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Volume 48 • Number 3

July 2011



 

 

QUINE’S NOMINALISM


by Charles Parsons


During the time since World War II, nominalism as a philosophical tendency or research program has been largely identified with what was inaugurated by Nelson Goodman in such works as The Structure of Appearance. What was definitive of nominalism for Goodman was the rejection of the assumption of classes in philosophical and logical construction. Quine joined the research program in one well-known joint article with Goodman, "Steps toward a Constructive Nominalism," which inaugurated postwar nominalism in the philosophy of mathematics. The opening sentence of that article, "We do not believe in abstract entities," could serve as the slogan for recent nominalism. As is well-known, if that is what is meant by nominalism with reference to Quine, his nominalism was short-lived, whether one focuses on a philosophical doctrine or on the research program. But the period of his engagement with nominalism in that sense, from toward the end of the 1930s through the 1940s, almost coincides with the period during which he developed his well-known views on ontology and crystallized the views that especially concern me here. So we will not be able to ignore nominalism in the now current sense.


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ISSN: 2152-1123