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 / 1. Nature of Wisdom
Inspiration and social improvement need wisdom, but not professional philosophy
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Hopes for Philosophy
For a good theory of the world, we must focus on our flabby foundational vocabulary
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 1. Nature of Metaphysics
Quinean metaphysics just lists the beings, which is a domain with no internal structure
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 3. Metaphysics as Science
Quine's naturalistic and empirical view is based entirely on first-order logic and set theory
1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 5. Metaphysics as Conceptual
Enquiry needs a conceptual scheme, so we should retain the best available
We aren't stuck with our native conceptual scheme; we can gradually change it
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 1. Analysis
If if time is money then if time is not money then time is money then if if if time is not money...
1. Philosophy / G. Scientific Philosophy / 3. Scientism
Philosophy is continuous with science, and has no external vantage point
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
To affirm 'p and not-p' is to have mislearned 'and' or 'not'
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
In arithmetic, ratios, negatives, irrationals and imaginaries were created in order to generalise
2. Reason / D. Definition / 1. Definitions
Definition rests on synonymy, rather than explaining it
2. Reason / D. Definition / 7. Contextual Definition
Contextual definition shifted the emphasis from words to whole sentences
Definition by words is determinate but relative; fixing contexts could make it absolute
Bentham's contextual definitions preserved terms after their denotation became doubtful
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
3. Truth / H. Deflationary Truth / 1. Redundant Truth
Truth is redundant for single sentences; we do better to simply speak the sentence
3. Truth / H. Deflationary Truth / 2. Deflationary Truth
Any statement can be held true if we make enough adjustment to the rest of the system
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)'
4. Formal Logic / D. Modal Logic ML / 1. Modal Logic
Quantified modal logic collapses if essence is withdrawn
Maybe we can quantify modally if the objects are intensional, but it seems unlikely
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
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
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
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
4. Formal Logic / F. Set Theory ST / 8. Critique of Set Theory
Two things can never entail three things
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
My logical grammar has sentences by predication, then negation, conjunction, and existential quantification
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 3. Value of Logic
Maybe logical truth reflects reality, but in different ways in different languages
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
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
Quine rejects second-order logic, saying that predicates refer to multiple objects
Quantifying over predicates is treating them as names of entities
5. Theory of Logic / B. Logical Consequence / 1. Logical Consequence
Logical consequence is marked by being preserved under all nonlogical substitutions
5. Theory of Logic / B. Logical Consequence / 7. Strict Implication
Lewis's 'strict implication' preserved Russell's confusion of 'if...then' with implication
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
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 3. If-Thenism
Quine quickly dismisses If-thenism
5. Theory of Logic / C. Ontology of Logic / 4. Logic by Convention
Logic isn't conventional, because logic is needed to infer logic from conventions
If a convention cannot be communicated until after its adoption, what is its role?
Claims that logic and mathematics are conventional are either empty, uninteresting, or false
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
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 2. Excluded Middle
Excluded middle has three different definitions
5. Theory of Logic / D. Assumptions for Logic / 4. Identity in Logic
Quantification theory can still be proved complete if we add identity
5. Theory of Logic / E. Structures of Logic / 4. Variables in Logic
We study bound variables not to know reality, but to know what reality language asserts
'Corner quotes' (quasi-quotation) designate 'whatever these terms designate'
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
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
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / f. Names eliminated
Canonical notation needs quantification, variables and predicates, but not names
Quine extended Russell's defining away of definite descriptions, to also define away names
Names are not essential, because naming can be turned into predication
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
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 1. Quantification
Finite quantification can be eliminated in favour of disjunction and conjunction
Objects are the values of variables, so a referentially opaque context cannot be quantified into
No sense can be made of quantification into opaque contexts
Universal quantification is widespread, but it is definable in terms of existential quantification
Quantifying into referentially opaque contexts often produces nonsense
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 4. Substitutional Quantification
Quine thought substitutional quantification confused use and mention, but then saw its nominalist appeal
Either reference really matters, or we don't need to replace it with substitutions
You can't base quantification on substituting names for variables, if the irrationals cannot all be named
Some quantifications could be false substitutionally and true objectually, because of nameless objects
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
5. Theory of Logic / G. Quantification / 6. Plural Quantification
Plurals can in principle be paraphrased away altogether
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
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
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Numbers / e. Ordinal numbers
Any progression will do nicely for numbers; they can all then be used to measure multiplicity
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 5. Geometry
If analytic geometry identifies figures with arithmetical relations, logicism can include geometry
Klein summarised geometry as grouped together by transformations
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 2. Axioms for Geometry
There are four different possible conventional accounts of geometry
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 5. Mathematics as Set Theory / a. Mathematics is set theory
Maths can be reduced to logic and set theory
All the arithmetical entities can be reduced to classes of integers, and hence to sets
6. Mathematics / B. Foundations for Mathematics / 6. Mathematical Structuralism / a. Structuralism
I apply structuralism to concrete and abstract objects indiscriminately
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 4. Mathematical Empiricism / a. Mathematical empiricism
Quine blurs the difference between knowledge of arithmetic and of physics
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 4. Mathematical Empiricism / b. Indispensability of mathematics
Nearly all of mathematics has to quantify over abstract objects
Mathematics is part of science; transfinite mathematics I take as mostly 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
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 6. Logicism / d. Logicism critique
Logicists cheerfully accept reference to bound variables and all sorts of abstract entities
If set theory is not actually a branch of logic, then Frege's derivation of arithmetic would not be from logic
Mathematics reduces to set theory (which is a bit vague and unobvious), but not to logic proper
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 7. Formalism
Formalism says maths is built of meaningless notations; these build into rules which have meaning
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / b. Intuitionism
Intuitionism says classes are invented, and abstract entities are constructed from specified ingredients
Intuitionists only admit numbers properly constructed, but classical maths covers all reals in a 'limit'
For Quine, intuitionist ontology is inadequate for classical mathematics
6. Mathematics / C. Sources of Mathematics / 10. Constructivism / c. Conceptualism
Conceptualism holds that there are universals but they are mind-made
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
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 2. Types of Existence
For Quine, there is only one way to exist
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
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / d. Non-being
Definite descriptions can't unambiguously pick out an object which doesn't exist
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
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 8. Criterion for Existence
Absolute ontological questions are meaningless, because the answers are circular definitions
Quine rests existence on bound variables, because he thinks singular terms can be analysed away
All we have of general existence is what existential quantifiers express
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
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
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 7. Abstract/Concrete / a. Abstract/concrete
We can only see an alien language in terms of our own thought structures (e.g. physical/abstract)
We don't say 'red' is abstract, unlike a river, just because it has discontinuous shape
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 8. Stuff / a. Pure stuff
Mass terms just concern spread, but other terms involve both spread and individuation
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 5. Physicalism
Every worldly event, without exception, is a redistribution of microphysical states
My ontology is quarks etc., classes of such things, classes of such classes etc.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 9. Vagueness / c. Vagueness as semantic
Terms learned by ostension tend to be vague, because that must be quick and unrefined
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / a. Ontological commitment
What actually exists does not, of course, depend on language
General terms don't commit us ontologically, but singular terms with substitution do
Names have no ontological commitment, because we can deny that the name anything
A logically perfect language could express all truths, so all truths must be logically expressible
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / b. Commitment of quantifiers
"No entity without identity" - our ontology must contain items with settled identity conditions
Existence is implied by the quantifiers, not by the constants
We can use quantification for commitment to unnameable things like the real numbers
To be is to be the value of a variable, which amounts to being in the range of reference of a pronoun
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)
Theories are committed to objects of which some of its predicates must be true
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / d. Commitment of theories
For Quine everything exists theoretically, as reference, predication and quantification
Express a theory in first-order predicate logic; its ontology is the types of bound variable needed for truth
Ontological commitment of theories only arise if they are classically quantified
Ontology is relative to both a background theory and a translation manual
Fictional quantification has no ontology, so we study ontology through scientific theories
An ontology is like a scientific theory; we accept the simplest scheme that fits disorderly experiences
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / e. Ontological commitment problems
If to be is to be the value of a variable, we must already know the values available
7. Existence / E. Categories / 1. Categories
In formal terms, a category is the range of some style of variables
7. Existence / E. Categories / 4. Category Realism
The quest for ultimate categories is the quest for a simple clear pattern of notation
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 1. Nature of Properties
The category of objects incorporates the old distinction of substances and their modes
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 10. Properties as Predicates
Quine says the predicate of a true statement has no ontological implications
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 12. Denial of Properties
Predicates are not names; predicates are the other parties to predication
Because things can share attributes, we cannot individuate attributes clearly
Quine says that if second-order logic is to quantify over properties, that can be done in first-order predicate logic
There is no proper identity concept for properties, and it is hard to distinguish one from two
Quine suggests that properties can be replaced with extensional entities like sets
Don't analyse 'red is a colour' as involving properties. Say 'all red things are coloured things'
Quine brought classes into semantics to get rid of properties
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
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'
Once we know the mechanism of a disposition, we can 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
We judge things to be soluble if they are the same kind as, or similar to, things that do dissolve
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 1. Universals
Realism, conceptualism and nominalism in medieval universals reappear in maths as logicism, intuitionism and formalism
8. Modes of Existence / D. Universals / 2. Need for Universals
Universals are acceptable if they are needed to make an accepted theory true
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
Commitment to universals is as arbitrary or pragmatic as the adoption of a new system of bookkeeping
There is no entity called 'redness', and that some things are red is ultimate and irreducible
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 3. Predicate Nominalism
Quine has argued that predicates do not have any ontological commitment
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 4. Concept Nominalism
Understanding 'is square' is knowing when to apply it, not knowing some object
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 5. Class Nominalism
Quine aims to deal with properties by the use of eternal open sentences, or classes
You only know an attribute if you know what things have it
Quine is committed to sets, but is more a Class Nominalist than a Platonist
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 6. Mereological Nominalism
Red is the largest red thing in the universe
'Red' is a single concrete object in space-time; 'red' and 'drop' are parts of a red drop
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 1. Physical Objects
Treating scattered sensations as single objects simplifies our understanding of experience
If physical objects are a myth, they are useful for making sense of experience
The notion of a physical object is by far the most useful one for science
Physical objects in space-time are just events or processes, no matter how disconnected
A physical object is the four-dimensional material content of a portion of space-time
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 2. Abstract Objects / b. Need for abstracta
Our conceptual scheme becomes more powerful when we posit abstract objects
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 4. Individuation / a. Individuation
I prefer 'no object without identity' to Quine's 'no entity without identity'
Quine wants identity and individuation-conditions for possibilia
No entity without identity (which requires a principle of individuation)
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 9. Essence and Properties
Aristotelian essentialism says a thing has some necessary and some non-necessary properties
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
Aristotelian essence of the object has become the modern essence of meaning
Quantification into modal contexts requires objects to have an essence
Cyclist are not actually essentially two-legged
Essences can make sense in a particular context or enquiry, as the most basic predicates
Mathematicians must be rational but not two-legged, cyclists the opposite. So a mathematical cyclist?
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
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
We know what things are by distinguishing them, so identity is part of ontology
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 2. Defining Identity
We can paraphrase 'x=y' as a sequence of the form 'if Fx then Fy'
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 6. Identity between Objects
Identity of physical objects is just being coextensive
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 7. Indiscernible Objects
We should just identify any items which are indiscernible within a given discourse
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 2. Nature of Necessity
Necessity can attach to statement-names, to statements, and to open sentences
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
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 6. Logical Necessity
Contrary to some claims, Quine does not deny logical necessity
Frege moved Kant's question about a priori synthetic to 'how is logical certainty possible?'
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 11. Denial of Necessity
Quine's attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction undermined necessary truths
Whether 9 is necessarily greater than 7 depends on how '9' is described
Necessity only applies to objects if they are distinctively specified
There is no necessity higher than natural necessity, and that is just regularity
Necessity could be just generalisation over classes, or (maybe) quantifying over possibilia
Necessity is relative to context; it is what is assumed in an inquiry
Necessity is in the way in which we say things, and not things themselves
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)
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 8. Conditionals / c. Truth-function conditionals
Normal conditionals have a truth-value gap when the antecedent is false.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 8. Conditionals / e. Supposition conditionals
Conditionals are pointless if the truth value of the antecedent is known
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 9. Counterfactuals
What stays the same in assessing a counterfactual antecedent depends on context
Counterfactuals are plausible when dispositions are involved, as they imply structures
Counterfactuals have no place in a strict account of science
We feign belief in counterfactual antecedents, and assess how convincing the consequent is
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 3. A Posteriori Necessary
Quine's indispensability argument said arguments for abstracta were a posteriori
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
10. Modality / E. Possible worlds / 3. Transworld Objects / a. Transworld identity
Can an unactualized possible have self-identity, and be distinct from other possibles?
We can't quantify in modal contexts, because the modality depends on descriptions, not objects
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
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / a. Beliefs
Beliefs can be ascribed to machines
11. Knowledge Aims / A. Knowledge / 4. Belief / e. Belief holism
How do you distinguish three beliefs from four beliefs or two beliefs?
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 2. Phenomenalism
We can never translate our whole language of objects into phenomenalism
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
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
12. Knowledge Sources / A. A Priori Knowledge / 8. A Priori as Analytic
Quine challenges the claim that analytic truths are knowable a priori
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
Quine's objections to a priori knowledge only work in the domain of science
Logic, arithmetic and geometry are revisable and a posteriori; quantum logic could be right
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
Empiricism makes a basic distinction between truths based or not based on facts
In scientific theories sentences are too brief to be independent vehicles of empirical meaning
Quine's empiricism is based on whole theoretical systems, not on single mental events
Empiricism improvements: words for ideas, then sentences, then systems, then no analytic, then naturalism
Our outer beliefs must match experience, and our inner ones must be simple
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 5. Empiricism Critique
The second dogma is linking every statement to some determinate observations
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 9. Naturalised Epistemology
You can't reduce epistemology to psychology, because that presupposes epistemology
We should abandon a search for justification or foundations, and focus on how knowledge is acquired
If we abandon justification and normativity in epistemology, we must also abandon knowledge
Without normativity, naturalized epistemology isn't even about beliefs
Epistemology is a part of psychology, studying how our theories relate to our evidence
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 4. Cultural relativism
To proclaim cultural relativism is to thereby rise above it
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 5. Language Relativism
Two things are relative - the background theory, and translating the object theory into the background theory
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 3. Experiment
Science is common sense, with a sophisticated method
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
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 3. Instrumentalism
For Quine, theories are instruments used to make predictions about observations
14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 6. Theory Holism
Statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience as a corporate body
14. Science / C. Induction / 1. Induction
Induction relies on similar effects following from each cause
Induction is just more of the same: animal expectations
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
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 7. Seeing Resemblance
General terms depend on similarities among things
To learn yellow by observation, must we be told to look at the colour?
Standards of similarity are innate, and the spacing of qualities such as colours can be mapped
Similarity is just interchangeability in the cosmic machine
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 3. Eliminativism
Quine expresses the instrumental version of eliminativism
17. Mind and Body / E. Physicalism / 6. Conceptual Dualism
A hallucination can, like an ague, be identified with its host; the ontology is physical, the idiom mental
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 4. Concepts and Language / b. Concepts are linguistic
Concepts are language
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 6. Abstract Concepts / a. Abstract concepts
Apply '-ness' or 'class of' to abstract general terms, to get second-level abstract singular terms
19. Language / A. Language / 1. Language
Discourse generally departmentalizes itself to some degree
19. Language / A. Language / 6. Predicates
Quine relates predicates to their objects, by being 'true of' them
Projectible predicates can be universalised about the kind to which they refer
19. Language / B. Meaning / 1. Meaning
It is troublesome nonsense to split statements into a linguistic and a factual component
Inculcations of meanings of words rests ultimately on sensory evidence
19. Language / B. Meaning / 3. Meaning as Verification
There is an attempt to give a verificationist account of meaning, without the error of reducing everything to sensations
19. Language / B. Meaning / 11. Synonymy
'Renate' and 'cordate' have identical extensions, but are not synonymous
Single words are strongly synonymous if their interchange preserves truth
19. Language / B. Meaning / 12. Denial of Meanings
Once meaning and reference are separated, meaning ceases to seem important
Intensions are creatures of darkness which should be exorcised
Meaning is essence transferred from objects to words
Meaning is essence divorced from things and wedded to words
The word 'meaning' is only useful when talking about significance or about synonymy
I do not believe there is some abstract entity called a 'meaning' which we can 'have'
19. Language / C. Semantics / 1. Semantics
Syntax and semantics are indeterminate, and modern 'semantics' is a bogus subject
19. Language / D. Theories of Reference / 1. Reference theories
Quine says there is no matter of fact about reference - it is 'inscrutable'
Reference is inscrutable, because we cannot choose between theories of numbers
19. Language / E. Propositions / 2. Nature of Propositions
A 'proposition' is said to be the timeless cognitive part of the meaning of a sentence
19. Language / E. Propositions / 5. Propositions Critique
The problem with propositions is their individuation. When do two sentences express one proposition?
There is no rule for separating the information from other features of sentences
It makes no sense to say that two sentences express the same proposition
We can abandon propositions, and just talk of sentences and equivalence
19. Language / F. Analytic/Synthetic / 1. Analytic and Synthetic
Without the analytic/synthetic distinction, Carnap's ontology/empirical distinction collapses
19. Language / F. Analytic/Synthetic / 2. Analytic Propositions
Analytic statements are either logical truths (all reinterpretations) or they depend on synonymy
19. Language / F. Analytic/Synthetic / 4. Analytic/Synthetic Critique
If we try to define analyticity by synonymy, that leads back to analyticity
In observation sentences, we could substitute community acceptance for analyticity
The distinction between meaning and further information is as vague as the essence/accident distinction
Holism in language blurs empirical synthetic and empty analytic sentences
Quine's attack on analyticity undermined linguistic views of necessity, and analytic views of the a priori
Quine attacks the Fregean idea that we can define analyticity through synonyous substitution
Erasing the analytic/synthetic distinction got rid of meanings, and saved philosophy of language
The analytic needs excessively small units of meaning and empirical confirmation
Did someone ever actually define 'bachelor' as 'unmarried man'?
A circle goes from analytic to definition to synonymy to necessarily to analytic
The last two parts of 'Two Dogmas' are much the best
19. Language / G. Interpretation / 1. Translation
Translation is too flimsy a notion to support theories of cultural incommensurability
19. Language / G. Interpretation / 2. Indeterminacy
The firmer the links between sentences and stimuli, the less translations can diverge
We can never precisely pin down how to translate the native word 'Gavagai'
Translation of our remote past or language could be as problematic as alien languages
Indeterminacy translating 'rabbit' depends on translating individuation terms
Stimulus synonymy of 'Gavagai' and 'Rabbit' does not even guarantee they are coextensive
Dispositions to speech behaviour, and actual speech, are never enough to fix any one translation
You could know the complete behavioural conditions for a foreign language, and still not know their beliefs
19. Language / G. Interpretation / 3. Charity
The principle of charity only applies to the logical constants
Weird translations are always possible, but they improve if we impose our own logic on them
We should be suspicious of a translation which implies that a people have very strange beliefs
19. Language / H. Pragmatics / 5. Contextual Meaning
A good way of explaining an expression is saying what conditions make its contexts true
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 3. Space / b. Points in space
The concept of a 'point' makes no sense without the idea of absolute position
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / c. Tenseless (B) time
Quine holds time to be 'space-like': past objects are as real as spatially remote ones
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / a. Natural kinds
Quine probably regrets natural kinds now being treated as essences
If similarity has no degrees, kinds cannot be contained within one another
Comparative similarity allows the kind 'colored' to contain the kind 'red'
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 6. Natural Kinds / c. Knowing kinds
You can't base kinds just on resemblance, because chains of resemblance are a muddle
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 2. Particular Causation / b. Causal relata
Causal relata are individuated by coarse spacetime regions
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 3. General Causation / a. Constant conjunction
Causation is just invariance, as long as it is described in general terms
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 4. Regularities / a. Regularity theory
It is hard to see how regularities could be explained
26. Natural Theory / D. Laws of Nature / 8. Scientific Essentialism / e. Anti scientific essentialism
Essence gives an illusion of understanding
We can't say 'necessarily if x is in water then x dissolves' if we can't quantify modally