Generalizing and Normalizing Quine's Epistemology

Philosophical Writings 19:3-21 (2002)
The aim of this paper is twofold: First, to generalize Quine’s epistemology, to show that what Quine refutes for traditional epistemology is not only Cartesian foundationalism and Carnapian reductionism, but also any epistemological program if it takes atomic verificationist semantics or supernaturalism, which are rooted in the linguistic/factual distinction of individual sentences, as its underlying system. Thus, we will see that the range of naturalization in the Quinean sense is not as narrow as his critics think. Second, to normalize Quine’s epistemology, to explain in what sense Quinean naturalized epistemology is normative. The reason I maintain that critics miss the point of Quinean naturalized epistemology is that they do not appreciate the close connection between Quine’s naturalistic approach and his holistic approach to epistemology. To show this I shall reconstruct Quine’s argument for naturalizing epistemology within his systematic philosophy, and focus specifically on his holism and its applications, on which Quine relies both in arguing against traditional epistemology, and in supporting his theses of underdetermination of physical theory and indeterminacy of translation. This is the key to understanding the scope and the normativity of Quine’s epistemology. In the conclusion I will point out what the genuine problems are for Quinean naturalized epistemology.
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