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Notes and Discussions Quine's 1946 Lectures on Hume|. A particular view of the history of philosophy is taken by W. V. Quine to lend support to the distinctive naturalism that he has defended in recent years. This view finds expression in "Epistemology Naturalized,''~ wherein the career of constructive empiricism2 is traced over nearly three centuries, from its inception in British empiricism to its most rigorous, yet most clearly inadequate formulation in Carnap's Aufbau.3 Quine suggests that empiricist epistemology traditionally comprised two very different objectives in a confused form: that of justifying and explicating beliefs and that of merely explaining them. Justification and explication reaches its fullest flower, and fails, in Carnap; only explanation, carried on without hope of ultimate justification, remains. And Quine's conclusion is strengthened by the implicit suggestion that naturalistic explanations of the genesis of our theories about the world, when sought for and even imperfectly grasped, will be found, after all, to satisfyjust those concerns that gave rise tojustificatory epistemology in the first place. Hume plays a mixed role in this history. He is first of all the originator of various notions central to constructive empiricism. When Hume proposes that all ideas are I should like here to acknowledge my debt to Professor Quine, who kindly allowed me to examine his lecture notes on Hume and who, with characteristic generosity and careful attention, discussed them with me at some length. The quotations from these notes are published with his permission. ' In W. V. Quine, OntologicalRelativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969). ' Throughout this paper, I shall use "constructive empiricism" to refer to that understanding of epistemology according to which the content of our beliefs, both scientificand common-sense, is to be accounted for by fashioning "constructions" of these beliefs using what is given in sense experience. This epistemological positionhas been called "phenomenalism"or "sensory phenomenalism ," but "constructive empiricism" connotes, or so I wish, the contemporary forms of phenomenalismthat rely upon the devices and machineryof modern logic and set theory. As I use the terms, "constructive empiricism" has a sense distinct from "empiricism" simpliciter. The latter term I use to signify those epistemological theories that give some crucial role to observation and sensory experience in the acquisition of knowledge. Thus, although Quine is an emp/r/c/stin this sense, he is not a constructiveempiricist. s R. Carnap, The Logical Structure of the World, trans. R. A. George (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967). [445] 446 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 27:3 JULY ~989 derived from impressions, Quine sees him to be propounding a kind of radical reductionism , which "well antedates the verification theory of meaning explicitly so called."4 And, of course, Quine observes that Hume's storied distinction between relations of ideas and matters of fact was later to be developed into the analytic-synthetic distinction , so central to twentieth-century constructive empiricism.5 So we find in Hume both dogmas of empiricism, albeit in prototypica] form. 6 To this extent Hume/s a forerunner of modern empiricism, as Zabeeh has carefully documented.7 Although Quine repudiates constructive empiricism, he does not repudiate Hume. We might say that he takes Hume to be a forerunner not merely of modern constructive empiricism but also of contemporary naturalism. Here, Hume's arguments against any rational justification of induction are central: "The Humean predicament is the human predicament. ''8 As Quine sees it, once one denies that there is a distinction between analytic and synthetic truths, then "methodological monism"9 is the consequence . This is a monism that consists solely of inductive practices, broadly understood . If one's only method is inductive, and if this method admits of no rational justification, then no justificatory task remains for epistemology. "In the matter of justifying induction," Quine observes, "we are back with Hume, where we doubtless belong. Asking for a justification of induction is like asking for a first philosophy in support of science."1~Quine then goes on to provide, in the spirit of Hume, a naturalistic , evolutionary explanation of our inductive practices. '' Thus, we reach a conclusion that may at first seem puzzling. Quine traces, rightly I think, elements both...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 445-459
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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