Quine's Nihilism

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Quine is an important philosopher. The point of departure of his philosophical enterprise is sound: his down to earth naturalism, his scientism and behaviourism. However, he tends to get carried away by it, when he goes to extremes – and ends up in nihilism. It is certainly true that we can never quite rule out the possibility that we have misunderstood another person. And what he or she means is a consequence mainly of two things. It is a consequence of his actual intention with the utterance and also, to some extent, of the way the world actually is. This is not to say, however, that there is no fact of the matter. While there is underdetermination by actual evidence of interpretation there is no such thing as indeterminacy of translation (or interpretation). While there may well exist conflicting empirically adequate theories, there is no room for ontological relativity. Some of these theories may be the right one and the others wrong, even if this is something we cannot even in principle decide on empirical grounds.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9329.00185

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University, Sweden

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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