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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Williard van Orman Quine and the web of belief

Williard von Orman Quine (1908-2000) was an American philosopher best known for his contributions to epistemology, logic and the philosophy of science. Quine was awarded the Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy in 1993 for,


"...his systematical and penetrating discussions of how learning of language and communication are based on socially available evidence and of the consequences of this for theories on knowledge and linguistic meaning." (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Quine.




"The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matter of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges." (


"Implication is thus the very texture of our web of belief, and logic is the theory that traces it." (The Web of Belief, 1970)


"Believing is a disposition. We could tire ourselves out thinking, if we put our minds to it, but believing takes no toll." (




"A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put into three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: 'What is there?' It can be answered, moreover, in a word - 'Everything' - and everyone will accept this answer as true." (On What There Is, 1948)


"Our acceptance of an ontology is, I think similar in principle to our acceptance of a scientific theory, say a system of physics; we adopt, at least insofar as we are reasonable, the simplest conceptual scheme into which the disordered fragments of raw experience can be fitted and arranged." (




"Linguistically, and hence conceptually, the things in sharpest focus are the things that are public enough to be talked of publicity, common and conspicuous enough to be talked of often, and near enough to sense to be quickly identified and learned by name..." (


"Language is a social art." (


"No two of us learn our language alike, nor, in a sense, does any finish learning it while he lives." (


"We cannot stem linguistic change, but we can drag our feet." (




"It is within science itself, and not some prior philosophy, that reality is to be identified and described." (Theories and Things, 1981)


"The scientist is indistinguishable from the common man in his sense of evidence, except that the scientist is more careful." (


"My position is a naturalistic one; I see philosophy not as a priori propaedeutic or groundwork for science, but as continuous with science." (