PHL220. Quine and Ullian, background and C1, C2
Quine and Ullian, background and C1, C2
A number of issues have led to some sophistication in our
view of scientific knowledge. These include, but are not
- Logical Positivism and its collapse; related
questions about the foundations of science.
- Quine-Duhem Thesis
- Quine's denial of analyticity
The Web of Belief, C1
The Web of Belief, C2
- This book is in many ways just a sophisticated
critical thinking text -- however, it is informed by
Quine's philosophy and can act as a springboard for
discussion of complex issues in the a science-informed
- Quine and Ullian see science as a general and
systematic attention to experience -- they will explain
in the remainder of the book what the systematic requirements
- Contrary to scientific reasoning is a widespread
embracing of superstition and unscientific claims. Examples
include astrology. This gives some urgency to the project
of encouraging scientific reasoning.
- They describe the problem as one of fixing beliefs,
and of resolving conflicts of beliefs. They are interested
in those things that we believe are true ("...believe true...").
- Belief is understood as a disposition to assent to
certain claims, and perhaps to undertake other kinds of
- They understand belief as a relation of thinkers to
sentences, and will worry no more about the philosophical issues
that this can raise.
- Disbelief is not the same as non-belief. Disbelief about
sentence P is the belief that P is not true; non-belief about
P is to not believe P (one might have no opinion about whether
P is true or false, for example).
- Knowing is not the same as belief; knowing that P is at
least to believe that P when P is true.
- Evidence for a belief must not be confused with the
cause of a belief.
- We seem to be epistemic conservatives: we tend to keep
believing opinions that go unchallenged and that do not
obviously contradict other opinions we hold.
- Beliefs tend to come and fall in groups: several beliefs
may support or justify each other.
- We consider and weigh a collection of beliefs when an
inconsistency appears, and should do so at least until we are
satisfied that the conflict is resolved.
- NOTE: contrary to a foundationalist view of
justification of beliefs, Quine and Ullian are leaning in some
ways towards the alternative known as coherentism, in
which beliefs are (at least in part) justified by being consistent
with each other, and perhaps also if they entail each other.