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Word and Object (Studies in Communication) Paperback – March 15, 1964

ISBN-13: 978-0262670012 ISBN-10: 0262670011 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Communication
  • Paperback: 309 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (March 15, 1964)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262670011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262670012
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Willard Van Orman Quine (1908--2000) held the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard University from 1956 to 2000. Considered one the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, he is the author of Mathematical Logic, The Roots of Reference, The Time of My Life: An Autobiography (MIT Press), and many other books.

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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By The philosopher on February 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of the great books of 20th-century philosophy, with page after page of brilliant arguments. Although Quine had an understated wit and a gracefully economic style, this is not an easy book. I would not tackle it without some training in philosophy, logic, or linguistics. Particularly useful would be some understanding of logical positivism, which Quine is reacting against.
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.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. Gardner on June 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a true classic, both in content and presentation; Quine's pithy style, sometimes ironic, is singular in analytic philosophy. This book describes the generation of reference and logical categories out of the confluence of "sense-data" and "stimulus synonymy," answering with consistency many perennial questions in ontology and epistemology in the process. Chapter two (the infamous "indeterminacy of translation" thesis) is a fascinating linguistic reformulation of the "other minds" problem, demonstrating that one must conclude a type of "ontological relativity" amongst speakers. Along with Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations," Ryle's The Concept of Mind," and Sellars' "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind," Quine's magnum opus completes the quadrivium of mid-20th century analytic philosophy which together rang the death-knell of Cartesianism.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Hickey on November 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is Quine's first full-length book, and it sets forth his most elaborate statement of his wholistic thesis of language. Instead of the metaphorical statement in "Two Dogmas" written a decade earlier, here in Word and Object Quine expresses his thesis in the literal vocabulary of behavioristic psychology with his idea of "stimulus meaning".

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.
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