“The Defensible Province of Philosophy”: Quine's 1934 Lectures on Carnap

Peter Hylton

in Future Pasts

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780195139167
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833214 | DOI:
 “The Defensible Province of Philosophy”: Quine's 1934 Lectures on Carnap

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Hylton argues that some of the characteristic concerns of Quine are already in place by the 1930s. Hylton examines Quine’s 1934 Harvard lectures on Carnap, his first attempt to explain Carnap’s logical syntax program to an American audience. By pointing out tensions within the exposition the young Quine offered of Carnap’s views, Hylton shows how these lectures already point toward Quine’s subsequent disagreements with Carnap over the analytic/synthetic distinction. Hylton finds that in these lectures Quine departs from exposition because of a philosophical discomfort with Carnap’s assumption that our actual, pre-analytic, language contains a set of implicitly given definitions or rules from which the category of the a priori arises. Moreover, Quine also fastidiously departs from Carnap in trying to avoid assuming that our language contains a distinction between the a priori and the empirical. In the context of an exposition of Carnap’s program, this invites a question Quine was soon to ask: what sort of explanation of a given sentence’s truth could Carnap’s notion of “analytic” possibly provide? Hylton argues that Quine’s later well-known holism about meaning, his famed denial of empiricism’s second reductionist dogma—that “each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience”—was not the sole or primary philosophical factor shaping Quine’s differences with Carnap. Hylton’s examination of the origins of Quine’s differences with Carnap shows that what is fundamentally at stake is the very conception of what counts as a philosophical explanation.

Keywords: Quine; Carnap; a priori; empirical; logical syntax; analytic; synthetic; implicit definition; rules; logical construction; philosophical explanation

Chapter.  11133 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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