Two Dogmas of Analytical Philosophy

In his landmark article, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” W.V.O. Quine pushed analytical philosophy into its post-positivist phase by rejecting two central tenets of logical empiricism. The first dogma was the distinction between analytic and synthetic statements; the second was reductionism, or the belief that to each synthetic sentence there corresponds a set of experiences that will confirm or disconfirm it. But in both “Two Dogmas” and Word and Object, Quine stretches analytical philosophy to its limits. The problem is, ironically, his adherence to two separate dogmas. The first stems from Quine’s empiricism: he insists that there is nothing more to meaning than the empirical method of discovering it. The second has been taken as the defining characteristic of analytical philosophy;2 it is the belief that a philosophical account of thought can only be attained through an account of language – the famed “linguistic turn.” I will argue that a philosophical account of language can only be attained given an account of thought,3 and that the philosophies of Kant and Davidson can help us construct such an account.
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