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Philosophy: Scientific or Humanistic?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2015


Are or should the assumptions, methods, and aims of philosophy be scientific or humanistic? I take Quine to represent the view that if philosophy is done as it should be, it is scientific. A contrary view is that philosophy rightly pursued is humanistic. I consider Williams' defense of it. My aim in this paper is to show that each view is partly right and partly wrong and to propose an alternative that includes what I take to be right and excludes what I take to be wrong in both views.

Research Article
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 2015 

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1 Magee, Bryan, ‘The Ideas of Quine’ in Follesdal, D. & Quine, D.B., eds. Quine in Dialogue (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978/2008), 56.Google Scholar

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3 Brill, Olaf, ‘There is Always a Further Step’ in Quine in Dialogue, op. cit. (1998/2008)Google Scholar, 97.

4 Quine, W.V., ‘On the Nature of Moral Values’ in Theories and Things, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978/1981)Google Scholar, 63.

5 Ibid. 66.

6 Quine, W.V., ‘What I believe’ in Quine in Dialogue, op. cit. (1984/2008), 310311.Google Scholar

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8 The fullest account of Williams' genealogical approach is in Truth & Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002)Google Scholar. References in the text are to the pages of this volume. His explicit defense of humanistic philosophy is in Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline’ in Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline, ed. Moore, A.W., (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000/2006), 180199.Google Scholar

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12 Ibid. 85.

13 Strawson, P.F.'s ‘Freedom and Resentment’ in Freedom and Resentment, (London: Methuen, 1962/1974)Google Scholar, 23.

14 Nagel, Thomas, The Last Word, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997)Google Scholar, 21.

15 Williams, ‘Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline’, 195.