To be is to be the value of a variable.

— Willard Van Orman Quine

The most passioned Willard Van Orman Quine quotes that are glad to read

Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not? This tangled doctrine might be nicknamed Plato's beard; historically it has proved tough, frequently dulling the edge of Occam's razor.

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Science is not a substitute for common sense, but an extension of it.

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Students of the heavens are separable into astronomers and astrologers as readily as the minor domestic ruminants into sheep and goats, but the separation of philosophers into sages and cranks seems to be more sensitive to frames of reference.

12

Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praise-worthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind.

10

Confusion of sign and object is original sin coeval with the word.

10

One man's antinomy is another man's falsidical paradox, give or take a couple of thousand years.

7

It is one of the consolations of philosophy that the benefit of showing how to dispense with a concept does not hinge on dispensing with it.

5

Our acceptance of an ontology is, I think, similar in principle to our acceptance of a scientific theory, say a system of physics;we adopt, at least insofar as we are reasonable, the simplest conceptual scheme into which the disordered fragments of raw experience can be fitted and arranged.

5

Physics investigates the essential nature of the world, and biology describes a local bump. Psychology, human psychology, describes a bump on the bump.

5

One man's observation is another man's closed book or flight of fancy.

4

Implication is thus the very texture of our web of belief, and logic is the theory that traces it.

4

Uncritical semantics is the myth of a museum in which the exhibits are meanings and the words are labels. To switch languages is to change the labels.

4

About Willard Van Orman Quine

Quotes 64 sayings
Profession Philosopher
Birthday October 16

Life is agid, life is fulgid. Life is what the least of us make most of us feel the least of us make the most of. Life is a burgeoning, a quickening of the dim primordial urge in the murky wastes of time.

3

How are we to adjudicate among rival ontologies? Certainly the answer is not provided by the semantical formula "To be is to be the value of a variable"; this formula serves rather, conversely, in testing the conformity of a given remark or doctrine to a prior ontological standard.

3

Some may find comfort in reflecting that the distinction between an eliminative and an explicative physicalism is unreal.

3

Meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word.

3

Scientific method is the way to truth, but it affords, even in principle, no unique definition of truth. Any so-called pragmatic definition of truth is doomed to failure equally.

2

Logic is an old subject, and since 1879 it has been a great one.

0

To call a posit a posit is not to patronize it.

A posit can be unavoidable except at the cost of other no less artificial expedients. Everything to which we concede existence is a posit from the standpoint of a description of the theory-building process, and simultaneously real from the standpoint of the theory that is being built.

0

The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matters of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges. Or, to change the figure, total science is like a field of force whose boundary conditions are experience.

0

Necessity resides in the way we talk about things, not in the things we talk about.

0

English general and singular terms, identity, quantification, and the whole bag of ontological tricks may be correlated with elements of the native language in any of various mutually incompatible ways, each compatible with all possible linguistic data, and none preferable to another save as favored by a rationalization of the native language that is simple and natural to us.

0

If pressed to supplement Tweedledee's ostensive definition of logic with a discursive definition of the same subject, I would say that logic is the systematic study of the logical truths. Pressed further, I would say that a sentence is logically true if all sentences with its grammatical structure are true. Pressed further still, I would say to read this book.

0

Life is what the least of us make the most of us feel the least of us make the most of.

0

The variables of quantification, 'something,' 'nothing,' 'everything,' range over our whole ontology, whatever it may be; and we are convicted of a particular ontological presupposition if, and only if, the alleged presuppositum has to be reckoned among the entities over which our variables range in order to render one of our affirmations true.

0

We do not learn first what to talk about and then what to say about it.

0

Just as the introduction of the irrational numbers .

.. is a convenient myth [which] simplifies the laws of arithmetic ... so physical objects are postulated entities which round out and simplify our account of the flux of existence... The conceptional scheme of physical objects is [likewise] a convenient myth, simpler than the literal truth and yet containing that literal truth as a scattered part.

0

Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.

0

The word 'definition' has come to have a dangerously reassuring sound, owing no doubt to its frequent occurrence in logical and mathematical writings.

0

Unlike Descartes, we own and use our beliefs of the moment, even in the midst of philosophizing, until by what is vaguely called scientific method we change them here and there for the better. Within our own total evolving doctrine, we can judge truth as earnestly and absolutely as can be, subject to correction, but that goes without saying.

0

Language is a social art.

0

Irrefragability, thy name is mathematics.

0

It is within science itself, and not in some prior philosophy, that reality is to be identified and described.

0

Treating 'water' as a name of a single scattered object is not intended to enable us to dispense with general terms and plurality of reference. Scatter is in fact an inconsequential detail.

0

Wyman's overpopulated universe is in many ways unlovely.

It offends the aesthetic sense of us who have a taste for desert landscapes.

0

Set theory in sheep's clothing.

0

Unscientific man is beset by a deplorable desire to have been right.

The scientist is distinguished by a desire to be right.

0

We cannot stem linguistic change, but we can drag our feet.

If each of us were to defy Alexander Pope and be the last to lay the old aside, it might not be a better world, but it would be a lovelier language.

0

To define an expression is, paradoxically speaking, to explain how to get along without it. To define is to eliminate.

0

For me the problem of induction is a problem about the world: a problem of how we, as we are now (by our present scientific lights), in a world we never made, should stand better than random, or coin-tossing chances changes of coming out right when we predict by inductions. . . .

0

We must not leap to the fatalistic conclusion that we are stuck with the conceptual scheme that we grew up in. We can change it, bit by bit, plank by plank, though meanwhile there is nothing to carry us along but the evolving conceptual scheme itself. The philosopher's task was well compared by Neurath to that of a mariner who must rebuild his ship on the open sea.

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The scientist is indistinguishable from the common man in his sense of evidence, except that the scientist is more careful.

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I have been accused of denying consciousness but I am not conscious of having done so.

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At root what is needed for scientific inquiry is just receptivity to data, skill in reasoning, and yearning for truth. Admittedly, ingenuity can help too.

0

Linguistically, and hence conceptually, the things in sharpest focus are the things that are public enough to be talked of publicly, common and conspicuous enough to be talked of often, and near enough to sense to be quickly identified and learned by name; it is to these that words apply first and foremost.

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Our talk of external things, our very notion of things, is just a conceptual apparatus that helps us to foresee and control the triggerings of our sensory receptors in the light of previous triggering of our sensory receptors.

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No two of us learn our language alike, nor, in a sense, does any finish learning it while he lives.

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Language is conceived in sin and science is its redemption.

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An indirect quotation we can usually expect to rate only as better or worse, more or less faithful, and we cannot even hope for astrict standard of more and less; what is involved is evaluation, relative to special purposes, of an essentially dramatic act.

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