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What can be done

P.F. Strawson

18 February 1982
Theories and Things 
by W.V. Quine.
Harvard, 219 pp., £8.75, November 1981, 0 674 87925 2
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... In earlier essays, not reproduced in this volume, Quine wrote, ‘Philosophy, or what appeals to me under that head, is continuous with science’; and, more bluntly: ‘Philosophy of science is philosophy enough.’ There are pages in the present ...

Master’s Voice

Stuart Hampshire

19 June 1986
The Time of My Life: An Autobiography 
by W.V. Quine.
MIT, 499 pp., £21.50, September 1985, 0 262 17003 5
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... This is a most unusual book. It is the autobiography of a philosopher who has been as widely and deeply respected as any English-speaking philosopher now alive. Professor Quine is enjoying a vigorous and productive retirement after many years’ teaching at Harvard. His tone here is jaunty, and he expresses steady enjoyment of almost everything that has happened to him ...

Weak Wills

Colin McGinn

5 September 1985
Essays on Davidson: Actions and Events 
edited by Bruce Vermazen and Merrill Hintikka.
Oxford, 257 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 19 824749 4
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... Donald Davidson has this year been George Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford: only the second philosopher to hold the august position (the first being W.V.Quine, a teacher of Davidson’s at Harvard and his greatest philosophical influence). This honour reflects his present stature in the academic world. Last year he was the subject of a massive conference ...
15 October 1981
Philosophical Subjects: Essays Presented to P.F. Strawson 
edited by Zak van Straaten.
Oxford, 302 pp., £12.50, November 1980, 9780198246039
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... of that utterance. Strawson’s distinction seems to me a contribution to clarity. The most distinguished contributors to Philosophical Subjects are probably Professor Sir Freddie Ayer and W.V.Quine. Ayer and Strawson enlighteningly discuss the latter’s views on free will in his essay ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Quine and Strawson rekindle their old controversy on the eliminability of proper ...
31 October 1996
Wittgenstein’s Place in 20th-Century Analytic Philosophy 
by P.M.S. Hacker.
Blackwell, 368 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 631 20098 3
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Wittgenstein: Mind and Will, Vol. IV of an Analytical Commentary on the ‘Philosophical Investigations’ 
by P.M.S. Hacker.
Blackwell, 742 pp., £90, August 1996, 0 631 18739 1
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... philosopher, Donald Davidson, to construct a general, truth-functional-theory of meaning for natural languages. His chief target, however, is not Davidson himself, but his erstwhile teacher, W.V.Quine, whose ‘philosophy, if correct, brings analytic philosophy as depicted in this book to an end, for the conception that informs analytic philosophy (and has informed it since the Twenties) is ...

Locke rules

Ian Hacking

21 November 1991
Locke. Vol. I: Epistemology 
by Michael Ayers.
Routledge, 341 pp., £90, September 1991, 0 415 06406 6
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Locke. Vol. II: Ontology 
by Michael Ayers.
Routledge, 341 pp., £90, September 1991, 0 415 06407 4
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... his mouth here what Hume said about Boyle. But don’t think that the sciences have some special rights on telling us how things are. And in our day, when that most influential of philosophers, W.V.Quine, teaches us that we must naturalise epistemology, and take what the scientists tell us as the core of all our knowing, Locke would be a wonderful prophylactic, if only he (or Ayers) were a little ...

Why are we here?

W.G. Runciman: The Biology of Belief

7 February 2002
Religion Explained: The Human Instincts that Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors 
by Pascal Boyer.
Heinemann, 430 pp., £20, September 2001, 0 434 00843 5
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... than rely on individual trial and error, may have been not only desirable but essential in the environment in which our ancestors were mothered by Mitochondrial Eve. But, to borrow a phrase from W.V.Quine, ‘creatures inveterately wrong’ in the conclusions they draw from their environment will be unlikely to survive long enough to pass on their genes at all. Even if the scoffers, cynics and ...


Hilary Putnam

21 April 1988
Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary 
by W.V. Quine.
Harvard, 249 pp., £15.95, November 1987, 0 674 74351 2
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by Christopher Hookway.
Polity, 227 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 07 456175 8
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... The Harvard University Press asked ‘the most distinguished and influential of living philosophers’ (Strawson’s description of Quine, on the dust-jacket) to produce a collection of loosely-connected essays on topics of his choice in a format inspired by Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary – and the result is a remarkable ...
21 October 2004
Kripke: Names, Necessity and Identity 
by Christopher Hughes.
Oxford, 247 pp., £35, January 2004, 0 19 824107 0
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... giggles. If, as would appear, the view that philosophy is conceptual analysis sanctions this sort of carrying on, there must surely be something wrong with the view. So much for stage one. Stage two: Quine. In 1953, W.V.Quine published an article called ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’. Easily the most influential paper of the generation, its reverberations continue to be felt whenever philosophers ...

Wasp in a Bottle

John Sturrock

10 February 1994
Charles Sanders Peirce 
by Joseph Brent.
Indiana, 388 pp., £28.50, January 1993, 0 253 31267 1
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The Esssential Peirce: Vol. I 
edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Koesel.
Indiana, 399 pp., £17.99, November 1992, 0 253 20721 5
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... or inference, logic must be autonomous, self-contained. It was a new demand in Peirce’s time and that he should have insisted on it entitles him to the high place he has been accorded by W.V.Quine as one of the two great sources, with Frege, of modern logic. Four years after getting a first, unsatisfactory degree from Harvard, Peirce got a second, ‘summa cum laude’ this time, in chemistry ...

It’s good to be alive

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Science does ethics

9 February 2012
Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition and Complexity Are Revolutionising Our View of Human Nature 
by Douglas Kenrick.
Basic, 238 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 0 465 02044 7
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Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values 
by Sam Harris.
Bantam, 291 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 593 06486 3
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The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice 
by Peter Corning.
Chicago, 237 pp., $27.50, April 2011, 978 0 226 11627 3
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... no examples. ‘When the next generation of researchers in these fields overcomes the remaining resistance to thinking about humans as biological organisms,’ he tells us, ‘there will be a tidal wave of new discoveries.’ Sam Harris means to circumvent survivalism by rooting his claims in something called ‘well-being’. Harris, who dabbles in neuroscience when he’s not saving the West from ...

Real Naturalism

Galen Strawson

26 September 2013
... Something very strange has happened to the use of the word ‘naturalism’ in the last fifty years or so, when it comes to the question of conscious experience (‘experience’ for short). W.V.Quine, who in his reductive passion and ontological austerity was seen as a standard bearer for naturalism in philosophy, never for a moment doubted or denied the existence of experience, as some of the ...

Bendy Rulers

Glen Newey: Amartya Sen

28 January 2010
TheIdea of Justice 
by Amartya Sen.
Allen Lane, 468 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 1 84614 147 8
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... and long on anecdote. Indeed, the caliginous aura of the high table, somewhere between the departure of the widgeon and the arrival of the Sauternes, hangs over much of the book. We learn what W.V.Quine wrote about the word ‘solstice’ in a personal letter to Sen, what John Sparrow said about the Good Samaritan parable over dinner at All Souls, and why Piero Sraffa used to rub his chin when ...

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