressed] I'm not sure how different 3 is from 2. These are all ways to treat geometry conventionally. You could be more traditional, and say that it is a description of actual space, but the multitude of modern geometries seems against this.
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 6. Mathematics as Set Theory / a. Mathematics is set theory
Maths can be reduced to logic and set theory
     Full Idea: Researches in the foundations of mathematics have made it clear that all of (interpreted) mathematics can be got down to logic and set theory, and the objects needed for mathematics can be got down to the category of classes (and classes of classes..).
     From: Willard Quine (The Scope and Language of Science [1954], §VI)
     A reaction: This I take to be a retreat from pure logicism, presumably influenced by Gödel. So can set theory be reduced to logic? Crispin Wright is the one the study.
All the arithmetical entities can be reduced to classes of integers, and hence to sets
     Full Idea: The arithmetic of ratios and irrational and imaginary numbers can all be reduced by definition to the theory of classes of positive integers, and this can in turn be reduced to pure set theory.
     From: Willard Quine (Vagaries of Definition [1972], p.53)
     A reaction: This summarises Quine's ontology of mathematics, which tries to eliminate virtually everything, but has to affirm the existence of sets. Can you count sets and their members, if the sets are used to define the numbers?
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 7. Mathematical Structuralism / a. Structuralism
I apply structuralism to concrete and abstract objects indiscriminately
     Full Idea: My own line is a yet more sweeping structuralism (than David Lewis's account of classes), applying to concrete and abstract objects indiscriminately.
     From: Willard Quine (Structure and Nature [1992], p.6), quoted by Stewart Shapiro - Philosophy of Mathematics 4.9
     A reaction: Shapiro calls this 'breathtaking', and retreats from it, but it is something like my own view, starting from Mill's pebbles and working up.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 4. Mathematical Empiricism / a. Mathematical empiricism
Quine blurs the difference between knowledge of arithmetic and of physics
     Full Idea: Quine cannot deal with the intuition that there is a difference in kind between our knowledge of arithmetic and our knowledge of physics.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Carrie Jenkins - Grounding Concepts 7.5
     A reaction: The endorses this criticism, which she says is widespread. I'm not convinced that there is a clear notion of 'difference in kind' here. Jenkins gets arithmetic from concepts and physics from the world. Is that a sharp distinction?
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 4. Mathematical Empiricism / b. Indispensability of mathematics
Nearly all of mathematics has to quantify over abstract objects
     Full Idea: Mathematics, except for very trivial portions such as very elementary arithmetic, is irredeemably committed to quantification over abstract objects.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §55)
     A reaction: Personally I would say that we are no more committed to such things than actors in 'The Tempest' are committed to the existence of Prospero and Caliban (which is quite a strong commitment, actually).
Mathematics is part of science; transfinite mathematics I take as mostly uninterpreted
     Full Idea: The mathematics wanted for use in empirical sciences is for me on a par with the rest of science. Transfinite ramifications are on the same footing as simplifications, but anything further is on a par rather with uninterpreted systems,
     From: Willard Quine (Review of Parsons (1983) [1984], p.788), quoted by Penelope Maddy - Naturalism in Mathematics II.2
     A reaction: The word 'uninterpreted' is the interesting one. Would mathematicians object if the philosophers graciously allowed them to continue with their transfinite work, as long as they signed something to say it was uninterpreted?
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / a. Early logicism
If mathematics follows from definitions, then it is conventional, and part of logic
     Full Idea: To claim that mathematical truths are conventional in the sense of following logically from definitions is the claim that mathematics is a part of logic.
     From: Willard Quine (Truth by Convention [1935], p.79)
     A reaction: Quine is about to attack logic as convention, so he is endorsing the logicist programme (despite his awareness of Gödel), but resisting the full Wittgenstein conventionalist picture.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / b. Type theory
Russell confused use and mention, and reduced classes to properties, not to language
     Full Idea: Quine (1941) said that Russell had confused use and mention, and thus thought he had reduced classes to linguistic entities, while in fact he reduced them only to Platonic properties.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Whitehead and the Rise of Modern Logic [1941]) by Douglas Lackey - Intros to Russell's 'Essays in Analysis. p.133
     A reaction: This is cited as the 'orthodox critical interpretation' of Russell and Whitehead. Confusion of use and mention was a favourite charge of Quine's.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / d. Logicism critique
Logicists cheerfully accept reference to bound variables and all sorts of abstract entities
     Full Idea: The logicism of Frege, Russell, Whitehead, Church and Carnap condones the use of bound variables or reference to abstract entities known and unknown, specifiable and unspecifiable, indiscriminately.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.14)
If set theory is not actually a branch of logic, then Frege's derivation of arithmetic would not be from logic
     Full Idea: We might say that set theory is not really logic, but a branch of mathematics. This would deprive 'includes' of the status of a logical word. Frege's derivation of arithmetic would then cease to count as a derivation from logic: for he used set theory.
     From: Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954], II)
     A reaction: Quine has been making the point that higher infinities and the paradoxes undermine the status of set theory as logic, but he decides to continue thinking of set theory as logic. Critics of logicism frequently ask whether the reduction is to logic.
Mathematics reduces to set theory (which is a bit vague and unobvious), but not to logic proper
     Full Idea: Mathematics reduces only to set theory, and not to logic proper… but set theory cannot claim the same firmness and obviousness as logic.
     From: Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968], p.69-70)
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 7. Formalism
Formalism says maths is built of meaningless notations; these build into rules which have meaning
     Full Idea: The formalism of Hilbert keeps classical maths as a play of insignificant notations. Agreement is found among the rules which, unlike the notations, are quite significant and intelligible.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.15)
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / b. Intuitionism
Intuitionism says classes are invented, and abstract entities are constructed from specified ingredients
     Full Idea: The intuitionism of Poincaré, Brouwer, Weyl and others holds that classes are invented, and accepts reference to abstract entities only if they are constructed from pre-specified ingredients.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.14)
For Quine, intuitionist ontology is inadequate for classical mathematics
     Full Idea: Quine feels that the intuitionist's ontology of abstract objects is too slight to serve the needs of classical mathematics.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.3
     A reaction: Quine, who devoted his life to the application of Ockham's Razor, decided that sets were an essential part of the ontological baggage (which made him, according to Orenstein, a 'reluctant Platonist'). Dummett defends intuitionism.
Intuitionists only admit numbers properly constructed, but classical maths covers all reals in a 'limit'
     Full Idea: Intuitionists will not admit any numbers which are not properly constructed out of rational numbers, ...but classical mathematics appeals to the real numbers (a non-denumerable totality) in notions such as that of a limit
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.3
     A reaction: (See Idea 8454 for the categories of numbers). This is a problem for Dummett.
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / c. Conceptualism
Conceptualism holds that there are universals but they are mind-made
     Full Idea: Conceptualism holds that there are universals but they are mind-made.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.14)
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 1. Nature of Existence
Quine's ontology is wrong; his question is scientific, and his answer is partly philosophical
     Full Idea: Quine's approach to ontology asks the wrong question, a scientific rather than philosophical question, and answers it in the wrong way, by appealing to philosophical considerations in addition to ordinary scientific considerations.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Kit Fine - The Question of Ontology p.161
     A reaction: He goes on to call Quine's procedure 'cockeyed'. Presumably Quine would reply with bafflement that scientific and philosophical questions could be considered as quite different from one another.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 2. Types of Existence
For Quine, there is only one way to exist
     Full Idea: Quine takes 'existence' to be univocal, with a single ontology for his entire 'web of belief'.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Stewart Shapiro - Philosophy of Mathematics 4.9
     A reaction: Thus, there can be no 'different way of existing' (such as 'subsisting') for abstract objects such as those of mathematics. I presume that Quine's low-key physicalism is behind this.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / b. Being and existence
Philosophers tend to distinguish broad 'being' from narrower 'existence' - but I reject that
     Full Idea: It has been fairly common in philosophy early and late to distinguish between being, as the broadest concept, and existence, as narrower. This is no distinction of mine; I mean 'exist' to cover all there is.
     From: Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966], p.100)
     A reaction: I sort of agree with Quine, but 'being' has a role in philosophy that is not required in science and daily life, as the name of the central problem of ontology, which probably has to be broken down before any progress can happen.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / g. Particular being
The idea of a thing and the idea of existence are two sides of the same coin
     Full Idea: According to Quine's conception of existence, the idea of a thing and the idea of existence are two sides of the same coin.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Tim Crane - Elements of Mind 1.5
     A reaction: I suspect that Quine's ontology is too dependent on language, but this thought seems profoundly right
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 7. Criterion for Existence
Quine rests existence on bound variables, because he thinks singular terms can be analysed away
     Full Idea: It is because Quine holds constant singular terms to be always eliminable by an extension of Russell's theory of definite descriptions that he takes the bound variables of first-order quantification to be the sole means by which we refer to objects.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Bob Hale - Necessary Beings 01.2
     A reaction: Hale defends a Fregean commitment to existence based on the reference of singular terms in true statements. I think they're both wrong. If you want to know what I am committed to, ask me. Don't infer it from my use of English, or logic.
All we have of general existence is what existential quantifiers express
     Full Idea: Existence is what existential quantification expresses. …It is unreasonable to ask for an explication of (general) existence in simpler terms. …We may still ask what counts as evidence for existential quantifications.
     From: Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966], p.97)
     A reaction: This has been orthodoxy for the last 60 years, with philosophers talking of 'quantifying over' instead of 'exists'. But are we allowed second-order logic, and plural quantification, and vague domains?
Absolute ontological questions are meaningless, because the answers are circular definitions
     Full Idea: What makes ontological questions meaningless when taken absolutely is not universality but circularity. A question of the form "What is an F?" can only be answered with "An F is a G", which makes sense relative to the uncritical acceptance of G.
     From: Willard Quine (Ontological Relativity [1968], p.53)
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 2. Processes
A river is a process, with stages; if we consider it as one thing, we are considering a process
     Full Idea: A river is a process through time, and the river stages are its momentary parts. Identification of the river bathed in once with the river bathed in again is just what determines our subject matter to be a river process as opposed to a river stage.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 1)
     A reaction: So if we take a thing which has stages, but instead of talking about the stages we talk about a single thing that endures through them, then we are talking about a process. Sounds very good to me.
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 4. Events / c. Reduction of events
Explaining events just by bodies can't explain two events identical in space-time
     Full Idea: An account of events just in terms of physical bodies does not distinguish between events that happen to take up just the same portion of space-time. A man's whistling and walking would be identified with the same temporal segment of the man.
     From: Willard Quine (On Multiplying Entities [1974], p.260)
     A reaction: We wouldn't want to make his 'walking' and his 'strolling' two events. Whistling and walking are different because different objects are involved (lips and legs). Hence a man is not (ontologically) a single object.
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 7. Abstract/Concrete / a. Abstract/concrete
We don't say 'red' is abstract, unlike a river, just because it has discontinuous shape
     Full Idea: 'Red' is surely not going to be opposed to 'Cayster' [name of a river], as abstract to concrete, merely because of discontinuity in geometrical shape?
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 2)
     A reaction: I've been slow to grasp the truth of this. However, Quine assumes that 'red' is concrete because 'Cayster' is, but it is perfectly arguable that 'Cayster' is an abstraction, despite all that water.
We can only see an alien language in terms of our own thought structures (e.g. physical/abstract)
     Full Idea: We are prone to talk about physical and abstract objects. It is hard to know how else to talk, because we are bound to adapt any alien pattern to our own in the very process of understanding or translating the alien sentences.
     From: Willard Quine (Speaking of Objects [1960], pt.I,p.1)
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 8. Stuff / a. Pure stuff
Mass terms just concern spread, but other terms involve both spread and individuation
     Full Idea: 'Yellow' and 'water' are mass terms, concerned only with spread; 'apple' and 'square' are terms of divided reference, concerned with both spread and individuation.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.124)
     A reaction: Would you like some apple? Pass me that water. It is helpful to see that it is a requirement of 'individuation' that is missing from terms for stuff.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 5. Physicalism
Every worldly event, without exception, is a redistribution of microphysical states
     Full Idea: Nothing happens in the world, not the flutter of an eyelid, not the flicker of a thought, without some redistribution of microphysical states.
     From: Willard Quine (on Goodman's 'Ways of Worldmaking' [1978], p.98)
     A reaction: Is this causation, identity, or baffling supervenience?
My ontology is quarks etc., classes of such things, classes of such classes etc.
     Full Idea: My tentative ontology continues to consist of quarks and their compounds, also classes of such things, classes of such classes, and so on.
     From: Willard Quine (Structure and Nature [1992], p.9), quoted by Stewart Shapiro - Philosophy of Mathematics 4.9
     A reaction: I would call this the Hierarchy of Abstraction (just coined it - what do you think?). Unlike Quine, I don't see why its ontology should include things called 'sets' in addition to the things that make them up.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / d. Vagueness as semantic
Terms learned by ostension tend to be vague, because that must be quick and unrefined
     Full Idea: A term is apt to be vague if it is to be learned by ostension, since its applicability must admit of being judged on the spot and so cannot hinge of fine distinctions laboriously drawn.
     From: Willard Quine (What Price Bivalence? [1981], p.32)
     A reaction: [Quine cites C. Wright for this] Presumably precision can steadily increased by repeated ostension. After the first 'dog' it's pretty vague; after hundreds of them we are pretty clear about it. Long observation of borderline 'clouds' could do the same.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / a. Ontological commitment
What actually exists does not, of course, depend on language
     Full Idea: Ontological controversy tends into controversy over language, but we must not jump to the conclusion that what there is depends on words.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.16)
     A reaction: An important corrective to my constant whinge against philosophers who treat ontology as if it were semantics, of whom Quine is the central villain. Quine was actually quite a sensible chap.
General terms don't commit us ontologically, but singular terms with substitution do
     Full Idea: The use of general terms does not commit us to admitting a corresponding abstract entity into our ontology, but an abstract singular term, including the law of putting equals for equals, flatly commits us to an abstract entity named by the term.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 4)
     A reaction: Does this mean that in 'for the sake of the children', I have to believe in 'sakes' if I can find a synonym which will substitute for it?
Names have no ontological commitment, because we can deny that they name anything
     Full Idea: I think there is no commitment to entities through use of alleged names of them; other things being equal, we can always deny the allegation that the words in question are names.
     From: Willard Quine (On Carnap's Views on Ontology [1951], p.205)
     A reaction: Hm. So why can't you deny that variables actually refer to existing entities? If I say 'I just saw James', it's a bit cheeky to then deny that James refers to anyone. He uses Russell's technique to paraphrase names.
A logically perfect language could express all truths, so all truths must be logically expressible
     Full Idea: Quine's test of ontological commitment says that anything that can be said truly at all must be capable of being said in a logically perfect language, so there must be a paraphrase of every truth into the language of logic.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Keith Hossack - Plurals and Complexes 2
     A reaction: A very nice statement of the Quinean view, much more persuasive than other statements I have encountered. I am suddenly almost converted to a doctrine I have hitherto despised. Isn't philosophy wonderful?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / b. Commitment of quantifiers
To be is to be the value of a variable, which amounts to being in the range of reference of a pronoun
     Full Idea: To be assumed as an entity is to be reckoned as the value of a variable. This amounts roughly to saying that to be is to be in the range of reference of a pronoun.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.13)
     A reaction: Cf. Idea 7784.
We can use quantification for commitment to unnameable things like the real numbers
     Full Idea: Through our variables of quantification we are quite capable of committing ourselves to entities which cannot be named individually at all in the resources of our language; witness the real numbers.
     From: Willard Quine (On Carnap's Views on Ontology [1951], p.205)
     A reaction: The real numbers are uncountable, and thus cannot all be named. This is quite an impressive point. I've always had doubts about the existence of real numbers, on the grounds that they could never all be named.
"No entity without identity" - our ontology must contain items with settled identity conditions
     Full Idea: Quine's well-known slogan "no entity without identity" means that no object should be admitted into our ontology unless its identity conditions, the conditions that say which object it is, have been settled.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Speaking of Objects [1960]) by Joseph Melia - Modality Ch.4
     A reaction: This invites science fiction scenarios, where we admit the existence of something before we have a clue what it is (whether it is physical, hallucination, divine..). Quine's slogan seems attractive but optimistic. How 'settled'?
Existence is implied by the quantifiers, not by the constants
     Full Idea: In the quantification '(∃)(x=a)', it is the existential quantifier, not the 'a' itself, which carries the existential import.
     From: Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966], p.94)
     A reaction: The Fregean idea seems to be that the criterion of existence is participation in an equality, but here the equality seems not more than assigning a name. Why can't I quantify over 'sakes', in 'for the sake of the children'?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / c. Commitment of predicates
Quine says we can expand predicates easily (ideology), but not names (ontology)
     Full Idea: The highly intuitive methodological programme enunciated by Quine says that as our knowledge expands we should unhesitatingly expand our ideology, our stock of predicables, but should be much more wary about ontology, the name variables.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Harold Noonan - Identity §3
     A reaction: I suddenly embrace this as a crucial truth. This distinction allows you to expand on truths without expanding on reality. I would add that it is also crucial to distinguish properties from predicates. A new predicate isn't a new property.
Theories are committed to objects of which some of its predicates must be true
     Full Idea: Another way of saying what objects a theory requires is to say that they are the objects that some of the predicates of the theory have to be true of, in order for the theory to be true.
     From: Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966], p.95)
     A reaction: The other was for the objects to be needed by the bound variables of the theory. This is the first-order approach, that predication is a commitment to an object. So what of predicates which have no application?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / d. Commitment of theories
Fictional quantification has no ontology, so we study ontology through scientific theories
     Full Idea: In fiction, 'Once upon a time there was an F who...' obviously does not make an ontological commitment, so Quine says the question of which ontology we accept must be dealt with in terms of the role an ontology plays in a scientific worldview.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.3
     A reaction: This seems to invite questions about the ontology of people who don't espouse a scientific worldview. If your understanding of the outside world and of the past is created for you by storytellers, you won't be a Quinean.
An ontology is like a scientific theory; we accept the simplest scheme that fits disorderly experiences
     Full Idea: Our acceptance of ontology is similar in principle to our acceptance of a scientific theory; we adopt the simplest conceptual scheme into which the disordered fragments of raw experience can be fitted and arranged.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.16)
     A reaction: Quine (who says he likes 'desert landscapes') is the modern hero for anyone who loves Ockham's Razor, and seeks extreme simplicity. And yet he finds himself committed to the existence of sets to achieve this.
For Quine everything exists theoretically, as reference, predication and quantification
     Full Idea: Theoretical entities (which is everything, according to Quine) are postulated by us in a threefold fashion as an object (1) to which we refer, (2) of which we predicate, and (3) over which we quantify.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by José A. Benardete - Metaphysics: the logical approach Ch.12
Express a theory in first-order predicate logic; its ontology is the types of bound variable needed for truth
     Full Idea: According to Quine, we find the ontological commitments of a theory by expressing it in first-order predicate logic, then determining what kind of entities must be admitted as bound variables if the theory is true.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966]) by E.J. Lowe - A Survey of Metaphysics p.216
     A reaction: To me this is horribly wrong. The ontological commitments of our language is not the same as ontology. What are the ontological commitments of a pocket calculator?
Ontological commitment of theories only arise if they are classically quantified
     Full Idea: I hold that the question of the ontological commitment of a theory does not properly arise except as that theory is expressed in classical quantificational form.
     From: Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966], p.106)
     A reaction: He is attacking substitutional quantification for its failure to commit. I smell circularity. If it must be quantified in the first-order classical manner, that restricts your ontology to objects before you've even started. Chicken/egg.
Ontology is relative to both a background theory and a translation manual
     Full Idea: Ontology is doubly relative. Specifying the universe of a theory makes sense only relative to some background theory, and only relative to some choice of a manual of translation of one theory into another.
     From: Willard Quine (Ontological Relativity [1968], p.54)
     A reaction: People tend to forget about the double nature of Quine's notion of ontological commitment, and usually only talk about the commitment of the theory being employed. Why is the philosophical community not devoting itself to the study of tranlation manuals?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / e. Ontological commitment problems
If commitment rests on first-order logic, we obviously lose the ontology concerning predication
     Full Idea: If Quine restricts himself to first-order predicate calculus, then the ontological implications concern the subjects of predicates. The nature of predicates, and what must be true for the predication, have disappeared from the radar screen.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Tim Maudlin - The Metaphysics within Physics 3.1
     A reaction: Quine's response, I presume, is that the predicates can all be covered extensionally (red is a list of the red objects), and so a simpler logic will do the whole job. I agree with Maudlin though.
If to be is to be the value of a variable, we must already know the values available
     Full Idea: To apply Quine's criterion that to be is to be the value of a quantifier-bound variable, we must already know the values of bound variables, which is to say that we must already be in possession of a preferred existence domain.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], Ch.6) by Dale Jacquette - Ontology
     A reaction: [A comment on Idea 1610]. Very nice to accuse Quine, of all people, of circularity, given his attack on analytic-synthetic with the same strategy! The values will need to be known extra-lingistically, to avoid more circularity.
Quine is hopeless circular, deriving ontology from what is literal, and 'literal' from good ontology
     Full Idea: Quine's advice is to countenance numbers iff the literal part of our theory quantifies over them; and to count the part of our theory that quantifies over numbers literal iff there turn out really to be numbers.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Stephen Yablo - Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake? XIII
     A reaction: This sounds a bit devastating. Presumably it is indeed the choice of a best theory which results in the ontological commitment, so it is not much help to then read off the ontology from the theory.
You can be implicitly committed to something without quantifying over it
     Full Idea: Quine's test for ontological commitment ignores the fact that there are often implicit commitments to certain kinds of entities even where we are not yet quantifying over them.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966]) by Amie L. Thomasson - Ordinary Objects 09.4
     A reaction: Put this with the obvious problem (of which Quine is aware) that we don't quantify over 'sakes' in 'for the sake of the children', and quantification and commitment have been rather clearly pulled apart.
7. Existence / E. Categories / 1. Categories
In formal terms, a category is the range of some style of variables
     Full Idea: In terms of formalized quantification theory, each category comprises the range of some distinctive style of variable.
     From: Willard Quine (Existence and Quantification [1966], p.92)
     A reaction: I add this for those who dream of formalising everything, but be warned that even Quine thought it of little help in deciding on the categories. Presumably there would be some variable that ranged across tigers.
7. Existence / E. Categories / 4. Category Realism
The quest for ultimate categories is the quest for a simple clear pattern of notation
     Full Idea: The quest of a simplest, clearest overall pattern of canonical notation is not to be distinguished from a quest of ultimate categories, a limning of the most general traits of reality.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §33)
     A reaction: I won't disagree, as long as we recognise that reality calls the shots, not the notation, and that even animals must have some sort of system of categories, achieved without 'notation'.
7. Existence / E. Categories / 5. Category Anti-Realism
Discourse generally departmentalizes itself to some degree
     Full Idea: Discourse generally departmentalizes itself to some degree.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 2)
     A reaction: I pick this out because I think it is important. There is a continually shifting domain in any conversation ('what we are talking about'), and speech cannot be understand if the shifting domain or department has not been grasped.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 1. Nature of Properties
The category of objects incorporates the old distinction of substances and their modes
     Full Idea: The category of objects embraces indiscriminately what would anciently have been distinguished as substances and as modes or states of substances.
     From: Willard Quine (The Scope and Language of Science [1954], §6)
     A reaction: This nicely captures Quine's elimination of properties, by presenting them as inseparable from their objects/substances. Armstrong calls this 'Ostrich Nominalism' (for refusing to address the universals problem) but Quineans are unshaken.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
Quine says the predicate of a true statement has no ontological implications
     Full Idea: Quine's doctrine is that the predicate of a true statement carries no ontological implications.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by David M. Armstrong - Properties §1
     A reaction: Quine is ontologically committed to the subject of the statement (an object). The predicate seems to be an inseparable part of that object. Quine is, of course, a holist, so ontological commitment isn't judged in single statements.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 12. Denial of Properties
There is no proper identity concept for properties, and it is hard to distinguish one from two
     Full Idea: The lack of a proper identity concept for attributes (properties) is a lack that philosophers feel impelled to supply; for, what sense is there in saying there are attributes when there is no sense in saying when there is one attribute and when two?
     From: Willard Quine (Speaking of Objects [1960], IV)
     A reaction: This strikes me as being a really crucial question. There is a mistaken tendency to take any possible linguistic predicate as implying a natural property. I sympathise with the sceptics here (see Ideas 4029, 3906, 3322). How to individuate properties?
Quine suggests that properties can be replaced with extensional entities like sets
     Full Idea: Quine doubts the existence of properties, and, trying to be helpful, suggests that variables ranging over properties be replaced with variables ranging over respectable extensional entities like sets, so we can 'identify' a property with a singleton set.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Stewart Shapiro - Higher-Order Logic 2.1
     A reaction: This strikes me as a classic modern heresy, a slippery slope that loses all grip on what a property is, replacing it with entities that mean nothing, but make the logic work.
Quine says that if second-order logic is to quantify over properties, that can be done in first-order predicate logic
     Full Idea: Quine assures us that if the specific mission of second-order logic is quantifying over properties, the task can readily be performed by first-order predicate logic, as in (Ex) x is a property, and (y) y has x.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by José A. Benardete - Metaphysics: the logical approach Ch.10
Quine brought classes into semantics to get rid of properties
     Full Idea: Quine brought classes into semantics in order to oust properties.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Colin McGinn - Logical Properties Ch.3
     A reaction: Quine's view has always struck me as odd, as I don't see how you can decide what set something belongs to if you haven't already decided its properties. But then I take it that nature informs you of most properties, and set membership is not arbitrary.
Don't analyse 'red is a colour' as involving properties. Say 'all red things are coloured things'
     Full Idea: Quine proposes that 'red is a colour' does not require analysis, such as 'there is an x which is the property of being red and it is a colour' which needs an ontology of properties. We can just say that all red things are coloured things.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.6
     A reaction: The question of the ontology of properties is here approached, in twentieth century style, as the question 'what is the logical form of property attribution sentences?' Quine's version deals in sets of prior objects, rather than abstract entities.
Predicates are not names; predicates are the other parties to predication
     Full Idea: Predicates are not names; predicates are the other parties to predication.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.2)
     A reaction: Does a wife only exist as party to a marriage? There's something missing here. We are taking predication to be primitive, but we then seem to single out one part of the process - the object - while ignoring the remainder. What are Quinean objects?
Because things can share attributes, we cannot individuate attributes clearly
     Full Idea: No two classes have exactly the same members, but two different attributes may be attributes of exactly the same things. Classes are identical when their members are identical. ...On the other hand, attributes have no clear principle of individuation.
     From: Willard Quine (On the Individuation of Attributes [1975], p.100)
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 3. Powers as Derived
Dispositions are physical states of mechanism; when known, these replace the old disposition term
     Full Idea: Each disposition, in my view, is a physical state or mechanism. ...In some cases nowadays we understand the physical details and set them forth explicitly in terms of the arrangement and interaction of small bodies. This replaces the old disposition.
     From: Willard Quine (The Roots of Reference [1990], p.11), quoted by Stephen Mumford - Dispositions 01.3
     A reaction: A challenge to the dispositions and powers view of nature, one which rests on the 'categorical' structural properties, rather than the 'hypothetical' dispositions. But can we define a mechanism without mentioning its powers?
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / a. Dispositions
Either dispositions rest on structures, or we keep saying 'all things being equal'
     Full Idea: The further a disposition is from those that can confidently be pinned on molecular structure or something comparably firm, the more our talk of it tends to depend on a vague factor of 'caeteris paribus'
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46)
     A reaction: I approve of this. It is precisely the point of scientific essentialism, I take it. We are faced with innumerable uncertain dispositions, but once the underlying mechanisms are known, their role in nature becomes fairly precise.
Once we know the mechanism of a disposition, we can eliminate 'similarity'
     Full Idea: Once we can legitimize a disposition term by defining the relevant similarity standard, we are apt to know the mechanism of the disposition, and so by-pass the similarity.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.135)
     A reaction: I love mechanisms, but can we characterise mechanisms without mentioning powers and dispositions? Quine's dream is to eliminate 'similarity'.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / d. Dispositions as occurrent
Explain unmanifested dispositions as structural similarities to objects which have manifested them
     Full Idea: Quine claims that an unmanifested disposition is explicable in terms of an object having a structure similar to a structure of an object that has manifested the supposed disposition.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §46) by C.B. Martin - The Mind in Nature 07.4
     A reaction: This is probably the best account available for the firm empiricist who denies modal features in the actual world. In other words, a disposition is the result of an induction, not a conditional statement.
We judge things to be soluble if they are the same kind as, or similar to, things that do dissolve
     Full Idea: Intuitively, what qualifies a thing as soluble though it never gets into water is that it is of the same kind as the things that actually did or will dissolve; it is similar to them.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.130)
     A reaction: If you can judge that the similar things 'will' dissolve, you can cut to the chase and judge that this thing will dissolve.
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 1. Universals
Realism, conceptualism and nominalism in medieval universals reappear in maths as logicism, intuitionism and formalism
     Full Idea: The three medieval views on universals (realism, conceptualism and nominalism) reappear in the philosophy of maths as logicism, intuitionism and formalism.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.14)
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 2. Need for Universals
Universals are acceptable if they are needed to make an accepted theory true
     Full Idea: Abstract entities (universals) are admitted to an ontology by Quine's criterion if they must be supposed to exist (or subsist) in order to make the propositions of an accepted theory true.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Dale Jacquette - Abstract Entity p.3
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
There is no entity called 'redness', and that some things are red is ultimate and irreducible
     Full Idea: There is not any entity whatever, individual or otherwise, which is named by the word 'redness'. ...That the houses and roses and sunsets are all of them red may be taken as ultimate and irreducible.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.10)
     A reaction: This seems to invite the 'ostrich' charge (Armstrong), that there is something left over that needs explaining. If the reds are ultimate and irreducible, that seems to imply that they have no relationship at all to one another.
Commitment to universals is as arbitrary or pragmatic as the adoption of a new system of bookkeeping
     Full Idea: One's hypothesis as to there being universals is at bottom just as arbitrary or pragmatic a matter as one's adoption of a new brand of set theory or even a new system of bookkeeping.
     From: Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954], x)
     A reaction: This spells out clearly the strongly pragmatist vein in Quine's thinking.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 3. Predicate Nominalism
Quine has argued that predicates do not have any ontological commitment
     Full Idea: Quine has attempted to bypass the problem of universals by arguing for the ontological innocence of predicates, since it is the application conditions of predicates which furnish the Realists with much of their case.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by David M. Armstrong - Universals p.503
     A reaction: Presumably this would be a claim that predicates appear to commit us to properties, but that properties are not natural features, and can be reduced to something else. Tricky..
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 4. Concept Nominalism
Understanding 'is square' is knowing when to apply it, not knowing some object
     Full Idea: No more need be demanded of 'is square' than that our listener learn when to expect us to apply it to an object and when not; there is no need for the phrase itself to be the name in turn of a separate object of any kind.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 4)
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 5. Class Nominalism
Quine aims to deal with properties by the use of eternal open sentences, or classes
     Full Idea: Quine is not an 'ostrich', because his strategy for dealing with property sentences is clear enough: all talk of attributes is to be dispensed with in favour of talk of eternal open sentences or talk of classes.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §43) by Michael Devitt - 'Ostrich Nominalism' or 'Mirage Realism'? p.100
     A reaction: [See p.209 'Word and Object'] The proposal seems to be that a property like being-human (a category) would be dealt with by classes, and qualitative properties would be dealt with simply as predicates. I like the split, and the first half, not the second.
Quine is committed to sets, but is more a Class Nominalist than a Platonist
     Full Idea: Armstrong dubs Quine an 'Ostrich Nominalist' (what problem??), but Quine calls himself a Platonist, because he is committed to classes or sets as well as particulars. He is not an extreme nominalist, and might best be called a Class Nominalist.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961], Ch.6 n15) by Cynthia Macdonald - Varieties of Things
     A reaction: For someone as ontologically austere as Quine to show 'commitment' to sets deserves some recognition. If he wants to be a Platonist, I say that's fine. What on earth is a set, apart from its members?
You only know an attribute if you know what things have it
     Full Idea: May we not say that you know an attribute only insofar as you know what things have it?
     From: Willard Quine (On the Individuation of Attributes [1975], p.106)
     A reaction: Simple, and the best defence of class nominalism (a very implausible theory) which I have encountered. Do I have to know all the things? Do I not know 'red' if I don't know tomatoes have it?
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 6. Mereological Nominalism
'Red' is a single concrete object in space-time; 'red' and 'drop' are parts of a red drop
     Full Idea: Why not view 'red' as naming a single concrete object extended in space and time? ..To say a drop is red is to say that the one object, the drop, is a spatio-temporal part of the other, red, as a waterfall is part of a river.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 2)
Red is the largest red thing in the universe
     Full Idea: Red is the largest red thing in the universe - the scattered total thing whose parts are all the red things.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 3)
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 1. Physical Objects
Treating scattered sensations as single objects simplifies our understanding of experience
     Full Idea: By bringing together scattered sense events and treating them as perceptions of one object, we reduce the complexity of our stream of experience to a manageable conceptual simplicity.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.17)
     A reaction: If, however, our consideration of tricky cases, such as vague objects, or fast-changing objects, or spatially coinciding objects made it all seem too complex, then Quine's argument would be grounds for abandoning objects. See Merricks.
If physical objects are a myth, they are useful for making sense of experience
     Full Idea: The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.44)
Physical objects in space-time are just events or processes, no matter how disconnected
     Full Idea: Physical objects, conceived four-dimensionally in space-time, are not to be distinguished from events or concrete processes. Each comprises simply the content, however heterogeneous, of a portion of space-time, however disconnected and gerrymandered.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §36)
     A reaction: I very much like the suggestion that objects should be thought of as 'processes', but I dislike the idea that they can be gerrymandered. This is a refusal to cut nature at the joints (Idea 7953), which I find very counterintuitive.
The notion of a physical object is by far the most useful one for science
     Full Idea: In a contest of sheer systematic utility to science, the notion of physical object still leads the field.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §48)
     A reaction: A delightful circumlocution from someone who seems terrified to assert that there just are objects. Not that I object to Quine's caution. It would be disturbing if his researches had revealed that we could manage without objects. But compare Idea 6124.
A physical object is the four-dimensional material content of a portion of space-time
     Full Idea: We might think of a physical object as simply the whole four-dimensional material content, however sporadic and heterogeneous, of some portion of space-time. If it is firm and coherent internally, we call it a body.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.2)
     A reaction: An early articulation of one of the two standard views of objects in recent philosophy. I think I prefer the Quinean view, but I am still looking into that one...
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 2. Abstract Objects / b. Need for abstracta
Our conceptual scheme becomes more powerful when we posit abstract objects
     Full Idea: There is no denying the access of power that accrues to our conceptual scheme through the positing of abstract objects.
     From: Willard Quine (Speaking of Objects [1960], §5)
     A reaction: This seems right, both in its use of the word 'posit', and in its general pragmatic claim. So why? If they enable us to grapple with the world better, it must be because of their power of generalisation. They are nets thrown over chunks of reality.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Impossible objects
Definite descriptions can't unambiguously pick out an object which doesn't exist
     Full Idea: Meinong characteristically refers to his Objects using definite descriptions, such as 'the golden mountain'. But on his view there are many golden mountains, with different features. How can 'the golden mountain' then succeed in denoting a single Object?
     From: comment on Willard Quine (works [1961]) by William Lycan - The Trouble with Possible Worlds 01
     A reaction: Use of definite descriptions doesn't seem obligatory in this situation. 'Think of a golden mountain' - 'which one?' - 'never mind which one!'.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / a. Individuation
I prefer 'no object without identity' to Quine's 'no entity without identity'
     Full Idea: To adapt Quine's famous slogan ('no entity without identity'), I prefer to say 'no object without identity'.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Speaking of Objects [1960], p.52) by E.J. Lowe - The Possibility of Metaphysics 7.1
     A reaction: Quine was trying to make us all more scientific, but Lowe is closer to common sense. The sky is an entity, most of us would say, but with very shaky identity-conditions. A wave of the sea is a good example.
No entity without identity (which requires a principle of individuation)
     Full Idea: We have an acceptable notion of class, or physical object, or attribute, or any other sort of object, only insofar as we have an acceptable principle of individuation for that sort of object. There is no entity without identity.
     From: Willard Quine (On the Individuation of Attributes [1975], p.102)
     A reaction: Note that this is his criterion for an 'acceptable' notion. Presumably that is for science. It permits less acceptable notions which don't come up to the standard. And presumably true things can be said about the less acceptable entities.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 9. Essence and Properties
Aristotelian essentialism says a thing has some necessary and some non-necessary properties
     Full Idea: What Aristotelian essentialism says is that you can have open sentences Fx and Gx, such that ∃x(nec Fx.Gx.¬nec Gx). For example, ∃x(nec(x>5). there are just x planets. ¬nec(there are just x planets)).
     From: Willard Quine (Three Grades of Modal Involvement [1953], p.176)
     A reaction: This is a denial of 'maximal essentialism', that all of a things properties might be essential. Quine is thus denying necessity, except under a description. He may be equivocating over the reference of 'there are just 9 planets'.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
Aristotelian essence of the object has become the modern essence of meaning
     Full Idea: The Aristotelian notion of essence was the forerunner of the modern notion of intension or meaning. ...Meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], §1)
     A reaction: Quine first wants to jettison de re necessity (essence of the object), by shifting it to de dicto necessity (necessity in meaning), but he subsequently rejects that as well, presumably because he doesn't even believe in meanings.
Quantification into modal contexts requires objects to have an essence
     Full Idea: A reversion to Aristotelian essentialism is required if quantification into modal contexts is to be insisted on. An object must be seen as having some of its traits necessarily.
     From: Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953], §3)
     A reaction: This thought leads directly to Kripke's proposal of rigid designation of objects (and Lewis response of counterparts), which really gets modal logic off the ground. Quine's challenge remains - the modal logic entails a huge metaphysical commitment.
Mathematicians must be rational but not two-legged, cyclists the opposite. So a mathematical cyclist?
     Full Idea: Mathematicians are necessarily rational, and not necessarily two-legged; cyclists are the opposite. But what of an individual who counts among his eccentricities both mathematics and cycling?
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §41)
     A reaction: Quine's view is that the necessity (and essence) depends on how this eccentric is described. If he loses a leg, he must give up cycling; if he loses his rationality, he must give up the mathematics. Quine is wrong.
Cyclist are not actually essentially two-legged
     Full Idea: Cyclists are not essentially two-legged (a one-legged cyclist exists, but can't cycle any more), and mathematicians are not essentially rational (as they can lose rationality and continue to exist, though unable to do mathematics).
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §41.5) by Baruch Brody - Identity and Essence 5.1
     A reaction: Was Quine thinking of the nominal essence of this person - that 'cyclists' necessarily cylce, and 'mathematicians' necessarily do some maths? It is as bad to confuse 'necessary' with 'essential' as to confuse 'use' with 'mention'.
Essences can make sense in a particular context or enquiry, as the most basic predicates
     Full Idea: The notion of essence makes sense in context. Relative to a particular enquiry, some predicates may play a more basic role than others, or may apply more fixedly; and these may be treated as essential.
     From: Willard Quine (Intensions Revisited [1977], p.121)
     A reaction: Quine has got a bad press on essentialism, and on modal logic, but I take this point seriously. If you give something a fixed identity by means of essence in some context, you can then go ahead and apply possible world reasoning in that context.
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 4. Four-Dimensionalism
Four-d objects helps predication of what no longer exists, and quantification over items from different times
     Full Idea: The four-dimensional view of objects aids relativity, and the grammar of tenses, but in logic it makes sense of applying a predicate to something that no longer exists, or of quantifying over objects that never coexisted at any one time.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.2)
     A reaction: Since you can predicate of or quantify over hypothetical or fictional objects ('Hamlet is gloomy', 'phlogiston explained fire quite well', 'peace and quiet would be nice') I don't see the necessity for this bold ontological commitment, on these grounds.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 1. Concept of Identity
To unite a sequence of ostensions to make one object, a prior concept of identity is needed
     Full Idea: The concept of identity is central in specifying spatio-temporally broad objects by ostension. Without identity, n acts of ostension merely specify up to n objects. ..But when we affirm identity of object between ostensions, they refer to the same object.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 1)
     A reaction: Quine says that there is an induction involved. On the whole, Quine seems to give a better account of identity than Geach or Wiggins can offer.
We know what things are by distinguishing them, so identity is part of ontology
     Full Idea: We cannot know what something is without knowing how it is marked off from other things. Identity is thus of a piece with ontology.
     From: Willard Quine (Ontological Relativity [1968], p.55)
     A reaction: Actually it is failure of identity which seems to raise questions of individuation. If I say 'this apple is [pause] identical to this apple', I don't see how that helps me to individuate apples.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 2. Defining Identity
We can paraphrase 'x=y' as a sequence of the form 'if Fx then Fy'
     Full Idea: For general terms write 'if Fx then Fy' and vice versa, and 'if Fxz then Fyz'..... The conjunction of all these is coextensive with 'x=y' if any formula constructible from the vocabulary is; and we can adopt that conjunction as our version of identity.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §47)
     A reaction: [first half compressed] The main rival views of equality are this and Wiggins (1980:199). Quine concedes that his account implies a modest version of the identity of indiscernibles. Wiggins says identity statements need a sortal.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 6. Identity between Objects
Identity of physical objects is just being coextensive
     Full Idea: Physical objects are identical if and only if coextensive.
     From: Willard Quine (On the Individuation of Attributes [1975], p.101)
     A reaction: The supposed counterexample to this is the statue and the clay it is made of, which are said to have different modal properties (destroying the statue doesn't destroy the clay).
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 7. Indiscernible Objects
We should just identify any items which are indiscernible within a given discourse
     Full Idea: We might propound the maxim of the 'identification of indiscernibles': Objects indistinguishable from one another within the terms of a given discourse should be construed as identical for that discourse.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 2)
     A reaction: This increasingly strikes me as the correct way to discuss such things. Identity is largely contextual, and two things can be viewed as type-identical for practical purposes (e.g. teaspoons), but distinguished if it is necessary.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 2. Nature of Necessity
Necessity can attach to statement-names, to statements, and to open sentences
     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
     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
     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?'
     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
Whether 9 is necessarily greater than 7 depends on how '9' is described
     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
     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
     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?
Necessity is in the way in which we say things, and not things themselves
     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.
There is no necessity higher than natural necessity, and that is just regularity
     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
     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
     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
     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)
     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.
     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
     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.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 9. Counterfactuals
Counterfactuals have no place in a strict account of science
     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.
What stays the same in assessing a counterfactual antecedent depends on context
     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.
We feign belief in counterfactual antecedents, and assess how convincing the consequent is
     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 are plausible when dispositions are involved, as they imply structures
     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!
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 3. A Posteriori Necessary
Quine's indispensability argument said arguments for abstracta were a posteriori
     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.
For Quine the only way to know a necessity is empirically
     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
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
     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?
     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
     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
     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.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / a. Beliefs
Beliefs can be ascribed to machines
     Full Idea: Beliefs have been ascribed to machines, in support of a mechanistic philosophy, and I share this attitude.
     From: Willard Quine (Intensions Revisited [1977], p.123)
     A reaction: [He cites Raymond Nelson] One suspects that this is Quine's latent behaviourism speaking. It strikes me as a crass misuse of 'belief' to ascribe it to a simple machine like a thermostat.
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / e. Belief holism
How do you distinguish three beliefs from four beliefs or two beliefs?
     Full Idea: Suppose I say that I have given up precisely three beliefs since lunch. An over-coarse individuation could reduce the number to two, and an over-fine one could raise it to four.
     From: Willard Quine (Propositional Objects [1965], p.144)
     A reaction: Obviously if you ask how many beliefs I hold, it would be crazy to give a precise answer. But if I search for my cat, I give up my belief that it is in the kitchen, in the lounge and in the bathroom. That's precise enough to be three beliefs, I think.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 2. Phenomenalism
We can never translate our whole language of objects into phenomenalism
     Full Idea: There is no likelihood that each sentence about physical objects can actually be translated, however deviously and complexly, into the phenomenalistic language.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.18), quoted by Penelope Maddy - Naturalism in Mathematics III.2
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 2. Self-Evidence
A sentence is obvious if it is true, and any speaker of the language will instantly agree to it
     Full Idea: A sentence is obvious if (a) it is true and (b) any speaker of the language is prepared, for any reason or none, to assent to it without hesitation, unless put off by being asked so obvious a question.
     From: Willard Quine (Reply to Hellman [1975], p.206), quoted by Paul Boghossian - Analyticity Reconsidered §III
     A reaction: This comes from someone who is keen to deny a priori knowledge, but what are we to make of the expostulations "It's obvious, you idiot!", and "Now I see it, it's obvious!", and "It seemed obvious, but I was wrong!"?
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 7. A Priori from Convention
Examination of convention in the a priori begins to blur the distinction with empirical knowledge
     Full Idea: In trying to make sense of the role of convention in a priori knowledge, the very distinction between a priori and empirical begins to waver and dissolve.
     From: Willard Quine (Carnap and Logical Truth [1954], VI)
     A reaction: This is the next stage in the argument after Wittgenstein presents the apriori as nothing more than what arises from truth tables. The rationalists react by taking us back to the original 'natural light of reason' view. Then we go round again...
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 8. A Priori as Analytic
Metaphysical analyticity (and linguistic necessity) are hopeless, but epistemic analyticity is a priori
     Full Idea: Quine showed the vacuity of the metaphysical concept of analyticity and the futility of the underwritten project - the linguistic theory of necessity. But that doesn't effect the epistemic notion of analyticity needed for a priori knowledge.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Paul Boghossian - Analyticity Reconsidered Concl
     A reaction: This summarise Boghossian's view, that a priori knowledge is still analytic, once we get clear about analyticity. See Idea 9368 for his two types of analyticity. Horwich attacks the view.
Quine challenges the claim that analytic truths are knowable a priori
     Full Idea: The last section of Quine's article challenges the claim that analytic truths are knowable a priori.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Philip Kitcher - The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge 04.5
     A reaction: That is, Quine does not deny that there are truths which rest entirely on meaning. It is a 'dogma of empiricism' that the a priori can be equated with the analytic (and the necessary).
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 11. Denying the A Priori
Science is empirical, simple and conservative; any belief can hence be abandoned; so no a priori
     Full Idea: Quine says scientific beliefs follow empirical adequacy, simplicity and conservatism; science and rationality support this view; hence any hypothesis can be abandoned to increase simplicity; so no scientific belief is a priori.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Paul Horwich - Stipulation, Meaning and Apriority §10
     A reaction: [Compressed] I just don't accept this claim. If science wants to drop simple arithmetic or the laws of thought, so much the worse for science - they've obviously taken a wrong turning somewhere. We must try to infer God's logic.
Quine's objections to a priori knowledge only work in the domain of science
     Full Idea: Quine's arguments provide no reason to doubt the existence of a priori knowledge outside the domain of science.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Paul Horwich - Stipulation, Meaning and Apriority §10
     A reaction: This rather ignores Quine's background view of thoroughgoing physicalism, so that the domain of science is the domain of nature, which is the domain of everything. See his naturalising of epistemology, for example. Maths is part of his science.
Logic, arithmetic and geometry are revisable and a posteriori; quantum logic could be right
     Full Idea: I think logic, arithmetic and geometry are subject to Quine's empirical revisability argument: quantum logic may turn out to be the best overall theory; so these things are justified a posteriori.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Paul Horwich - Stipulation, Meaning and Apriority §11
     A reaction: Not much of an argument, because 'quantum logic' may also turn out to be a will-o'-the-whisp. Until it is established (which I doubt, because quantum theory is so poorly understood), I think we should be highly suspicious of the Quinean view.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
Empiricism makes a basic distinction between truths based or not based on facts
     Full Idea: One dogma of empiricism is that there is some fundamental cleavage between truths that are analytic, or grounded in meanings independently of facts, and truths which are synthetic, or grounded in fact.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.20)
Our outer beliefs must match experience, and our inner ones must be simple
     Full Idea: The outer edge of our empirical system must be kept squared with experience; the rest, with all its elaborate myths and fictions, has as its objective the simplicity of laws.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.45)
Quine's empiricism is based on whole theoretical systems, not on single mental events
     Full Idea: Traditional empiricism takes impressions, ideas or sense data as the basic unit of empirical thought, but Quine takes account of the theoretical as well as the observational; the unit of empirical significance is whole systems of belief.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.1
     A reaction: This invites either the question of what components make up the whole systems, or (alternatively) what sort of mental events decide to accept a system as a whole. Should Quine revert either to traditional empiricism, or to rationalism?
Empiricism improvements: words for ideas, then sentences, then systems, then no analytic, then naturalism
     Full Idea: Since 1750 empiricism shows five turns for the better. First was a shift from ideas to words. Second a shift from terms to sentences. Third the shift to systems of sentences. Fourth the abandonment of analytic-synthetic dualism. Fifth was naturalism.
     From: Willard Quine (Five Milestones of Empiricism [1975], p.67)
     A reaction: [compressed] Quine must be largely credited with the last two. The first four are almost entirely linguistic in character, which is characteristic of mid-twentieth-century empiricism. I would offer the recognition of explanation as central for the sixth.
In scientific theories sentences are too brief to be independent vehicles of empirical meaning
     Full Idea: We have come to recognise that in a scientific theory even a whole sentence is ordinarily too short a text to serve as an independent vehicle of empirical meaning.
     From: Willard Quine (Five Milestones of Empiricism [1975], p.70)
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
The second dogma is linking every statement to some determinate observations
     Full Idea: Quine's second dogma of empiricism is the reductionism that finds every statement to be linkable by fixed correspondence rules to a determinate range of confirming observations.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Stephen Yablo - Does Ontology Rest on a Mistake? V
     A reaction: Quine's response to this is to embrace holism about theories, instead of precise connections with Humean impressions. I'm thinking that Lewis disagrees with Quine, when his Humean supervenience rests on a 'mosaic' of small qualities.
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 9. Naturalised Epistemology
You can't reduce epistemology to psychology, because that presupposes epistemology
     Full Idea: There is something seriously misguided about Quine's project of reducing epistemology to psychology, since psychology, like any of the natural sciences, presupposes an epistemology.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968]) by Barry Maund - Perception Ch.1
     A reaction: I wonder if epistemology presupposes psychology? Belief, for example, is a category of folk psychology, which could be challenged. There is a quiet battle going on between philosophy and science.
We should abandon a search for justification or foundations, and focus on how knowledge is acquired
     Full Idea: Quine is suggesting that philosophy should abandon the attempt to provide a foundation for knowledge, or otherwise justify it, and should instead give an account of how knowledge is acquired.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968]) by Donald Davidson - Epistemology Externalized p.193
     A reaction: If you are going to explain how 'knowledge' is acquired, you'd better know what knowledge is. My suspicion is that Quine would be quite happy (in the pragmatist tradition) to just focus on belief, and forget about knowledge entirely.
If we abandon justification and normativity in epistemology, we must also abandon knowledge
     Full Idea: Quine asks us to set aside the entire framework of justification-centered epistemology, ..and repudiate normativity. ..But then knowledge itself drops out of epistemology, for our concept of knowledge is inseparably tied to that of justification.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968]) by Jaegwon Kim - What is 'naturalized epistemology'? p.305
     A reaction: Presumably this would not bother Quine, who wants to hand so-called 'epistemology' over to the psychologists. A psychological account of belief seems plausible. Presumably false beliefs could only be pragmatically characterised.
Without normativity, naturalized epistemology isn't even about beliefs
     Full Idea: If normativity is wholly excluded from naturalized epistemology it cannot even be thought of as being about beliefs.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968]) by Jaegwon Kim - What is 'naturalized epistemology'? p.306
     A reaction: And if it doesn't refer to beliefs, it certainly doesn't refer to knowledge. One might try to subsume normativity under evolutionary pragmatic 'drives', or something. Quine's project would then become wildly speculative, and hence boring.
Epistemology is a part of psychology, studying how our theories relate to our evidence
     Full Idea: Epistemology falls into place as a chapter of psychology, and hence of natural science. ..We study meagre input and torrential output, to see how evidence relates to theory, and in what ways one's theory of nature transcends any available evidence.
     From: Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968], p.83)
     A reaction: It depends what you are interested in. If you just want to know what makes humans tick, then Quine is your man, but if you want to know things in general, and want to know how to get it right, then the normative side of epistemology is unavoidable.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 4. Cultural relativism
To proclaim cultural relativism is to thereby rise above it
     Full Idea: Truth, says the cultural relativist, is culture-bound. But if it were, then he, within his own culture, ought to see his own culture-bound truth as absolute. He cannot proclaim cultural relativism without rising above it.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by W.H. Newton-Smith - The Rationality of Science VII.10
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 5. Language Relativism
Two things are relative - the background theory, and translating the object theory into the background theory
     Full Idea: Relativity has two components: to the choice of a background theory, and to the choice of how to translate the object theory into the background theory.
     From: Willard Quine (Ontological Relativity [1968], p.67)
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 3. Experiment
Science is common sense, with a sophisticated method
     Full Idea: Sciences differ from common sense only in the degree of methodological sophistication.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.129)
     A reaction: Science is normal thinking about the world, but it is teamwork, with the bar set very high.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory
Two theories can be internally consistent and match all the facts, yet be inconsistent with one another
     Full Idea: Duhem and Quine have maintained that it may be possible to develop two or more theories that are 1) internally consistent, 2) inconsistent with one another, and 3) perfectly consistent with all the data we can muster.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960]) by J Baggini / PS Fosl - The Philosopher's Toolkit §1.06
     A reaction: Obviously this may be a contingent truth about our theories, but why not presume that this is because we are unable to collect the crucial data (e.g. about prehistoric biology), rather than denigrate the whole concept of a theory, and undermine science?
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 3. Instrumentalism
For Quine, theories are instruments used to make predictions about observations
     Full Idea: Quine's epistemological position is instrumentalist. Our theories are instruments we use to make predictions about observations.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Paul O'Grady - Relativism Ch.3
     A reaction: This is the pragmatist in Quine. It fits the evolutionary view to think that the bottom line is prediction. My theory about the Pelopponesian War seems an exception.
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 6. Theory Holism
Statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience as a corporate body
     Full Idea: My suggestion, following Carnap, is that our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.41)
14. Science / C. Induction / 1. Induction
Induction is just more of the same: animal expectations
     Full Idea: Induction is essentially only more of the same: animal expectation or habit formation.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.125)
     A reaction: My working definition of induction is 'learning from experience', but that doesn't disagree with Quine. Lipton has a richer account of different types of induction. Quine's point is that it rests on resemblance.
Induction relies on similar effects following from each cause
     Full Idea: Induction expresses our hopes that similar causes will have similar effects.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.125)
     A reaction: Some top philosophers are also top teachers, and Quine was one of them, in his writings. He boils it down for the layman. Once again, he is pointing to the fundamental role of the similarity relation.
14. Science / C. Induction / 5. Paradoxes of Induction / a. Grue problem
Grue is a puzzle because the notions of similarity and kind are dubious in science
     Full Idea: What makes Goodman's example a puzzle is the dubious scientific standing of a general notion of similarity, or of kind.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.116)
     A reaction: Illuminating. It might be best expressed as revealing a problem with sortal terms, as employed by Geach, or by Wiggins. Grue is a bit silly, but sortals are subject to convention and culture. 'Natural' properties seem needed.
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 7. Seeing Resemblance
General terms depend on similarities among things
     Full Idea: The usual general term, whether a common noun or a verb or an adjective, owes its generality to some resemblance among the things referred to.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.116)
     A reaction: Quine has a nice analysis of the basic role of similarity in a huge amount of supposedly strict scientific thought.
To learn yellow by observation, must we be told to look at the colour?
     Full Idea: According to the 'respects' view, our learning of yellow by ostension would have depended on our first having been told or somehow apprised that it was going to be a question of color.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.122)
     A reaction: Quine suggests there is just one notion of similarity, and respects can be 'abstracted' afterwards. Even the ontologically ruthless Quine admits psychological abstraction!
Standards of similarity are innate, and the spacing of qualities such as colours can be mapped
     Full Idea: A standard of similarity is in some sense innate. The spacing of qualities (such as red, pink and blue) can be explored and mapped in the laboratory by experiments. They are needed for all learning.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.123)
     A reaction: This reasserts Hume's original point in more scientific terms. It is one of the undeniable facts about our perceptions of qualities and properties, no matter how platonist your view of universals may be.
Similarity is just interchangeability in the cosmic machine
     Full Idea: Things are similar to the extent that they are interchangeable parts of the cosmic machine.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.134)
     A reaction: This is a major idea for Quine, because it is a means to gradually eliminate the fuzzy ideas of 'resemblance' or 'similarity' or 'natural kind' from science. I love it! Two tigers are same insofar as they are substitutable.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 3. Eliminativism
Quine expresses the instrumental version of eliminativism
     Full Idea: Quine expresses the instrumental version of eliminativism.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960]) by Georges Rey - Contemporary Philosophy of Mind Int.3
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 6. Conceptual Dualism
A hallucination can, like an ague, be identified with its host; the ontology is physical, the idiom mental
     Full Idea: A physical ontology has a place for states of mind. An inspiration or a hallucination can, like the fit of ague, be identified with its host for the duration. It leaves our mentalistic idioms fairly intact, but reconciles them with a physical ontology.
     From: Willard Quine (The Scope and Language of Science [1954], §VI)
     A reaction: Quine is employing the same strategy that he uses for substances and properties (Idea 8461): take the predication as basic, rather than reifying the thing being predicated. The ague analogy suggests that Quine is an incipient functionalist.
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 5. Concepts and Language / b. Concepts are linguistic
Concepts are language
     Full Idea: Concepts are language.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 5)
     A reaction: Hm. This seems to mean that animals and pre-linguistic children have no concepts. I just don't believe that.
18. Thought / E. Abstraction / 1. Abstract Thought
Apply '-ness' or 'class of' to abstract general terms, to get second-level abstract singular terms
     Full Idea: Applying the operator '-ness' or 'class of' to abstract general terms, we get second-level abstract singular terms.
     From: Willard Quine (Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis [1950], 5)
     A reaction: This is the derivation of abstract concepts by naming classes, rather than by deriving equivalence classes. Any theory which doesn't allow multi-level abstraction is self-evidently hopeless. Quine says Frege and Russell get numbers this way.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 1. Meaning
It is troublesome nonsense to split statements into a linguistic and a factual component
     Full Idea: My present suggestion is that it is nonsense, and the root of much nonsense, to speak of a linguistic component and a factual component in the truth of any individual statement.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.42)
     A reaction: I take the language and its subject matter to be obviously separate, but it is right that we can't separate these two components within a sample of language.
Inculcations of meanings of words rests ultimately on sensory evidence
     Full Idea: All inculcation of meanings of words must rest ultimately on sensory evidence.
     From: Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968], p.75)
     A reaction: This betrays Quine's behaviourist tendencies, and rules out introspection, definitions and inferences. Quine's conclusion is fairly total scepticism about meaning, but that is not surprising, given his external and meaningless starting point.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 7. Meaning Holism / b. Language holism
There is an attempt to give a verificationist account of meaning, without the error of reducing everything to sensations
     Full Idea: This essay offered a verificationist account of language without the logical positivist error of supposing that verification could be reduced to a mere sequence of sense-experiences.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Daniel Dennett - works
     A reaction: This is because of Quine's holistic view of theory, so that sentences are not tested individually, where sense-data might be needed as support, but as whole teams which need to be simple, coherent etc.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 8. Synonymy
'Renate' and 'cordate' have identical extensions, but are not synonymous
     Full Idea: It is easy to see that intersubstitutability salva veritate is not a sufficient condition for synonymy. 'Renate' (with kidney) and 'cordate' (with heart) can be substituted in a purely extensional language, but are plainly not synonymous.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Alexander Miller - Philosophy of Language 4.2
     A reaction: This seems to be a key example (along with Hesperus, and many others) in mapping out synonymy, meaning, analyticity, sense, reference, extension, intension, and all that stuff.
Single words are strongly synonymous if their interchange preserves truth
     Full Idea: We can define, it would seem, a strong synonymy relation for single words by them being interchangeable salva veritate.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.1)
     A reaction: This is a first step in Quine's rejection of synonymous sentences. He goes on to raise the problem of renate/cordate. Presumably any two word types can have different connotations, and hence not always be interchangeable - in poetry, for example.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 10. Denial of Meanings
The word 'meaning' is only useful when talking about significance or about synonymy
     Full Idea: The useful ways in which ordinary people talk about meanings boil down to two: the having of meanings, which is significance, and sameness of meaning, or synonymy.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.11)
     A reaction: If the Fregean criterion for precise existence is participation in an identity relation, then synonymy does indeed pinpoint what we mean by 'meaning.
I do not believe there is some abstract entity called a 'meaning' which we can 'have'
     Full Idea: Some philosophers construe meaningfulness as the having (in some sense of 'having') of some abstract entity which he calls a meaning, whereas I do not.
     From: Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948], p.11)
     A reaction: To call a meaning an 'entity' is to put a spin on it that makes it very implausible. Introspection shows us a gap between grasping a word and grasping its meaning.
Once meaning and reference are separated, meaning ceases to seem important
     Full Idea: Once theory of meaning and of reference are separated it is a short step to recognising as the primary business of theory of meaning simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and analyticity of statements; meanings themselves may be abandoned.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.22)
     A reaction: I can't buy the abandonment of meaning, because when I introspect my own speech there is clearly what I want to say formulating in my mind before the words are settled.
Intensions are creatures of darkness which should be exorcised
     Full Idea: Intensions are creatures of darkness and I shall rejoice with the reader when they are exorcised.
     From: Willard Quine (Quantifiers and Propositional Attitudes [1955], §II)
     A reaction: Quine seems to be in a diminshing minority with this view. For 'intensions' read 'meanings', presumably.
Meaning is essence divorced from things and wedded to words
     Full Idea: Meaning is essence divorced from the thing and wedded to the word.
     From: Willard Quine (Vagaries of Definition [1972], p.51)
     A reaction: Quine's strategy is that a demolition of essences will be a definition of meaning. Personally I would like to defend essences, though I admit to finding meaning tricky. That is because essences are external, but meanings are in minds.
19. Language / B. Reference / 1. Reference theories
Quine says there is no matter of fact about reference - it is 'inscrutable'
     Full Idea: Quine holds the doctrine of the 'inscrutability of reference', which means there is no fact of the matter about reference.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Paul O'Grady - Relativism Ch.3
     A reaction: Presumably reference depends on conventions like pointing, or the functioning of words like "that", or the ambiguities of descriptions. If you can't define it, it doesn't exist? I don't believe him.
Reference is inscrutable, because we cannot choose between theories of numbers
     Full Idea: For Quine, we cannot sensibly ask which is the real number five, the Frege-Russell set or the Von Neumann one. There is no arithmetical or empirical way of deciding between the two. Reference is inscrutable.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Ontological Relativity [1968]) by Alex Orenstein - W.V. Quine Ch.3
     A reaction: To generalise from a problem of reference in the highly abstract world of arithmetic, and say that all reference is inscrutable, strikes me as implausible.
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 2. Semantics
Syntax and semantics are indeterminate, and modern 'semantics' is a bogus subject
     Full Idea: Quine has argued tirelessly that syntax and 'semantics' are indeterminate, and linguistic semantics of the sort that is currently in favor is a pseudoscience and a pipe dream.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Methodological Reflections on Current Linguistic Theory [1972]) by William Lycan - The Trouble with Possible Worlds 02
     A reaction: I think the defence of such things is that they may not integrate into science very well (or even integrate at all), but semantics is intended to integrate into philosophy, and is motivated by philosophical concerns. Quine may be right!
19. Language / C. Assigning Meanings / 3. Predicates
Quine relates predicates to their objects, by being 'true of' them
     Full Idea: Quine relates predicates to the things of which they can be predicated ...and hence predicates are 'true of' each and every thing of which the predicate can be truly predicated.
     From: report of Willard Quine (On What There Is [1948]) by Donald Davidson - Truth and Predication 5
     A reaction: Davidson comments that the virtue of Quine's view is negative, in avoiding a regress in the explanation of predication. I'm not sure about true 'of' as an extra sort of truth, but I like dropping predicates from ontology, and sticking to truths.
Projectible predicates can be universalised about the kind to which they refer
     Full Idea: 'Projectible' predicates are predicates F and G whose shared instances all do count, for whatever reason, towards confirmation of 'All F are G'. ….A projectible predicate is one that is true of all and only the things of a kind.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.115-6)
     A reaction: Both Quine and Goodman are infuriatingly brief about the introduction of this concept. 'Red' is true of all ripe tomatoes, but not 'only' of them. Hardly any predicates are true only of one kind. Is that a scholastic 'proprium'?
19. Language / D. Propositions / 2. Abstract Propositions / a. Propositions as sense
A 'proposition' is said to be the timeless cognitive part of the meaning of a sentence
     Full Idea: A 'proposition' is the meaning of a sentence. More precisely, since propositions are supposed to be true or false once and for all, it is the meaning of an eternal sentence. More precisely still, it is the 'cognitive' meaning, involving truth, not poetry.
     From: Willard Quine (Propositional Objects [1965], p.139)
     A reaction: Quine defines this in order to attack it. I equate a proposition with a thought, and take a sentence to be an attempt to express a proposition. I have no idea why they are supposed to be 'timeless'. Philosophers have some very odd ideas.
19. Language / D. Propositions / 6. Propositions Critique
The problem with propositions is their individuation. When do two sentences express one proposition?
     Full Idea: The trouble with propositions, as cognitive meanings of eternal sentences, is individuation. Given two eternal sentences, themselves visibly different linguistically, it is not sufficiently clear under when to say that they mean the same proposition.
     From: Willard Quine (Propositional Objects [1965], p.140)
     A reaction: If a group of people agree that two sentences mean the same thing, which happens all the time, I don't see what gives Quine the right to have a philosophical moan about some dubious activity called 'individuation'.
It makes no sense to say that two sentences express the same proposition
     Full Idea: My objection to propositions is not parsimony, or disapproval of abstract entities, ..but that propositions induce a relation of synonymy or equivalence between sentences (expressing the same proposition), and this makes no objective sense.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.1)
     A reaction: Personally I think propositions are unavoidable when you try to connect language to activities of the brain, and also when you consider animal thought. And also when you introspect about your own language processes. Mr Quine, he wrong.
There is no rule for separating the information from other features of sentences
     Full Idea: There is no evident rule for separating the information from the stylistic or other immaterial features of the sentences.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.1)
     A reaction: There is no rule for deciding precisely when night falls, so I don't believe in night. I take a proposition, prima facie, as an answer to the question 'What exactly do you mean by that remark?' How do you extract logical form from sentences?
We can abandon propositions, and just talk of sentences and equivalence
     Full Idea: Why not just talk of sentences and equivalence and let the propositions go? Propositions have been projected as shadows of sentences, but at best they will give us nothing the sentences will not give.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.1)
     A reaction: I don't understand how you decide that two sentences are equivalent. 'There's someone in that wood'; 'yes, there's a person amongst those trees'. Identical truth-conditions. We can formulate a non-linguistic fact about those truth-conditions.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 1. Analytic Propositions
Analytic statements are either logical truths (all reinterpretations) or they depend on synonymy
     Full Idea: Analytic statements fall into two classes: 'no unmarried man is married' typifies the first class, of logical truths; it remains true under all reinterpretations. 'No bachelor is married' is analytic if synonyms replace synonyms, and there's the problem.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], §1)
     A reaction: Boghossian emphasises this passage. In other papers Quine argues that logical truths also cannot be purely analytic, although he does not deny that there are logical truths.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 3. Analytic and Synthetic
Without the analytic/synthetic distinction, Carnap's ontology/empirical distinction collapses
     Full Idea: If there is no proper distinction between analytic and synthetic, then no basis at all remains for the contrast which Carnap urges between ontological statements and empirical statements of existence. Ontology then ends up on a par with natural science.
     From: Willard Quine (On Carnap's Views on Ontology [1951], p.211)
     A reaction: Carnap says ontology is relative to a linguistic framework. 'External' ontology is empty. This quotation gives Quine's main motivation for denying the analytic/synthetic distinction.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 4. Analytic/Synthetic Critique
The last two parts of 'Two Dogmas' are much the best
     Full Idea: The arguments of the final two sections of 'Two Dogmas' have received more acceptance than the arguments of the first four sections, which are now generally acknowledged to be unsuccessful.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Alexander Miller - Philosophy of Language 4 Read
     A reaction: The early sections are the 'circular' argument against analyticity; the later parts are further discussions of the concept. We don't have to take Miller's word for this, but it is a useful pointer when reading the paper.
Did someone ever actually define 'bachelor' as 'unmarried man'?
     Full Idea: How do we find that 'bachelor' is defined as unmarried man? Who defined it thus, and when? Not the lexicographer, who is a scientist recording antecedent facts.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.24)
     A reaction: All mid-20th C philosophy of language is too individualistic in its strategy. Eventually later Wittgenstein sank in, and socially agreed meanings for 'water' and 'elm'.
Erasing the analytic/synthetic distinction got rid of meanings, and saved philosophy of language
     Full Idea: Erasing the line between the analytic and the synthetic saved philosophy of language as a serious subject by showing how it could be pursued without what there cannot be: determinate meanings.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Donald Davidson - Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge p.158
     A reaction: Note that this comes from the most famous modern champion of one of the main theories of meaning (as truth-conditions). Did anyone ever believe in reified objects called 'meanings'?
The analytic needs excessively small units of meaning and empirical confirmation
     Full Idea: Quine rejects the analytic on the grounds that it assumes a smaller unit of meaning than a total theory, and he does not think it makes sense to talk about such smaller units of meaning because there are no smaller units of empirical confirmation.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Carrie Jenkins - Grounding Concepts 7.5
     A reaction: A very helpful account of the famous Quine argument, showing how it arises out of his particular holistic view of empiricism.
If we try to define analyticity by synonymy, that leads back to analyticity
     Full Idea: In defining analyticity an appeal to meanings seems natural, but that reduces to synonymy or definition. Definition is a will-o'-the-wisp, and synonymy is best understood by a priori appeal to analyticity, so we are back at the problem of analyticity.
     From: Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953], p.32)
     A reaction: Quine is full of these over-neat sceptical arguments, saying everything is circular, or can never get started. Compare Aristotles benign circle of virtuous people and virtuous actions.
Quine's attack on analyticity undermined linguistic views of necessity, and analytic views of the a priori
     Full Idea: Quine's attack on analyticity devastated the philosophical programs that depend upon a notion of analyticity - specifically, the linguistic theory of necessary truth, and the analytic theory of a priori knowledge.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Paul Boghossian - Analyticity Reconsidered §I
     A reaction: Note that much more would be needed to complete Quine's aim of more or less eliminating both necessity and the a priori from his scientific philosophy. Quine was trying to complete a programme initiated by C.I. Lewis (q.v.).
Quine attacks the Fregean idea that we can define analyticity through synonyous substitution
     Full Idea: Quine's attack argues against the Fregean attempt to define 'analyticity' in terms of synonymy - where analytical truths are logical truths ('unmarried men are unmarried'), or become logical truths by synonymous replacement ('bachelors are unmarried').
     From: report of Willard Quine (Two Dogmas of Empiricism [1953]) by Amie L. Thomasson - Ordinary Objects 02.1
     A reaction: This is a very helpful explanation of what is going on in Quine. Why won't philosophers explain clearly what they are attacking, before they attack it?
I will even consider changing a meaning to save a law; I question the meaning-fact cleavage
     Full Idea: I am not concerned even to avoid the trivial extreme of sustaining a law by changing a meaning; for the cleavage between meaning and fact is part of what ...I am questioning.
     From: Willard Quine (Letters [1962], 1962.06.01)
     A reaction: [Letter to Adolf Grünbaum. Found on Twitter] A strikingly helpful expression of his position by Quine. We should take about the 'meaning/fact distinction' in order to understand clearly what is going on here.
In observation sentences, we could substitute community acceptance for analyticity
     Full Idea: Perhaps the controversial notion of analyticity can be dispensed with, in our definition of observation sentences, in favour of the straightforward attitude of community-wide acceptance.
     From: Willard Quine (Epistemology Naturalized [1968], p.86)
     A reaction: That might be a reasonable account of 'bachelors'. If the whole community accepts 'God exists', does that make it analytic? If a whole (small!) community claims to actually observe a ghost or a flying saucer, is that then analytic?
The distinction between meaning and further information is as vague as the essence/accident distinction
     Full Idea: The distinction between what belongs to the meaning of a word and what counts as further information is scarcely clearer than the distinction between the essence of a thing and its accidents.
     From: Willard Quine (Vagaries of Definition [1972], p.51)
     A reaction: In lots of cases the distinction between essence and accident strikes me as totally clear. Tricky borderline cases don't destroy a distinction. That bachelors are married is clearly not 'further information'.
Holism in language blurs empirical synthetic and empty analytic sentences
     Full Idea: Holism blurs the supposed contrast beween the synthetic sentence, with its empirical content, and the analytic sentence, with its null content.
     From: Willard Quine (Five Milestones of Empiricism [1975], p.71)
     A reaction: This spells out nicely that Quine's rejection of the distinction is completely tied to his holistic view of language. The obvious phenomenon of compositionality (building sentence meaning in steps) counts against holism.
19. Language / F. Communication / 5. Pragmatics / a. Contextual meaning
A good way of explaining an expression is saying what conditions make its contexts true
     Full Idea: A reasonable way of explaining an expression is by saying what conditions make its various contexts true.
     From: Willard Quine (Philosophy of Logic [1970], Ch.3)
     A reaction: I like the circumspect phrasing of this, which carefully avoids any entities such as 'meanings' or 'truth conditions'. Maybe the whole core of philosophy of language should shift from theories of meaning to just trying to 'explain' sentences.
19. Language / F. Communication / 6. Interpreting Language / a. Translation
Translation is too flimsy a notion to support theories of cultural incommensurability
     Full Idea: Translation is a flimsy notion, unfit to bear the weight of the theories of cultural incommensurability that Davidson effectively and justly criticises.
     From: Willard Quine (On the Very Idea of a Third Dogma [1981], p.42)
     A reaction: I presume he means that a claim to accurately translate something is false, because there is no clear idea of what a good translation looks like it. I just don't believe him. The practice of daily life belies Quine's theories on this.
19. Language / F. Communication / 6. Interpreting Language / b. Indeterminate translation
Indeterminacy of translation also implies indeterminacy in interpreting people's mental states
     Full Idea: Quine's thesis of the indeterminacy of radical translation carries all the way in, as the thesis of the indeterminacy of radical interpretation of mental states and processes.
     From: comment on Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960]) by Daniel Dennett - Daniel Dennett on himself p.239
     A reaction: Strong scepticism seems wrong here. Davidson's account of charity in interpretation, and the role of truth, seems closer.
The firmer the links between sentences and stimuli, the less translations can diverge
     Full Idea: The firmer the direct links of a sentence with non-verbal stimulation, the less drastically its translations can diverge from one another from manual to manual.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §07)
     A reaction: This implies (plausibly) that talk about farming will have fairly determinate translations into foreign languages, but talk of philosophy will not. An interesting case is logic, where we might expect tight translation with little non-verbal stimulation.
We can never precisely pin down how to translate the native word 'Gavagai'
     Full Idea: There is no evident criterion whereby to strip extraneous effects away and leave just the meaning of 'Gavagai' properly so-called - whatever meaning properly so-called may be.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §09)
     A reaction: Quine's famous assertion that translation is ultimately 'indeterminate'. Huge doubts about meaning and language and truth follow from his claim. Personally I think it is rubbish. People become fluent in very foreign languages, and don't have breakdowns.
Stimulus synonymy of 'Gavagai' and 'Rabbit' does not even guarantee they are coextensive
     Full Idea: Stimulus synonymy of the occasion sentences 'Gavagai' and 'Rabbit' does not even guarantee that 'gavagai' and 'rabbit' are coextensive terms, terms true of the same things.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §12)
     A reaction: Since this scepticism eventually seems to result in the reader no longer knowing what they mean themselves by the word 'rabbit', I doubt Quine's claim. Problems after hearing one word of a foreign language disappear after years of residence.
Dispositions to speech behaviour, and actual speech, are never enough to fix any one translation
     Full Idea: Rival systems of analytical hypotheses can fit the totality of speech behaviour to perfection, and can fit the totality of dispositions to speech behaviour as well, and still specify mutually incompatible translations of countless sentences.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §15)
     A reaction: This is Quine's final assertion of indeterminacy, having explored charity, bilingual speakers etc. It seems to me that he is a victim of his underlying anti-realism, which won't allow nature to dictate ways of cutting up the world.
You could know the complete behavioural conditions for a foreign language, and still not know their beliefs
     Full Idea: We could know the necessary and sufficient stimulatory conditions of every possible act of utterance, in a foreign language, and still not know how to determine what objects the speakers of that language believe in.
     From: Willard Quine (Speaking of Objects [1960], pt.III,p.11)
     A reaction: I just don't believe this, because the same scepticism then creeps into discussions of native speakers of a single language, and all communcation is blighted - which is nonsense.
Translation of our remote past or language could be as problematic as alien languages
     Full Idea: Translation of our remote past or future discourse into the terms we now know could be about as tenuous and arbitrary a projection as translation of a heathen language was seen to be.
     From: Willard Quine (Speaking of Objects [1960], pt.V,p.25)
     A reaction: Is he seriously saying that we can't understand Shakespeare, because holism implies that we would have to be Elizabethans? So scholarship is in vain? Is yesterday the 'past'?
Indeterminacy translating 'rabbit' depends on translating individuation terms
     Full Idea: The indeterminacy between 'rabbit', 'rabbit stage' and the rest depended only on a correlative indeterminacy of translation of the English apparatus of individuation - pronouns, plurals, identity, numerals and so on.
     From: Willard Quine (Ontological Relativity [1968], p.35)
     A reaction: This spells out the problem a little better than in 'Word and Object'. I just don't believe these problems are intractable. Quine is like a child endlessly asking 'why?'.
19. Language / F. Communication / 6. Interpreting Language / c. Principle of charity
Weird translations are always possible, but they improve if we impose our own logic on them
     Full Idea: Wanton translation can make natives sound as queer as one pleases; better translation imposes our logic upon them.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §13)
     A reaction: This begins to point towards the principle of charity, on which Davidson is so keen, and even on doubts whether two different conceptual schemes are possible. Personally I think there is only one logic (deep down), and the natives will have it.
We should be suspicious of a translation which implies that a people have very strange beliefs
     Full Idea: The more absurd or exotic the beliefs imputed to a people, the more suspicious we are entitled to be of the translations.
     From: Willard Quine (Word and Object [1960], §15)
     A reaction: Quine is famous for his relativist and indeterminate account of translation, but he gradually works his way towards the common sense which Davidson later brought out into the open.
The principle of charity only applies to the logical constants
     Full Idea: Quine takes to the principle of charity to apply only to the translation of the logical constants.
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Alexander Miller - Philosophy of Language 8.7
     A reaction: Given how weird some people's view of the world seems to be, this very cautious approach has an interesting rival appeal to Davidson't much more charitable view, that people mostly speak truth. It depends whether you are discussing lunch or the gods.
26. Natural Theory / B. Natural Kinds / 1. Natural Kinds
Quine probably regrets natural kinds now being treated as essences
     Full Idea: The concept of natural kinds was reintroduced by Quine, who may now regret the way it has become a stand-in for the dubious but covertly popular concept of essences.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969]) by Daniel Dennett - Consciousness Explained 12.2 n2
     A reaction: He is right that Quine would regret it, and he is right that we can't assume that there are necessary essences just because there seem to be stable natural kinds, but personally I am an essentialist, so I'm not that bothered.
If similarity has no degrees, kinds cannot be contained within one another
     Full Idea: If similarity has no degrees there is no containing of kinds within broader kinds. If colored things are a kind, they are similar, but red things are too narrow for a kind. If red things are a kind, colored things are not similar, and it's too broad.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.118)
     A reaction: [compressed] I'm on Quine's side with this. We glibly talk of 'kinds', but the criteria for sorting things into kinds seems to be a mess. Quine goes on to offer a better account than the (diadic, yes-no) one rejected here.
Comparative similarity allows the kind 'colored' to contain the kind 'red'
     Full Idea: With the triadic relation of comparative similarity, kinds can contain one another, as well as overlapping. Red and colored things can both count as kinds. Colored things all resemble one another, even though less than red things do.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.119)
     A reaction: [compressed] Quine claims that comparative similarity is necessary for kinds - that there be some 'foil' in a similarity - that A is more like C than B is.
26. Natural Theory / B. Natural Kinds / 3. Knowing Kinds
You can't base kinds just on resemblance, because chains of resemblance are a muddle
     Full Idea: If kinds are based on similarity, this has the Imperfect Community problem. Red round, red wooden and round wooden things all resemble one another somehow. There may be nothing outside the set resembling them, so it meets the definition of kind.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.120)
     A reaction: [ref. to Goodman 'Structure' 2nd 163- , which attacks Carnap on this] This suggests an invocation of Wittgenstein's family resemblance, which won't be much help for natural kinds.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Causal relata are individuated by coarse spacetime regions
     Full Idea: Quine's view is that causal relata are individuated by spacetime regions, which is even less fine-grained than Davidson's account of events.... He says fine-grained events are poorly individuated and unfamiliar.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Events and Reification [1985]) by Jonathan Schaffer - The Metaphysics of Causation 1.2
     A reaction: [Schaffer cites Davidson 1985 as accepting this view] This is a nice suggestion, if we are looking for a naturalistic account of causal relata. It makes a minimum ontological commitment (a Quine trait), and I would supplement it with active 'powers'.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / a. Constant conjunction
Causation is just invariance, as long as it is described in general terms
     Full Idea: Hume explained cause as invariable succession, and this makes sense as long as the cause and effect are referred to by general terms. … This account leaves singular causal statements unexplained.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.131)
     A reaction: A nice 20th century linguistic point made against a good 18th century theory.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
It is hard to see how regularities could be explained
     Full Idea: Why there have been regularities is an obscure question, for it is hard to see what would count as an answer.
     From: Willard Quine (Natural Kinds [1969], p.126)
     A reaction: This is the standard pessimism of the 20th century Humeans, but it strikes me as comparable to the pessimism about science found in Locke and Hume. Regularities are explained all the time by scientists, though the lowest level may be hopeless.
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / e. Anti scientific essentialism
We can't say 'necessarily if x is in water then x dissolves' if we can't quantify modally
     Full Idea: To say an object is soluble in water is to say that it would dissolve if it were in water,..which implies that 'necessarily if x is in water then x dissolves'. Yet we do not know if there is a suitable sense of 'necessarily' into which we can so quantify.
     From: Willard Quine (Reference and Modality [1953], §4)
     A reaction: This is why there has been a huge revival of scientific essentialism - because Krike seems to offer exacty the account which Quine said was missing. So can you have modal logic without rigid designation?
Essence gives an illusion of understanding
     Full Idea: Essence engenders a mere illusion of understanding
     From: report of Willard Quine (works [1961]) by Joseph Almog - Nature Without Essence Intro
     A reaction: [Almog quotes Quine, but doesn't give a reference] This is roughly the same as Popper's criticism of essentialism.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 1. Space / c. Points in space
The concept of a 'point' makes no sense without the idea of absolute position
     Full Idea: Unless we are prepared to believe that absolute position makes sense, the very idea of a point as an entity in its own right must be rejected as not merely mysterious but absurd.
     From: Willard Quine (Propositional Objects [1965], p.149)
     A reaction: The fact that without absolute position we can only think of 'points' as relative to a conceptual grid doesn't stop the grid from picking out actual locations in space, as shown by latitude and longitude.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 2. Time / c. Tenseless (B) time
Quine holds time to be 'space-like': past objects are as real as spatially remote ones
     Full Idea: Quine's view is that time is 'space-like'. Past objects are as real as present ones; they're just temporally distant, just as spatially distant objects are just as real as the ones around here.
     From: report of Willard Quine (Mr Strawson on Logical Theory [1953]) by Theodore Sider - Logic for Philosophy 7.3.1
     A reaction: Something is a wrong with a view that says that a long-dead person is just as real as one currently living. Death is rather more than travelling to a distant place. Arthur Prior responded to Quine by saying 'tense operators' are inescapable.