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Word and Object (Studies in Communication) 0th Edition
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The book's motivating question is how a word (or words) can refer to an object or be used to pick out an object. This might seem to be a narrow topic, but it leads Quine to discuss a large number of epistemological, logical, and metaphysical issues. Quine's conclusions in these areas were so novel and profound that decades later philosophers are still digesting them.
Was Quine right about everything? Surely not, but like all great philosophers, he made us look at the old issues in new ways and made us aware of problems which we hadn't known had existed. For this we can be profoundly grateful.
Willard Van Ormen Quine died 25 December 2000.
Much of the book is an exposition of his thesis of semantic indeterminacy as it is manifested in translation between languages, which thus appears as his indeterminacy of translation thesis sometimes called his "radical translation" thesis. In fact there is nothing radical about it; linguists have long known of such translation problems. As has long been said: traduttore,traditore. But Quine uses it to critique positivism, and it is essential to his pragmatism.
In the translation situation he portrays the field linguist in the same situation that the positivist Carnap postulates in "Meaning and Synonymy in Natural Language", where Carnap attempted to describe how the field linguist can ascertain a term's "intension" or meaning by identifying its extension or range of application from the observed behavior of native speakers of an unknown language. Carnap admitted that this determination of extension involves uncertainty and possible error due to vagueness, but he excused this uncertainty and risk of error, because it occurs even in the concepts used in empirical science. While this admission of extensional vagueness in science made the fact unproblematic for Carnap, it had just the opposite significance for Quine.
For Quine extensional vagueness is an inherent characteristic of language that he calls "referential inscrutability", and which he later calls "ontological relativity.Read more ›
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Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000) was an American philosopher and logician who taught at Harvard University, and wrote many books such as From a Logical Point of View:... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Steven H Propp
Quine tells a fascinating story about translation. His is not a lazy mind.
His assumption (or belief) that language is learned completely through experience is simply... Read more