Pursuit of Truth: Revised Edition
Willard Van Orman Quine
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In Pursuit of Truth W. V. Quine gives us his latest word on issues to which he has devoted many years. As he says in the preface: "In these pages I have undertaken to update, sum up, and clarify my variously intersecting views on cognitive meaning, objective reference, and the grounds of knowledge?'The pursuit of truth is a quest that links observation, theory, and the world. Various faulty efforts to forge such links have led to much intellectual confusion. Quine's efforts to get beyond the confusion begin by rejecting the very idea of binding together word and thing, rejecting the focus on the isolated word. For him, observation sentences and theoretical sentences are the alpha and omega ofthe scientific enterprise. Notions like "idea" and "meaning" are vague, but a sentence-now there's something you can sink your teeth into.
Starting thus with sentences, Quine sketches an epistemological setting for the pursuit of truth. He proceeds to show how reification and reference contribute to the elaborate structure that can indeed relate science to its sensory evidence.In this book Quine both summarizes and moves ahead. Rich, lively chapters dissect his major concerns-evidence, reference, meaning, intension, and truth. "Some points;' he writes, "have become clearer in my mind in the eight years since Theories and Things. Some that were already clear in my mind have become clearer on paper. And there are some that have meanwhile undergone substantive change for the better." This is a key book for understanding the effort that a major philosopher has made a large part of his life's work: to naturalize epistemology in the twentieth century. The book is concise and elegantly written, as one would expect, and does not assume the reader's previous acquaintance with Quine's writings. Throughout, it is marked by Quine's wit and economy of style.
with b a ck g ro un d sentences that one's interlocutor is prep ared to grant, or sentences that one has already set down or im plicitl y assumed in one's exposi. ' . 74 PURSUIT OF TRUTH tory piece. The consequent of the conditional follows from the antecedent ceteris paribus, and those supporting sen tences are the cetera paria . Chatting of sublimity and common clay, I might pause for a word on essence. Champions of modal logic mean necessity to have an obj ective sense, as if to say
the clauses of this inductive definition can be formulated within the formal language itself, except for the word 'satisfies' that is being defined. Thus we have appar andy defmed satisfaction for the language within the lan guage. Invoking (2) , then, we have done the same for truth. This was supposed to spell contradiction. We could even get contradiction directly from satisfac tion, without the detour through (2) , 'truth', and ( I) . We have merely to ask whether assignment of the sentence
Essays . New York : Columbia University Press. 1969. -- Philosophy oj Logic. Englewood Cliffs. N.J. , 1 970; Harvard University P ress , 1 986. -- Roots oJRefrrmce, La S alle : Open Court, 1 974. -- "The Nature of Natural Knowledge. " In J . Guttenplan. ed. Mind and Language (Oxford : Clarendon Press, ( 975). pp. 67-8 1 . -- Theories and Things . Harvard U niversi ty Press. 1 98 1 . .. --- "Events and Reification . In E . Lepore and B . McLaughlin. cds. , Action and Evmls (Oxford: Blackwell, 1 98
vocabulary that links them. Starting with sentences has conferred the further boon of freeing the definition of observation sentence from any de pendence on the dist inction between the theory -free and the theo ry-laden. Yet a third adv antage of this move is th at we can then study the acquisition and use of observ ation sen tences without p rejudging what objects, if any , the compo nent word s are meant to refer to. We thus a re freed to spec ulate on the nat ure of reification and its
order to imply the observation categorical of his experiment. It would be a Herculean labor, not to say Augean, to sort out all the premisses and logical strands of implication that ulti m a tel y link theory with observation, if or insofar as linked they be. Worse, it seems that in many cases no such marshaling of tacit p remisses could quite clinch the observation categor ical, becau se of vagueness. The situation is illustrated by the near-platitude 18 (I) P U RSU I T O F T R U TH