[hist-analytic] Quine's "two dogmas"

Rogério Passos Severo rpsevero at gmail.com
Fri Feb 6 05:33:11 EST 2009

Hi Danny,

Yes, Quine could have changed his mind about the possibility of
drawing the a/s distinction after Two Dogmas was published (1951). But
in his own writings, he suggests that he didn't. In "Two Dogmas in
Retrospect" (1991) he says: "my reservations over analyticity are the
same as ever" (p. 271). Some people say that Quine was not too keen in
acknowledging changes in his views. This may be an instance of just
that. So I think we have a choice here. We can either say there was a
change in his views, or go with Quine and say things merely became
clearer without undergoing substantial changes. The latter, I think is
the more charitable interpretation. It agrees with what Quine wrote in
retrospect (1991), and it also agrees with what Quine did in Two
Dogmas (1951). In Two Dogmas there is no proof that the a/s
distinction cannot be drawn or is not objective. It contains merely a
case by case analysis of known attempts at drawing the distinction.
Quine rejects those attempts not because they are inconsistent or
unintelligible, but because each of them fails to do the job that
Carnap and others wanted for them (namely, adequately explaining the
truths of math and logic).

If you want to insist that Quine did change his mind, and that in Two
Dogmas (1951) he was in fact rejecting the distinction itself (the
possibility of drawing it altogether), then I will not say you're
wrong. But I would still prefer the more charitable interpretation.
This is a matter of interpretation, I think. There's room here for
both views.

Best wishes,

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