Quine's Criterion of Ontological Reduction

Dissertation, Michigan State University (1997)

In W. V. Quine's philosophy, there is an apparent dilemma or conflict between his commitment to physicalism and his encouragement of pure set-theoretic ontology through an ontological reduction. My strategy to solve the dilemma is, first, to explicate Quine's particular point of view about the two crucial notions of 'ontic reduction' and 'ontic commitment'. In particular, I emphasize the requirement of a proxy function in Quine's conception of 'ontic reduction', and contrast it with an adequacy condition of the typical/standard conception of ontic reduction--namely, explicit definability of the predicates of the reduced theory in terms of the predicates of the reducing theory. The proxy function criterion for an adequate ontic reduction, however, implies as its corollary a structuralist view of ontology which in turn leads to 'ontic relativity'. For Quine, however, this structuralism is not ontology per se but the epistemology of ontology; while 'ontology' and 'truth' are theory-immanent concepts. Thus, I conclude that Quine's position with respect to the dilemma is identified with what he terms naturalism--namely, "it is within science itself that reality is to be identified and described," which is physicalism
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