Phil 264 - Quine

Phil 264 - Quine - Quine's"Two Dogmas of Empiricism(1951...

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Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (1951) The Significance of Quine's paper: Quine's paper contains a devastating critique of logical positivism, and (more particularly) of two of its associated dogmas: the analytic/synthetic distinction and reductionism. (See question 6 below.) Of equal importance is the holistic conception of meaning that emerges from Quine's critique. According to this conception of meaning, statements, taken in isolation from one another, do not have meanings. Thus, the logical positivists were wrong to identify the meaning of a statement with the set of possible sensory experiences that would confirm it. For the unit of confirmation is not the individual statement, but the theory (or body of statements as a whole.) (See question 8 on the second Quine hand-out.) This view of meaning holism is accompanied by a radical brand of pragmatism according to which it is rational for an agent to believe a theory to the extent that the theory enables him/her to make sense of their experiences - "the continuing barrage of sensory stimulation." On this sort of picture, belief in physical objects is more rational than belief in Homeric gods only because the positing of physical objects enables us to better understand "the continuing barrage of sensory experiences." Study Questions 1-18 have been rearranged to correspond with the order in which various points are made in the reading. Questions 1, 6, 10, 11, and 5 are concerned with the analytic/synthetic distinction; questions 12, 13, 9, 2, and 4 are concerned with the idea of meanings as intermediary entities between words and the world. Quine is critical both of the analytic/synthetic distinction and of the idea of meanings as intermediary entities. The remaining questions (to be posted on a second hand-out) concern the notion of synonymy and the dogma of reductionism. 1. Does Quine argue for or against logical positivism? First, what is logical positivism? For the purposes of Quine's "Two Dogmas...", logical positivism can be understood in terms of the verification theory of meaning . According to this theory, every meaningful sentence is either analytic or empirical. Analytic statements
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