Synonymy and the epistemology of linguistics

Inquiry 10 (1-4):405-420 (1967)
In Word and Object, Quine argues from the observation that ?there is no justification for collating linguistic meanings, unless in terms of men's dispositions to respond overtly to socially observable stimulations? to the conclusion that ?the enterprise of translation is found to be involved in a certain systematic indeterminacy?. In this paper, I propose to show (1) that Quine's thesis, when properly understood, reveals in the situation of translation no peculiar indeterminacy but merely the ordinary indeterminacy present in any case of empirical investigation; (2) that it is plausible that, because the subject of inquiry is language, we are in a better position with respect to such empirical indeterminacies than we are in other areas of investigation; (3) that, in any case, Quine's arguments are impotent, for they are either contradictory or incoherent; and (4) that Quine is led to his radical conclusions because he confuses a trivial and unexciting indeterminacy, which does obtain, with the striking indeterminacy for which he argues, which does not obtain
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DOI 10.1080/00201746708601500
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