Quine, Ontology, and Physicalism

In Robert Sinclair (ed.), Science and Sensibilia by W.V. Quine: The 1980 Immanuel Kant Lectures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 181-204 (2019)

Frederique Janssen-Lauret
University of Manchester
Quine's views on ontology and naturalism are well-known but rarely considered in tandem. According to my interpretation the connection between them is vital. I read Quine as a global epistemic structuralist. Quine thought we only ever know objects qua solutions to puzzles about significant intersections in observations. Objects are always accessed descriptively, via their roles in our best theory. Quine's Kant lectures contain an early version of epistemic structuralism with uncharacteristic remarks about the mental. Here Quine embraces mitigated anomalous monism, allowing introspection and the availability in principle of full physical descriptions of the perceptual states which get science off the ground. Later versions abandon these ideas. My epistemic-structural interpretation explains why. I argue first-personal introspective access to mental states is incompatible with global epistemic structuralism.
Keywords W.V. Quine  Ontological Commitment  Meta-Ontology  Physicalism  Anomalous Monism  Epistemology  Structuralism
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