Quine's Argument from Despair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Quine’s argument for a naturalized epistemology is routinely perceived as an argument from despair: traditional epistemology must be abandoned because all attempts to deduce our scientific theories from sense experience have failed. In this paper, I will show that this picture is historically inaccurate and that Quine’s argument against first philosophy is considerably stronger and subtler than the standard conception suggests. For Quine, the first philosopher’s quest for foundations is inherently incoherent; the very idea of a self-sufficient sense datum language is a mistake, there is no science-independent perspective from which to validate science. I will argue that a great deal of the confusion surrounding Quine’s argument is prompted by certain phrases in his seminal ‘Epistemology Naturalized’. Scrutinizing Quine’s work both before and after the latter paper provides a better key to understanding his remarkable views about the epistemological relation between theory and evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-173
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
Volume22
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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Despair
Naturalized Epistemology
Epistemology
Philosopher
Conception
Mistakes
First philosophy
Scientific Theory
Confusion
Epistemological
Language
Sense-data

Cite this

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Quine's Argument from Despair. / Verhaegh, Sander.

In: British Journal for the History of Philosophy , Vol. 22, No. 1, 2014, p. 150-173.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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