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Quintessence: Basic Readings from the Philosophy of W. V. Quine

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ISBN-13: 978-0674027558
ISBN-10: 0674027558
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Editorial Reviews


Specialists...will be grateful for this well-modulated selection of Quine's most important essays and articles, which reflect his thinking up to the end of his life. (Leon H. Brody Library Journal 2004-06-01)

This new collection of published essays by Willard van Orman Quine (1908-2000) is presented by its editor, Roger F. Gibson (following a suggestion of Nelson Goodman's) as a "meta-anthology" or "anthology of anthologies," that is to say, an anthology of previously anthologized material. It contains twenty-five original essays by Quine that were published, in various venues, over a span of over sixty years in Quine's career...Quine's sharpness and lucidity, the depth of his confrontation with the empiricist tradition, as well as the strength of his alternative (physicalist and extensionalist) form of empiricism, come across very clearly...A heart-warming feature of this collection (one which is likely to help the beginner) is the coupling of some of the classical essays of Quine with all their polemical sharpness, to retrospective essays in which a much older (and kinder) Quine reflects on his past accomplishments, sometimes modifying the sharp edges of his polemical arguments, sometimes taking back excessive formulations, and often acknowledging the strength of his one-time opponents' views or offering words of self-criticism...Although this collections contains materials that are already well anthologized and collected, its distinctiveness and value lies in its bringing together two distinct voices of Quine's. In so doing it enriches our perspective on one of the most impressive philosophical oeuvres of the twentieth century. (Isaac Nevo APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy 2006-10-01)

About the Author

W. V. Quine was Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University. He wrote twenty-one books, thirteen of them published by Harvard University Press.

Roger F. Gibson, Jr., is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Quine and coeditor of Perspectives on Quine.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (April 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674027558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674027558
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 58 people found the following review helpful By ctdreyer on May 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This handsome and useful volume is an anthology of selections from the work of W. V. O. Quine, who is arguably the most important analytic philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century. Finally, a few years after his death, he has an anthology of his own--and, unsurprisingly, it's a good one. The influence of his doctrines and methods within contemporary analytic philosophy, especially in the United States, has been pervasive and profound, and that influence is present in epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of logic, and philosophy of science. (The only figures of comparable influence I can think of are, in no particular order, Kuhn, Putnam, Kripke, Lewis, and Davidson. And several of them have been deeply influenced by Quine.)
But, unlike some philosophers, Quine's importance isn't so much a matter of the views he defends, even though many of them have played a prominent role in recent discussions. Many of his most distinctive views have the form of forceful challenges to certain widely held assumptions, including the idea that there are determinate facts about what our sentences mean, the idea that our words refer to particular things in the world, the idea that we have minds (in the ordinary sense), the idea that there are de re modal truths, the idea that we can draw a distinction between analytic and synthetic truths, the idea that there can be a normative epistemology, and so on. Quine's negative arguments against all these common assumptions share a single general strategy: the problem with these ideas, he claims, is that they are inconsistent with a suitably naturalistic conception of the world and its relation to human theorizing.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mike VINE VOICE on October 3, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best collections of a major analytic philosopher (or any 20th century philosopher) I've ever seen, and the price is right.

There is one EXTREMELY major problem though - Quine's mathematical logic and philosophy of language writings are really not represented well and mathematical logic, not at all - which is a gross oversight. While some (like the editor) consider these writings "difficult" (presumably because they generally involve math and Quine's idiosyncratic style of notation, which the editor likely didn't feel like modernizing), the editor included "2 Dogmas of Empiricism" (which is an equally difficult read to someone only casually acquainted with the history of modern philosophy - and completely indecipherable to the educated layperson).

The writings omitted are at the heart of Q's philosophy of language and modern mathematical and analytic philosophy. This isn't really a Quine collection, more accurately it's "Quine - sans all of Formal Logic and Philosophies of Mathematics and much of Language".

Still, a very strong, but qualified, recommendation. What's in the book is uniformly excellent and this is an extremely affordably priced volume.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dennis L. Hughes on January 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
W.V. Quine (2004). Quintessence, Harvard University Press (paperback)

I'm going to assume you already realize that Quine is one of the most important philosophers of all time and just tell you why you need this particular book.

Here are the contents. The title of each paper is followed by the title of the book from which it comes. (Note that most were originally published in various professional journals.) Those marked with a star are not available in book form.

I. Analyticity and Reductionism
1. Truth by Convention (Ways of Paradox)
2. Two Dogmas of Empiricism (From a Logical Point of View)
3. Two Dogmas in Retrospect (*)
4. Carnap and Logical Truth (Ways of Paradox)
II. Indeterminacy and Inscrutability
5. Speaking of Objects (*)
6. Reference (Pursuit of Truth)
7. Translation and Meaning (Word and Object)
8. Progress on Two Fronts (*)
III. Ontology
9. On What There Is (From a Logical Point of View)
10. The Scope and Language of Science (Ways of Paradox)
11. On Simple Theories of a Complex World (Ways of Paradox)
12. Ontic Decision (Word and Object)
13. Things and Their Place in Theories (Theories and Things)
14. On Carnap's Views on Ontology (Ways of Paradox)
IV. Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind
15. Epistemology Naturalized (Ontological Relativity)
16. Naturalism; or, Living within One's Means (*)
17. The Nature of Natural Knowledge (Mind and Language (multiauthor collection))
18. Five Milestones of Empiricism (Theories and Things)
19. On Mental Entities (Ways of Paradox)
20. Mind and Verbal Dispositions (Mind and Language (multiauthor collection))
V. Extensionalism
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. M. Bryant on October 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is not an anthology collection for Quine aficionados, who will undoubtedly already own all of his many books (which, typically, are somewhat expensive relative to their limited page length, though a bargain at any price relative to their philosophical importance and originality). But for those with general philosophy and science interests who have yet to attend to Quine's indispensable contributions, "Quintessence" offers an ideal opportunity. Editor Roger Gibson, Jr. has brought together twenty-five of Quine's most significant essays, as helpfully ordered by five of the major themes of his life's work: I. Analyticity and Reduction; II. Indeterminacy and Inscrutability; III. Ontology; IV. Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind; V. Extensionalism.

It is worth noting that the volume does not include any of Quine's technical contributions to Logic, but given the laudable aim of bringing Quine's work to a wider readership, this editorial decision surely cannot be faulted. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press is to be commended for producing this essential collection at such an affordable price. Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000) is one of the most important thinkers in the history of world philosophy, as anyone who ventures to read a few pages of his work will readily and delightfully discover.
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