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Volume 48 • Number 3

July 2011



 

 

QUINE IN MY LIFE


by Daniel Dennett


I discovered W. V. O. Quine in 1959 late at night in the mathematics library at Wesleyan University, where I was a seventeen-year-old freshman. I was working through the problem sets in Quine’s Mathematical Logic (1940), assigned to me by Henry Kyburg, then a young instructor in the math department at Wesleyan, who had decided—mistakenly—that I was something of a mathematics prodigy he could force-feed with logic. Drowning in a high tide of formal symbols and derivations, I spotted Quine’s From a Logical Point of View (1951) on the shelf and discovered it was filled with wonderful, vivid English sentences. I stayed up all night long reading it. This Quine person was very, very interesting—but wrong. I couldn’t yet say exactly how or why, but I was quite sure. So I decided, as only a freshman could, that I had to confront him directly and see what I could learn from him—and teach him! The next day I began planning to transfer to Harvard.


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ISSN: 2152-1123