Ideas from 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' by Willard Quine [1953], by Theme Structure

[found in 'From a Logical Point of View' by Quine,Willard [Harper and Row 1963,0-06-130566-9]].

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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)
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)
5. Theory of Logic / F. Referring in Logic / 1. Naming / f. Names eliminated
Quine's arguments fail because he naively conflates names with descriptions
                        Full Idea: Quine's logical argument against modality presupposes a nave 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.
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?
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 10. Ontological Commitment / e. Ontological commitment problems
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.
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 1. Physical Objects
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)
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.
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.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 11. Denial of Necessity
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 10. Denial of Meanings
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.
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 / 4. Analytic/Synthetic Critique
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'.
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?
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.
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 Aristotle's benign circle of virtuous people and virtuous actions.