Willard Quine, fully Willard Van Orman Quine

Quine, fully Willard Van Orman Quine

American Philosopher and Logician

Author Quotes

How are we to adjudicate among rival ontologies? Certainly the answer is not provided by the semantical formula "To be is to be the value of a variable"; this formula serves rather, conversely, in testing the conformity of a given remark or doctrine to a prior ontological standard.

Logic chases truth up the tree of grammar.

Students of the heavens are separable into astronomers and astrologers as readily as the minor domestic ruminants into sheep and goats, but the separation of philosophers into sages and cranks seems to be more sensitive to frames of reference.

Treating 'water' as a name of a single scattered object is not intended to enable us to dispense with general terms and plurality of reference. Scatter is in fact an inconsequential detail.

I have been accused of denying consciousness but I am not conscious of having done so.

Meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word.

The familiar material objects may not be all that is real, but they are admirable examples.

Two men could be just alike in all their dispositions to verbal behavior under all possible sensory stimulations, and yet the meanings or ideas expressed in their identically triggered and identically sounding utterances could diverge radically, for the two men, in a wide range of cases.

I philosophize from the vantage point only of our own provincial conceptual scheme and scientific epoch, true; but I know no better.

My position is a naturalistic one; I see philosophy not as an a priori propaedeutic or groundwork for science, but as continuous with science. I see philosophy and science as in the same boat — a boat which, to revert to Neurath's figure as I so often do, we can rebuild only at sea while staying afloat in it. There is no external vantage point, no first philosophy.

The Humean predicament is the human predicament.

Uncritical semantics is the myth of a museum in which the exhibits are meanings and the words are labels. To switch languages is to change the labels.

Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation’ yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.

If pressed to supplement Tweedledee's ostensive definition of logic with a discursive definition of the same subject, I would say that logic is the systematic study of the logical truths. Pressed further, I would say that a sentence is logically true if all sentences with its grammatical structure are true. Pressed further still, I would say to read this book.

Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? This tangled doctrine might be nicknamed Plato's beard; historically it has proved tough, frequently dulling the edge of Occam's razor.

The line that I am urging as today's conventional wisdom is not a denial of consciousness. It is often called, with more reason, a repudiation of mind. It is indeed a repudiation of mind as a second substance, over and above body. It can be described less harshly as an identification of mind with some of the faculties, states, and activities of the body. Mental states and events are a special subclass of the states and events of the human or animal body.

Unlike Descartes, we own and use our beliefs of the moment, even in the midst of philosophizing, until by what is vaguely called scientific method we change them here and there for the better. Within our own total evolving doctrine, we can judge truth as earnestly and absolutely as can be, subject to correction, but that goes without saying.

An indirect quotation we can usually expect to rate only as better or worse, more or less faithful, and we cannot even hope for a strict standard of more and less; what is involved is evaluation, relative to special purposes, of an essentially dramatic act.

If there is a case for mental events and mental states, it must be that the positing of them, like the positing of molecules, has some indirect systematic efficacy in the development of theory.

One man's antinomy is another man's falsidical paradox, give or take a couple of thousand years.

The lore of our fathers is a fabric of sentences. In our hands it develops and changes, through more or less arbitrary and deliberate revisions and additions of our own, more or less directly occasioned by the continuing stimulation of our sense organs. It is a pale gray lore, black with fact and white with convention. But I have found no substantial reasons for concluding that there are any quite black threads in it, or any white ones.

We can applaud the state lottery as a public subsidy of intelligence, for it yields public income that is calculated to lighten the tax burden of us prudent abstainers at the expense of the benighted masses of wishful thinkers.

Analyze theory-building how we will, we all must start in the middle. Our conceptual firsts are middle-sized, middle-distanced objects, and our introduction to them and to everything comes midway in the cultural evolution of the race.

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 conception only as cultural posits. The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience.

One man's observation is another man's closed book or flight of fancy.

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Quine, fully Willard Van Orman Quine
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American Philosopher and Logician