Journal of Philosophy 86 (3):113-136 (1989)

Miriam Solomon
Temple University
Quine claims to be "working from within" our conceptual scheme and proceeding scientifically. This description makes his views of interest to those who are skeptical of traditional metaphysical projects and to those with confidence in science. This study examines whether Quine is in fact starting within ordinary language and proceeding scientifically and, if not, how his views are to be best understood. I proceed by exploring some central doctrines in Quine's writing, most notably indeterminacy of translation, but also his views on underdetermination of scientific theory, truth, reality and the dispensability of theory, and the nature of scientific method. In examining Quine's arguments for these doctrines, I find that they do not all issue from what we would ordinarily or scientifically say on the topics concerned. Instead, I find that most arise from an underlying view of the nature of language and knowledge, which I call natural empiricism. I argue that natural empiricism involves assumptions and dynamics of reasoning characteristic of metaphysical points of view, rather than of an ordinary or scientific stance. This is a result with consequences for a critical evaluation of Quine's views. ;I show that natural empiricism leads not only to the central doctrines in Quine's writing that I examine, but also to his general claim to be "working from within" our conceptual scheme and proceeding scientifically. I argue that there is a tension between natural empiricism and "working from within" that is the major tension in Quine's views, leading him to reach different conclusions on the same topic. Quine's views are unusual in that this tension is internal to natural empiricism; most metaphysical views, while they may conflict with the ordinary, do not also endorse it. Natural empiricism is also an unusual point of view in its thoroughgoing empiricism: I claim that it is an empiricist overreaction to the vestiges of rationalism in twentieth century logical empiricism. It shares with the views to which it reacts the need to ground language and knowledge, in a metaphysical sense. Thus Quine's position is particularly valuable for showing up the differences and common motivations in the analytic tradition
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DOI 10.2307/2027115
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