What follows gives a taste of Quine’s thinking that lies below what is in my first chapter on him (here). My philosophically retarded mind can’t now grasp much of what Id previously written here, even my own interjections. I am afraid to omit it for fear of leaving something important out. It provides an example of the philosphizing of the modern analytical philosopher. But to me, although it’s intellectually terribly difficult, it just isn’t Wisdom. It totally and ludicrously lacks human intelligence — human sensibility to human life. It belongs in some obscure corner of perhaps Linguistics.
From here: Another approach to Quine’s objection to analyticity and synonymy emerges from the modal notion of logical possibility. A traditional Wittgensteinian view of meaning [in his Tractatus] was that each meaningful sentence was associated with a region in the ‘logical space’. (I don’t know what ‘modal’ and ‘logical space’ mean.) Quine finds the notion of such a space problematic, arguing that there is no distinction between those truths which are universally and confidently believed and those which are necessarily true. (But, think I , vainly pretending to understand, the latter are still true by definition, no matter how confident one is of empirical truths in the world.)
Furthermore, from here: Quine felt that his denial of analytic truth abolished metaphysics. (Earlier, it had been Russell and Wittgenstein who abolished metaphysics on the grounds that it didn’t start from knowledge obtained by the senses.) Metaphysics is mostly seen as a matter of taking analytic axioms ( i.e. self-evidently true statements), applying deductive logic to them, and coming up with propositions that must therefore be true too. But, says Quine, there are no such necessarily, analytically truthful axioms (presumably because he thought that all analytic statements were in fact based on truths in the world). So metaphysics falls away. This attack on metaphysics by Quine stimulated new kinds of metaphysics that didn’t rely on deductive logicking. (But, think I, that latter statement doesn’t deal with the problem that Quine’s disagreement was with axioms themselves.)
Here is an aside, from here, about how Philosophy began: The ancient Greek philosophers thought that axioms, plus deductive logic done on them, plus the propositions arrived at, reflected the necessary and eternal nature of the universe! This for me, comes closest to explaining why they continued to sit in their armchairs and do logicking, rather than getting up and sensing the world, or even practising scientific method on it (as I mentioned in a previous post here.)
For the next three paragraphs is a new topic (from here) that tries to tie Quine in with Hume: It says that Quine’s denial of analyticity touches on Hume’s statement that countless observations of what happens in the world can’t lead to a law of what is certain always to happen. That latter was Hume’s well-known complaint that scientific laws aren’t laws at all. (But retarded as I am, I can’t yet see how Quine’s denial of analycity touches on that).
Hume said that this arguing from lots of examples to a universal law is called ‘inductive logic’ and is a mistake. Hume seems to have thought that inductive logic is in fact simply an enumeration or a repetition of empirical observations or is a fault of human psychology. (Popper two centuries later thought that scientific method didn’t depend on induction at all but on hypothetico-deduction. But then Popper himself was later refuted by the Quine-Duhem thesis, which latter I haven’t been able to grasp.)
Hume, being an Empiricist, was of course denying that there can be any a priori (i.e. prior to experience) knowledge of the world. He also denied that present synthetic experience can predict future experience (via inductive logicking)! (according to here)
Did Quine see social conventions (see here) as having created the definitions of words? Clearly these social conventions must have come, according to Quine’s view, after the defintions had first been based on experience in the world. (Am I now floundering in the morass of trying to understand Quine, and getting myself into this piffling on language?)
Quine also seems to have agreed with Kuhn that scientific observations are partly based on ‘paradigms’. A paradigm is our unconscious set of assumptions about what can possibly be true about the matter in question. Kuhn said that science hasn’t advanced purely as an accumulation of facts, but as changes of paradigm too. (From here, although some of it may have come from other articles on this site that I can’t now trace).
That site also says that taking up a new paradigm doesn’t of course mean we have to re-verify or re-falsify our scientific observations or theories (which statement my unphilosphic mind hasn’t yet grasped.)
Quine seems to have said that experience does not confirm or falsify individual statements, but that the whole interlocking theory-laden system of statements has to be adjusted.(from here) (Does ‘theory-laden system’ here mean ‘paradigm’?)
The term ’theory’, in relation to Quine, seems to be used for both scientific theories as well as for basic paradigms, including when he talks about ‘Confirmation Holism’, which is confusing.
Quine seems to have thought that there cannot be a language of observation that is free of theory (?paradigm), so the notion of testing theories with facts is problematic. (That is something I can’t grasp.)
Did he also say in Word and Object (1960) that there cannot be any system of beliefs universal to mankind, since the way any theory describes the world is relative to its particular linguistic background? (That’s also presently beyond me; and ‘theory’ now seems to mean a scientific theory and not a paradigm.).
Did he also say somewhere that ‘Philosophy of science is philosophy enough’? Did that mean that philosophy of science is all that philosophy is entitled to do?
According to here, he rejected Epistemological Foundationalism in favor of what he called ‘naturalized epistemology’. The concept ‘Fallibilism’ also comes in here. I don’t understand any of that.
According to here, Quine believed that Philosophy can make use of the findings of science in its own pursuit, and that it can also criticize scientists’ claims if they seem ungrounded, confused, or inconsistent. Philosophy should be ‘continuous with’ science. (That seems pretty unexceptional to me.)
According to here, he also went into the concepts of ‘intensional’ and ‘extensional’ definitions. (Was he the first to think of them?) Intensional definition seems to be what we call ‘meaning of a word’, such as that the word ‘cat’ means a ‘four-legged feline mammal’. Extensional definition is an actual pointing to actual cats. It is the difference between meaning and reference. Quine gave the example: that the term ‘The Morning Star’ has a different meaning from ‘The Evening Star’, but the object referred to each time turns out to be the planet Venus. (I find that example a little difficult unless one is interesten in th night sky.)
Quine also said that meaning of a word, and the essential qualities of an object denoted by that word, are the same thing. For example, the essence of mankind is rationality: all mankind and only mankind is rational. ‘Essence’ of the object turns into ‘meaning’ of the word when it is divorced from the object referred to and attached to the word.
I am not sure which site I derived this from — that Quine said that observations for the purpose of science should be restricted to objects that actually are objects for everybody, i.e. that they are inter-subjective. This seems to mean that the nature of the observations is also agreed upon. These requirements are easily come by for physical phenomena, but not for social or mental phenomena, or for those in theology or ethics. These latter phenomena may not be recognized as objects by everybody.
According to here, and almost verbatim in places for the next three paragraphs: Quine took philosophical naturalism as basic. This concept rejects explanations or theories that use entities inaccessible to natural science. It also assumes that science gives us the best explanation we currently have. It is not that the current scientific explanation is the final truth, but that as we go along, we can change it.
Furthermore, he believed: There is no better method than scientific method for judging the claims of science, and no place for a ‘first philosophy’ such as metaphysics or epistemology, that could stand behind and justify science or the scientific method.
Furthermore, he believed: There is dispute whether naturalism rules out departments of philosophy such as semantics, ethics, aesthetics, or that it excludes mentalistic vocabulary (such as ‘believes’ or ‘thinks’) in philosophy of mind. (That last clause is just out of my reach.) Quine avoided most of these topics, but some people have argued that even though mentalistic descriptions and value judgements cannot be translated into physicalistic descriptions, they also do not need to presuppose the existence of anything other than physical phenomena.