Willard Van Orman Quine's Philosophical Development in the 1930s and 1940s

In Willard Van Orman Quine, Walter Carnielli, Frederique Janssen-Lauret & William Pickering (eds.), The Significance of the New Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2018)
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As analytic philosophy is becoming increasingly aware of and interested in its own history, the study of that field is broadening to include, not just its earliest beginnings, but also the mid-twentieth century. One of the towering figures of this epoch is W.V. Quine (1908-2000), champion of naturalism in philosophy of science, pioneer of mathematical logic, trying to unite an austerely physicalist theory of the world with the truths of mathematics, psychology, and linguistics. Quine's posthumous papers, notes, and drafts revealing the development of his views in the forties have recently begun to be published, as well as careful philosophical studies of, for instance, the evolution of his key doctrine that mathematical and logical truth are continuous with, not divorced from, the truths of natural science. But one central text has remained unexplored: Quine's Portuguese-language book on logic, his 'farewell for now' to the discipline as he embarked on an assignment in the Navy in WWII. Anglophone philosophers have neglected this book because they could not read it. Jointly with colleagues, I have completed the first full English translation of this book. In this accompanying paper I draw out the main philosophical contributions Quine made in the book, placing them in their historical context and relating them to Quine's overall philosophical development during the period. Besides significant developments in the evolution of Quine's views on meaning and analyticity, I argue, this book is also driven by Quine's indebtedness to Russell and Whitehead, Tarski, and Frege, and contains crucial developments in his thinking on philosophy of logic and ontology. This includes early versions of some arguments from 'On What There Is', four-dimensionalism, and virtual set theory.

Author's Profile

Frederique Janssen-Lauret
University of Manchester


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