Willard Van Orman QUINE : Word and Object

Publication Information : Book Title : Word and Object. Contributors : Willard Van Orman Quine – author. Publisher : Technology Press of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Place of Publication : Cambridge, MA. Publication Year : 1960.


Language is a social art. In acquiring it we have to depend entirely on intersubjectively available cues as to what to say and when. Hence there is no justification for collating linguistic meanings, unless in terms of men’s dispositions to respond overtly to socially observable stimulations. An effect of recognizing this limitation is that the enterprise of translation is found to be involved in a certain systematic indeterminacy ; and this is the main theme of Chapter II.

The indeterminacy of translation invests even the question what objects to construe a term as true of. Studies of the semantics of reference consequently turn out to make sense only when directed upon substantially our language, from within. But we do remain free to reflect, thus parochially, on the development and structure of our own referential apparatus ; and this I do in ensuing chapters. In so doing one encounters various anomalies and conflicts that are implicit in this apparatus (Chapter IV), and is moved to adopt remedies in the spirit of modern logic (Chapters V and VI). Clarity also is perhaps gained on what we do when we impute existence, and what considerations may best guide such decisions ; thus Chapter VII.

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