Four shared commitments of Rudolph Carnap, W.V. Quine and Hilary Putnam (G. Ebbs and S. Verhaegh)



The material below comes from Sander Verhaegh’s book review of Gary Ebbs’ book Carnap, Quine, and Putnam on Methods of Inquiry. Ebbs’ rejects the usual interpretation of the relationship between the philosophies of these three, as disagreeing at quite a fundamental level. Here is a quotation stating this interpretation:


“Quine is often viewed as slaying the (supposedly) Carnapian distinction between science and philosophy, whereas Putnam is commonly read as dismissing both Carnap’s positivism and Quine’s scientific naturalism.” (Verhaegh 2017)


According to Ebbs, these three philosophers share the following four commitments:


(1) In our pursuit of truth, we can do no better than to start in the middle, relying on already established beliefs and inferences and applying our best methods for reevaluating particular beliefs and inferences and arriving at new ones.


(2) No part of our supposed knowledge, no matter how clear it seems to us or how firmly we now hold it, is unrevisable or guaranteed to be true.


(3) Insofar as traditional philosophical conceptions of reason, justification, and apriority conflict with the first two principles, they should be abandoned.


(4) A central task of philosophy is to clarify and facilitate our rational inquiries by replacing terms and theories that we find useful in some ways, but problematic in others, with new terms and theories that are as clear and unproblematic to us as the terms and methods of our best scientific theories.


Here is another quotation from Verhaegh, summarizing Ebbs:


Carnap, Quine, and Putnam, in other words, all dismiss traditional inflated conceptions of philosophical inquiry and replace them with a deeply fallibilistic, explication-based picture in which there is no perspective external to the discourses we find useful in our everyday and scientific inquiries.” (Verhaegh 2017)



Verhaegh, S. 2017. Gary Ebbs, Carnap, Putnam and Quine on Methods of Inquiry. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2017.11.23. Link.