Ideas from 'Intensions Revisited' by Willard Quine [1977], by Theme Structure

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

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4. Formal Logic / D. Modal Logic ML / 1. Modal Logic
Quantified modal logic collapses if essence is withdrawn
                        Full Idea: The whole of quantified modal logic collapses if essence is withdrawn.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?
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
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.
10. Modality / A. Necessity / 11. Denial of Necessity
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 / 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 / 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.