Willard Van Orman Quine

From Lojban
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Willard Van Orman Quine (June 25, 1908 – December 25, 2000) (known to intimates as "Van")[1] was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition. From 1930 until his death 70 years later, Quine was continually affiliated with Harvard University in one way or another, first as a student, then as a professor of philosophy and a teacher of logic and set theory, and finally as a professor emeritus who published or revised several books in retirement. He filled the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard from 1956 to 1978. He won the first Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy in 1993, for "his systematical and penetrating discussions of how learning of language and communication are based on socially available evidence and of the consequences of this for theories on knowledge and linguistic meaning."[2] In 1996 he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for his "outstanding contributions to the progress of philosophy in the 20th century by proposing numerous theories based on keen insights in logic, epistemology, philosophy of science and philosophy of language."[3]

Quine falls squarely into the analytic philosophy tradition while also being the main proponent of the view that philosophy is not merely conceptual analysis. His major writings include "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (1951), which attacked the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions and advocated a form of semantic holism, and Word and Object (1960), which further developed these positions and introduced Quine's famous indeterminacy of translation thesis, advocating a behaviorist theory of meaning. He also developed an influential naturalized epistemology that tried to provide "an improved scientific explanation of how we have developed elaborate scientific theories on the basis of meager sensory input."[4] He is also important in philosophy of science for his "systematic attempt to understand science from within the resources of science itself"[4] and for his conception of philosophy as continuous with science. This led to his famous quip that "philosophy of science is philosophy enough."[5] In philosophy of mathematics, he and his Harvard colleague Hilary Putnam developed the "Quine–Putnam indispensability thesis," an argument for the reality of mathematical entities.[6]

Relation to Lojban, SWH

Quine thought that there may not be any form of logic that is entirely independent of language. Thus physicists, mathematicians and logicians use the same human language which they can't jump over, i.e. they are talking to themselves. In other words, all reasoning is done, ultimately, through language. So, following Quine's thought when e.g. people are discussing FOPL or RNG not in Lojban or even in some kind of naturalistic Lojban they might be chasing their own tail.

John Cowan has said that much of Word and Object "reads like an over-literal translation from Lojban."


  1. http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Quine.html
  2. "Prize winner page". The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Kva.se. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
  3. http://www.inamori-f.or.jp/laureates/k12_c_willard/ctn_e.html
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Quine's Philosophy of Science". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Iep.utm.edu. 27 July 2009. Accessed 8 March 2010.
  5. "Mr Strawson on Logical Theory". WV Quine. Mind Vol. 62 No. 248. Oct. 1953.
  6. Colyvan, Mark, "Indispensability Arguments in the Philosophy of Mathematics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)