Quine: a guide for the perplexed

Kemp, G. (2006) Quine: a guide for the perplexed. Series: Guides for the perplexed series. Continuum: London. ISBN 9780826484864

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Quine is a central figure in the analytic tradition within philosophy, a tradition that aims for clarity, so should we expect to be perplexed by his clear and elegant prose? There is a challenge in coming to terms with Quine's thought, which relates to the way it hangs together as a whole system. We can struggle to understand one aspect of his thought through failing to see how it fits into the whole scheme. Gary Kemp's book serves the invaluable purpose of taking the reader carefully and systematically through all the major facets of Quine's work such that we do get to see the big picture. For this reason it will be useful even to professional philosophers who have been familiar with various parts of Quine's work over many years. Even so, it is designed for the reader who is at an earlier stage, and for that reason prepares the ground with carefully phrased introductory material where required. In fact there is really no specific prior knowledge that is required, for wherever any technical notions appear they are carefully explained. What is required is patience and a certain level of concentration. The book starts with the intellectual origins of Quine's work and the key features of the work of predecessors, notably Carnap, is explained. There are plentiful quotations from the full range of Quine's work. While the emphasis is not on tracing the development of Quine's thought the reader's attention is drawn to places where there has been a shift of view or emphasis in later work. As an example consider the theme of the relationship between Quine's views about meaning and translation and his views about epistemology. Quine famously denies that our ordinary notion of meaning has a place in a scientific description of the world, and holds that our practice of translation can only be understood as dealing with a language as a whole. When it comes to epistemology Quine holds to a naturalized version, one that captures the way that science builds theory on the basis of observation. He thinks that only a whole theory can be tested against observations. Kemp describes the links between these ideas while pointing out (p. 79) how Quine's later work loosens the connection between them.

Item Type:Books
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Kemp, Dr Gary
Authors: Kemp, G.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Philosophy
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