Understanding Quine in Terms of the Aufbau: Another Look at Naturalized Epistemology

In Marcin Milkowski Konrad Talmud-Kaminski (ed.), Beyond Description: Naturalism and Normativity. College Publications (2010)
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I argue that Quine’s rejection of Carnap’s “radical” (FLPV; TDE 39) and “phenomenalistic” (FSS 15-16) reductionism—as it is manifest in the Aufbau—may be understood in terms of a broader historical context. In particular, it may be understood as a rejection of a contemporary variant of the second horn of Meno’s Paradox. As a result, Quine’s motivation to adopt naturalism may be understood independently of his pragmatic concerns. According to Quine, it was simply unreasonable (i.e. paradoxical) to adopt a Carnapian phenomenalistic/mentalistic (non-naturalistic) approach to epistemology. Armed with what could only be his invigorated faith in the naturalistic method, he was then, as I see it, equipped to break what we may characterize as the physicalistic version of the naturalistic circle. This is a repudiation that, I show, entails his rejection of “attenuated” (FLPV; TDE 41) reductionism and concomitantly, his rejection of “analyticity,” if not “certainty” altogether. As a result, Quine could simultaneously dismiss what we may characterize as the Humean version of the naturalistic circle. Meanwhile, the practicality of an admittedly fallible science could be unashamedly embraced, although not just for the sake of its practicality—as Quine himself seems to misleadingly indicate throughout his work—but instead, as just noted, to avoid the seemingly Platonic paradox of Aufbauian reductionism.
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