‘Quine’s Meaning Nihilism: Revisiting Naturalism and Confirmation Method,’

Philosophical Readings (3):222-229 (2017)
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The paper concentrates on an appreciation of W.V. Quine’s thought on meaning and how it escalates beyond the meaning holism and confirmation holism, thereby paving the way for a ‘meaning nihilism’ and ‘confirmation rejectionism’. My effort would be to see that how could the acceptance of radical naturalism in Quine’s theory of meaning escorts him to the indeterminacy thesis of meaning. There is an interesting shift from epistemology to language as Quine considers that a person who is aware of linguistic trick can be the master of referential language. Another important question is that how could Quine’s radical translation thesis reduce into semantic indeterminacy that is a consequence of his confirmation methord. Even I think that the notion and the analysis of meaning became hopelessly vague in Quine’s later work. I further argue on Quine’s position of meaning that I call, following Hilary Putnam, ‘meaning nihilism’. It seems to me that Quine had no belief like ‘meaning consists in’, or ‘meaning depends on’ something. Through this argument, I would like to challenge the confirmation holism that was foisted by Fodor on Quine’s thesis. My attempt would be to scrutinize Putnam’s point of view that Quine was neither a confirmation holist nor a meaning holist. I think that both Putnam and Quine denied the concept of constitutive connection of meaning as a second grade notion not only from the realm of semantic, but also from the perspective of epistemology. So, linguistic meaning cannot be formed by any sample of its uses. For Quine, the concept of meaning in metaphysics is heuristic and need not be taken seriously in any ‘science worthy’ literature.

Author's Profile

Dr Sanjit Chakraborty
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata


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