Notes on Introduction to Philosophy -- Phil A201

William Jamison - Instructor

Lecture 17

Dr. Willard Van Orman Quine


·        Freely employs the methods of logical analysis from the Vienna Circle in an elaborate and accurate form, while maintaining the traditions of pragmatism.

·        Challenged the distinction between analytical statements and synthetic statements which had been considered self-evident according to the dominant empiricism of this century. Dr. Quine pointed out there was no firm basis for such a distinction.

·        Statements concerning the outer world are not separate and isolated but will be subject to sensory judgment as a collective whole (known as the Quine-Duhem thesis).

·        Two Dogmas of Empiricism greatly influenced future directions of both epistemology and ontology.

Slide 2

·        When in 1995 the Bertrand Russell e-mail list attempted to list all those who had read all three volumes of Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica they came up with less than two dozen names; two of those people died while the list was being compiled.

·        Formal readjustment of the set theory posed by Russell’s Paradox.

·        Succeeded in improving the system set down by Russell.

Slide 3

 Indeterminacy of Translation and Uncertainty of Reference

·        Multiple opposing manuals of translation are feasible whenever an attempt is made to translate between different linguistic systems.

·        It is impossible to determine which method of translation is correct.

·        Ambiguity of object denotation – the relationship between word and object – or the meaning of words.

Slide 4

Epistemology Naturalized

·        Calls for the reassessment of epistemology as something which cannot transcend the achievements of scientific progress but instead is based on these achievements.

·        A form of scientific psychology in which scientific factors have been introduced.

Slide 5


The axioms of New Foundations are:

·        Extensionality: sets with the same elements are the same.

·        Stratified comprehension: the set { X | P } exists when P is a formula of first-order logic with equality and membership which can be obtained from a well-formed formula of Russell’s type theory by ignoring the type indices (while ensuring that variables of different types do not become identified).

·        Stratified comprehension is an axiom scheme which can be replaced with finitely many of its instances. Using the finite axiomatization removes the necessity of  referring to types at all in the definition of this theory.

Slide 6

·        Classes are the same when their members are the same whereas it is not universally conceded that properties are the same when possessed by the same objects.

·        The class of all marine mammals living in 1940 is the same as the class of all whales and porpoises living in 1940, whereas the property of being a marine mammal alive in 1940 might be regarded as differing from the property of being a whale or porpoise alive in 1940.

·        But classes may be thought of as properties if the latter notion is so qualified that properties become identical when their instances are identical.

Slide 7

·        Russell's paradox: Some classes are members of themselves; consider the class w of everything which is not a member of itself. Is w a member of itself? If  it is, then it isn't; and if it isn't, then it is. The Theory of Types distinguishes between classes simpliciter classes of classes, classes of classes of classes, etc., and needs (for instance) a different version of joint denial for each level of the hierarchy.

·        Quine's expedient is to restrict abstraction from all entities to all membership-eligible entities, i.e. to entities which are members of at least one class, and these he designates elements. This leads quickly to the result that w is not an element, and so not eligible to be a member of itself. (Stratification).

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