What is grue?

Nelson Goodman (1906-1998) supposed that all emeralds before time T, which is the present, are green. But if this is true, then "G" is also true: "Emeralds before time T are green or emeralds after time T are blue." The reason it is true that emeralds after time T are either green or blue is that the time after time T is the future and we do not know what the future will hold for emeralds—or for anything else.

G defines the predicate "grue" (a term Goodman made up) as a quality of emeralds: All of the emeralds that qualify as "grue" could be blue after time T. Nevertheless, Goodman maintained that we would prefer to call them "blue" after time T. He believed this showed that confirmation cannot be a purely logical or syntactic process, but that it reflects our linguistic preferences, which go beyond what we actually know.

W.V.O. Quine

Who was W.V.O. Quine?

W.V.O. (Willard Van Orman) Quine (1908-2000) represents the apogee of twentieth century scientific philosophy; in many ways he combined the best of logical positivism, pragmatism, and scientific empiricism. He was born in Akron, Ohio, and studied at Oberlin College and then Harvard. He earned his Ph.D. in 1932 and then became a Harvard Fellow. This allowed four years for research and travel before beginning his 50-year Harvard teaching career in 1936.

Scientific philosopher W.V.O. Quine believed:

Scientific philosopher W.V.O. Quine believed: "To be is to be the value of a variable." (AP)

His influence is considered monumental, and he has been highly regarded, even revered, as a person. Quine's main books are Word and Object (1964), The Ways of Paradox, and Other Essays (1976), Ontological Relativity (1977), From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays (1980), From Stimulus to Science (1998), Theories and Things (1986), Pursuit of Truth (1992), and Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary (1989).

What were W.V.O. Quine's most influential ideas?

Quine did not think that the "analytic-synthetic distinction" could be defended, because he did not think that "analytic" could be defined in a non-circular way. He had a holistic view of knowledge, likening the whole of all of our theories to a "web." He believed that assertions of existence were relative to specific theories, and he thought that philosophical epistemology should be "naturalized." By this he meant that philosophical epistemology should be consistent with standards for scientific truth.

What was W.V.O. Quine's attack on the analytic-synthetic distinction?

In "Two Dogmas of Empiricism," published in the journal The Philosophical Review (1951), Quine began with the accepted view that analytic statements are true based only on the meaning of the words they contain. There is nothing in the world that can affect the truth of an analytic statement. Synthetic statements are factual claims about the world. Quine then showed how it is impossible to define analyticity without a prior notion of sameness of meaning that itself presupposes analyticity. What this means is that unless you already know what "analytic" means you will not understand any definition of it, or that "analytic" cannot be defined without circularity.

If we do not know what analyticity is, there is a strong implication that for all practical purposes all of our beliefs are in some sense synthetic and subject to revision based on experience. The second dogma of empiricism that Quine attacked in the same article was the prevailing view that statements in a theory all face reality one by one. Quine claimed that all of the statements face reality together. Here, Quine meant that a whole theory or account of the world gets confirmed at once, rather than parts of the theory being confirmed separately.

Did W.V.O. Quine practice what he preached about philosophical relevance?

No, and many have been grateful for this. As a philosopher, Quine has been criticized for his "ivory tower" view of the field and his claim that philosophers are not particularly qualified for "helping to get society on an even keel." However, in real life, Quine was very involved in resisting Nazism. After he visited Germany as a Harvard fellow in the 1930s and met the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle, he reacted against the Nazis' incursions into philosophy (one of which was an avowedly racist mathematical journal, Deutsche Mathematik) by volunteering for the U.S. Navy. After he returned to teaching at Harvard, he organized symposia and talks for members of the Vienna Circle from 1938 to 1941, particularly for Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970), although Carnap was later hired by the University of Chicago. Quine also helped Alfred Tarski (1902-1983) gain employment at City College in New York.

What was W.V.O. Quine's view of existence?

He is famous for claiming: "To be is to be the value of a variable." He meant by this that we should be committed to the existence of only those entities that need to be posited in order to understand and apply scientific theories. He wrote:

For my part I do, qua lay [amateur] physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.

How did W.V.O. Quine naturalize epistemology?

He did not think that knowledge could have a foundation apart from science, and that instead of philosophical epistemology there should be a scientific explanation of how we construct our web of knowledge and why and how that web is successful.

Quine had a flexible view of knowledge and thought that theoretical terms did not have definite or fixed meanings, that translation was "indeterminate," and that it was unclear how words referred to objects.

What was W.V.O. Quine's holistic view of knowledge?

Quine's holistic view was his positive account of knowledge after he attacked the second dogma of experience, that single statements or parts of a theory can be confirmed

What was the Quine-Putnam theory of mathematics?

Called by professional philosophers "the indispensability argument for mathematical realism," it basically asserted the existence of mathematical entities. W.V.O. Quine (1908-2000) and Hilary Putnam (1926-) argued that we have to commit to the existence of, or "have ontological commitments to," things that are indispensable for the best science. Mathematical entities qualify as indispensable. Therefore, we must commit to their existence.

independently of each other. Quine thought that all of our scientific and lay theories were interconnected with the most general and abstract truths—for example, the truths of arithmetic—in the center of a web. Toward the periphery of this web were more specific generalizations and factual claims that were easier to give up in the face of an experience that contradicted them. It is this aspect of Quine's thought that places him in the tradition of pragmatism.

Hilary Putman

Who was Hilary Putnam?

Hilary Putnam's (1926-) extraordinarily productive career has encompassed metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. He began to flourish in the philosophical generation after W.V.O. Quine (1908-2000), becoming a professor at Harvard in 1965. He collaborated with Quine on the ontology of mathematical entities and agreed with him about the analytic-synthetic distinction. In collaboration with his wife, Ruth Anna Jacobs, he helped revive late-twentieth century interest in the work of John Dewey (1859-1952). Putnam has also revived interest in William James' (1842-1910) work.

Putnam's major publications include Mathematics, Matter and Method, Philosophical Papers, vol. 1. (1975), 2nd ed. (1985); Mind, Language and Reality, Philosophical Papers, vol. 2 (1975); Meaning and the Moral Sciences (1978); Reason, Truth, and History (1981); Realism and Reason, Philosophical Papers, vol. 3 (1983); The Many Faces of Realism (1987); Representation and Reality (1988); Renewing Philosophy (1992); and Pragmatism: An Open Question (1995).

How did Hilary Putnam agree with W.V.O. Quine on the analytic-synthetic distinction?

In 1957 Putnam published the article "The Analytic and the Synthetic," in the anthology Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science, edited by H. Feigl and G. Maxwell (1962), in which he showed how the history of the definitions of kinetic energy made it impossible to divide statements about kinetic energy into "analytic" and "empirical," or synthetic ones.

What was Hilary Putnam's neo-pragmatism?

In the 1970s he began to regret the lack of historical knowledge in analytic philosophy. He applied Ludwig Wittgenstein's (1889-1951) notion of ordinary language to advocate for pluralism within philosophy. He lost confidence in the ability of philosophers to describe the world better than ordinary language users. Given his increased interest in the social sciences, particularly economics, he rejected the fact/value dichotomy. Putnam argued that scientists were not as "objective" or free of value concerns as they presented themselves to be, and that value judgments can be objective.

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