Article ID: CBB218676874

From Shared Stimuli to Preestablished Harmony: The Development of Quine’s Thinking on Intersubjectivity and Objective Validity (2019)


Reto Gubelmann (Author)

Volume: 9
Issue: 2
Pages: 343-370
Publication date: 2019
Language: English

W. V. O. Quine is generally seen as one of the foremost empiricists of the twentieth century. For large parts of his career, the label “empiricist” is accurate; in his mature work, however, he integrated decidedly antiempiricist elements in his epistemology. From The Roots of Reference onward, he enlists natural selection and innate cognitive structures to ensure that scientific concepts have a “degree of objective validity.” From From Stimulus to Science onward, he also explains the very possibility of communication via a preestablished harmony of innate cognitive structures that is guaranteed by natural selection. This article reconstrues the reasons that compelled Quine to these commitments, and it details the development of Quine’s thinking on these topics across more than 3 decades; in particular, the article argues that recognizing that so-called stimulus meanings are private decisively shaped Quine’s views. By means of a critical evaluation, the article argues that natural selection can make plausible that scientific concepts have a degree of objective validity—if this Quinean claim is properly understood; in contrast, the article suggests, with recourse to research by Robert C. Richardson, that it is doubtful whether natural selection can underpin the preestablished harmony that Quine requires to explain communication.

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Authors & Contributors
Frost-Arnold, Gregory G.
Isaac, Joel
Ainsworth, Peter M.
Betti, Arianna
Browna, Frank Markham
Campos, Daniel G.
History and Philosophy of Logic
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Historical Journal
Science and Education
University of Pittsburgh
Harvard University Press
Kluwer Academic
Open Court
Parerga Verlag
History of philosophy of science
Philosophy of science
Quine, Willard Van Orman
Carnap, Rudolf
Tarski, Alfred
Popper, Karl Raimund
Bridgman, Percy Williams
Cassirer, Ernst
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
United States
Boston (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Harvard University
Vienna Circle

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