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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: February 2013

Preface

Summary

The works in the Central Works of Philosophy volumes have been chosen because of their fundamental importance in the history of philosophy and for the development of human thought. Other works might have been chosen; however, the underlying idea is that if any works should be chosen, then these certainly should be. In the cases where the work is a philosopher's magnum opus the essay on it gives an excellent overview of the philosopher's thought.

Chapter 1 is Gary Kemp on W. V. Quine's Word and Object. Quine's position generally might best be called “epistemic holism”. This rejects the notion that there is a sharp distinction between necessary a priori analytic statements, which are true or false because of the meaning of the terms in the statements, and contingent a posteriori synthetic statements, which are true or false because of some fact or state of affairs in the world to which they refer. Rather, our statements as a whole meet the world; the “necessity” of some and the “contingency” of others are matters of degree, and reflect the amount of theoretical and conceptual reorganization and disruption that would be required in giving them up. Quine introduces holism in this book by showing how the meaning of words is inextricably linked to our theories about reality. There is an irremovable indeterminacy of translation between one language and another because there are no ultimate facts that determine the meanings of linguistic expressions uniquely.