Boarding Neurath's Boat: The Early Development of Quine's Naturalism


W. V. Quine is arguably the intellectual father of contemporary naturalism, the idea that there is no distinctively philosophical perspective on reality. Yet, even though Quine has always been a science-minded philosopher, he did not adopt a fully naturalistic perspective until the early 1950s. In this paper, I reconstruct the genesis of Quine's ideas on the relation between science and philosophy. Scrutinizing his unpublished papers and notebooks, I examine Quine's development in the first decades of his career. After identifying three commitments supporting his naturalism—viz. empiricism, holism, and realism—I piece together the evolution of Quine's position by examining the origins of these commitments one by one, showing how his early views gradually evolved into the mature naturalistic position that would have such an enormous impact on post-war analytic philosophy.