Reflections on cognitive and epistemic diversity : can a Stich in time save Quine?
Graduate studies at Western
In Michael Bishop & Dominic Murphy (eds.), Stich and His Critics. Wiley-Blackwell (2009)
In “Epistemology Naturalized”, Quine famously suggests that epistemology, properly understood, “simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science” (1969, 82). Since the appearance of Quine’s seminal article, virtually every epistemologist, including the later Quine (1986, 664), has repudiated the idea that a normative discipline like epistemology could be reduced to a purely descriptive discipline like psychology. Working epistemologists no longer take Quine’s vision in “Epistemology Naturalized” seriously. In this paper, I will explain why I think this is a mistake. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Stephen Stich published a number of works that criticized analytic epistemology and defended a pragmatic view of cognitive assessment (1985, 1988, 1990, 1993). In the past five years, Stich, Jonathan Weinberg and Shaun Nichols (henceforth, WNS) have put forward a number of empirically-based arguments criticizing epistemology in the analytic tradition (Weinberg, Nichols and Stich 2001; Nichols, Stich and Weinberg 2003). My thesis is that the most powerful features of Stich’s epistemological views vindicate Quine’s now moribund naturalism. I expect this thesis to be met with incredulity – not least from Stich, who has explicitly argued that the reductionist view standardly attributed to Quine is a non-starter (1993, 3-5).
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