W. V. Quine

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Quine, W. V.

Quine, W. V. (Willard Van Orman Quine) (kwīn), 1908–2000, American philosopher and mathematical logician, b. Akron, Ohio, grad. Oberlin, 1930. He studied at Harvard (Ph.D., 1932) under Alfred North Whitehead and in Europe, where he was influenced by Rudolf Carnap. He taught at Harvard (1936–78), becoming Edgar Pierce professor of philosophy there in 1955. Much of Quine's philosophical work deals with the implications of viewing language as a logical system. He disputed the distinction, originating in Immanuel Kant, between analytic and synthetic statements. He argued that any statement can be held to be true no matter what is observed, provided that adjustments are made elsewhere in a language's system of reference. Quine drew attention to “ontic commitments” in language systems, i.e., their tendency to commit their users to the existence of certain things. In the field of logic Quine made important contributions to set theory. His writings include Mathematical Logic (1940), From a Logical Point of View (1953), Word and Object (1960), Philosophy of Logic (1969), Set Theory and Its Logic, Methods of Logic (3d ed. 1972), Theories and Things (1981), and Pursuit of Truth (1989).


See studies by R. F. Gibson (1982), I. Dilman (1984), L. Hahn (1986), P. Gochet (1986), and R. B. Barrett and R. F. Gibson, ed. (1989).

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(The word "quine" does too, but it is a rare, indeed obsolete, botanical term applying to leaves and so need not concern us.) We can be confident that W. V. Quine knew of this entry, as the word appeared in the second edition of 1989, and we can be confident that he was pleased.
Between 1969 and 1994 a number of similar volumes have appeared, including a Library of Living Philosophers volume devoted to Quine's philosophy (The Philosophy of W. V. Quine, L.
According to the standard story, (a) W. V. Quine's criticisms of the idea that logic is true by convention are directed against, and completely undermine, Rudolf Carnap's idea that the logical truths of a language L are the sentences of L that are true-in-L solely in virtue of the linguistic conventions for L, and (b) Quine himself had no interest in or use for any notion of truth by convention.