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Volume 48 • Number 3

July 2011



 

 

THE LEGACY OF "TWO DOGMAS"


by Catherine Z. Elgin


W. V. Quine is famous, or perhaps infamous, for his repudiation of the analytic/synthetic distinction and kindred dualisms—the necessary/contingent dichotomy and the a priori/a posteriori dichotomy. As these dualisms have come back into vogue in recent years, it might seem that the denial of the dualisms is no part of Quine's enduring legacy. Such a conclusion is unwarranted—not only because the dualisms are deeply problematic, but because "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" haunts even those who want to retain them. "Two Dogmas" reconfigured the philosophical terrain and issued a challenge to philosophy's self understanding—a challenge that has yet to be fully met. The commitment to the analytic/synthetic distinction derives from the recognition that the truth of any sentence depends on two things: the way the world is and what the sentence means. It seems natural, then, that each sentence should be subject to a sort of factor analysis that disentangles the contribution of language to its truth value from the contribution of the world. Just how much each contributes varies from one sentence to the next. When the contribution of the world goes to zero, the sentence is analytic.


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ISSN: 2152-1123