Quine Ontological Relativity And Other Essays

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Once we view this as the shared pursuit of human knowledge, and couple it with Quine’s broad use of ‘science,’ then any attempt to gain such an understanding can be thought of as proceeding in a general scientific spirit.

Quine then attaches scientific status to any statement that makes a contribution, no matter how slight, to a theory that can be tested through prediction (1992, 20).

Here, Quine often appeals to Neurath’s metaphor of science as a boat, where changes need to be made piece by piece while we stay afloat, and not when docked at port.

He further emphasizes that both the philosopher and scientist are in the same boat (1960, 3; 1981, 72, 178).

The basic conception of philosophy and philosophical practice that informs his discussion of science is commonly know as naturalism, a view that recommends the “abandonment of the goal of a first philosophy prior to natural science” (1981, 67), which further involves a “readiness to see philosophy as natural science trained upon itself and permitted free use of scientific findings” (1981, 85) and lastly, recognizes that “…it is within science itself, and not in some prior philosophy, that reality is to be identified and described” (1981, 21).

These remarks indicate that Quine rejects the view that philosophy maintains some distinctive perspective, or type of knowledge that distinguishes it from science, and which could further serve as a independent standpoint from which to critically assess or ground the methods and procedures found in science.

Quine’s epistemological concern is to examine our successful acquisition of scientific theories, while his ontological interests focus on the further logical regimentation of that theory.

He thus advocates what is more famously known as ‘naturalized epistemology’, which consists of his attempt to provide an improved scientific explanation of how we have developed elaborate scientific theories on the basis of meager sensory input.

Quine’s philosophy should then be seen as a systematic attempt to understand science from within the resources of science itself.

This project investigates both the epistemological and ontological dimensions of scientific theorizing.


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