Thursday, September 07, 2006

Quinean tension

In class the other day, Brandom said the Vienna Circle split into two camps about what to do when they discovered that naturalism and empiricism were in conflict. One camp said that naturalism was the doctrine they should adopt. The other camp said that empricism should remain the core doctrine. He characterized Qune as falling into the latter camp which confused me at first. He said that this was because Quine rejected modal notions including dispositions and stuck with the idea of empiricism as a methodology until the end. This partly seemed right because Quine responds to Davidson in his "On the very idea of a third dogma" by saying that we can't reject the content/scheme distinction because then there would be nothing left of empiricism. This partly seemed wrong because the Quine that I remember talked about the primacy of naturalism (no first philosophy) and of recasting meaning in terms of dispositions to verbal behavior. While this is right, the picture of Quine siding with empiricism makes more sense in terms of the overall picture of Quine's philosophy. He did reject all modal notions. He was quite claer about that. I had forgotten that he had also suggested that dispositions should be eliminated in terms of descriptions of the physical structure that underlies the dispositional behavior. This split was a tension in Quine's work that he never really seemed to acknowledge. There should be some places where this comes out very clearly. One of the ones suggested to me was Word and Object; I am guessing it is in chapter 2.

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