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Volume 48 • Number 3

July 2011



 

 

QUINE'S LEGACY


by Alexander George


The word "quinean" appears in the Oxford English Dictionary. (The word "quine" does too, but it is a rare, indeed obsolete, botanical term applying to leaves and so need not concern us.) We can be confident that W. V. Quine knew of this entry, as the word appeared in the second edition of 1989, and we can be confident that he was pleased. The entry given there is "Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Quine or his theories." It does not take us far. (Though it is pleasing to note that the OED uses just "Quine" to mention Quine; not "Willard Van Orman Quine," not "W. V. O. Quine," not "W. V. Quine"—just "Quine.") I think Quine would have been even more tickled to learn that the OED chose to revise its definition in December 2007. The dictionary does not record whether it was led to this revision through deeper reflections on meaning or a more extensive empirical inquiry. No doubt, this is a forbearance Quine would have praised, though it is not one that we can, without a stretch, reckon as part of his legacy. The content of the change itself may, however, point us in a more fruitful direction.


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ISSN: 2152-1123