Ideas from 'Five Milestones of Empiricism' by Willard Quine [1975], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Theories and Things' by Quine,Willard [Harvard 1981,0-674-87926-0]].

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2. Reason / D. Definition / 7. Contextual Definition
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.
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.
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
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)
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.
19. Language / E. Analyticity / 4. Analytic/Synthetic Critique
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.