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Logic & Scientific Philosophy

Van Ormine Quine – Kelly, Emily, Zoe

It’s hard to find an exact definition for any word. Every person has a slightly different meaning for a word. Quine had this as the basis for his belief about the objectivity of science. If you can’t define a word exactly, how can you use it in a definition for something else, or a scientific theory, hypothesis, or “truth”. Van Ormine Quine was an American philosopher who studied language and logic. He uses language as the main reason why science is subjective.

In the words of Quine (impersonated by Zoe):
“Our sensory input only provides us with a limited amount of information. When you see a rock, what do you really see? A gray shape with certain gradiential patterns of lighter and darker shades. Yet, from that, we find it to be 3D, we decide it must be hard, we make a guess at its weight, we determine it to be a substance made of minerals, based on linking our sensory input with other sensory input of touching or holding rocks in the past. Yet, we don’t really know that these rocks are the same, it is an arbitrary link we make between the two.  We cannot say that every rock is made of minerals without testing each rock, yet we don’t have the resources to test every rock. So, in order to advance, we must make assumptions. And while these are necessary, they should never be mistaken for objective facts.”

Anybody who has known Zoe, or seen her blog posts, knows how she writes and speaks.  So here are some of the best of the Zoe Notes on Quine:

  • Willard was all over the epistemology. ALL OVER IT.


  • Take a little thing and make it bigger. (It’s not the size of the fact that counts, IT’S HOW YOU USE IT.)
  • Nothing can be disproved, as every hypothesis can simply be advanced.
    IE, “All swans are white”
    “Oh, look, a black swan.”
    “Please, that swan was dipped in coal. Or something.”
  • Extrapolation was his favorite thing, but he was very cautious about logical contradictions. (All generalizations are bad)
  • Generalization will inevitably end in contradiction.
  • Trying to understand science using only our sensory input is arrogant.

Ultimately, science just ain’t objective, as we only know a limited amount of information.



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