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By Ilham Dilman

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Extra info for Quine on Ontology, Necessity and Experience: A Philosophical Critique

Sample text

Nor is the question one that is concerned with the merits and demerits of a theory. 3 Language, Theory and Belief Quine, we have seen, holds that each language commits the speaker to a particular ontology. He also thinks that language is something to which we subscribe, even if not consciously and deliberately. We can become conscious of it and subject our commitments to questioning and criticism. To do so is to engage in philosophy. As something to which we subscribe Quine thinks of language as a theory, one which helps us to interpret and organise what he calls 'the stream of experience' or 'raw experience'.

I am not now concerned with the merits of such an analysis. Certainly Wittgenstein, in the Tractatus, did not go along with it. 031). But if one agreed with Wittgenstein, this would not mean that one was rejecting the notion of class. It would simply mean that one was critical of its use in a very special context. 'Is the notion of class useful? ' I do not understand what it would be to dispense with it. Classification is an important part of speaking; whenever one describes anything one classifies it in one form or another.

Therefore his formulae, in contrast with those of the mathematician, can hardly be described as 'instruments of language'. g. 22 But again his discussion of this question is both subtle and penetrating. 23 For Quine, we have seen, there is no distinction between a theory and a language. His view is that a language is satisfactory and therefore acceptable if it is useful to us, if it serves our practical purposes adequately. He cheerfully describes himself as a pragmatist on this count. Wittgenstein, in contrast, speaks of practical matters, of what we find useful and convenient, as influencing developments in the language we already speak.

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