Monday, June 16, 2014
P.S. To “How Not to Read/Teach ‘Two Dogmas’"
Rereading the previous, I regret that I failed to say something more positive about Quine’s great achievement in “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”. What Quine did (along with his friend and my undergraduate teacher, Morton White—see “The Analytic and the Synthetic; an Untenable Dualism”) was to raise the stunning question, whether there is any intelligible sense of “analytic” in which, as the positivists claimed, mathematics is analytic, or in which “light travels in straight lines” is analytic, or, in which any fundamental principle of science is analytic (and hence unrevisable). Once one sees that there isn't any sense in which some of our fundamental beliefs are analytic—or “synthetic apriori” as Kant thought, either—one views the history of human knowledge (not just science!) in a different way. Quine’s rejection of the notion of “meaning” was, I believe, mistaken; but accepting that there is such a thing as describing the meaning of words does not commit one to accepting the overblown notion of the analytic that Quine and White attacked. This is what I said long ago in "The Analytic and the Synthetic”, and I should have repeated it.