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Quine's Naturalism:
Language, Theory, and the Knowing Subject

Paul A. Gregory

W. V. Quine was the most important naturalistic philosopher of the twentieth century and a major impetus for the recent resurgence of the view that empirical science is our best avenue to knowledge. His views, however, have not been well understood. Critics charge that Quine’s naturalized epistemology is circular and that it cannot be normative. Yet, such criticisms stem from a cluster of fundamental traditional assumptions regarding language, theory, and the knowing subject – the very presuppositions that Quine is at pains to reject. Through investigation of Quine’s views regarding language, knowledge, and reality, the author offers a new interpretation of Quine’s naturalism. The naturalism/antinaturalism debate can be advanced only by acknowledging and critiquing the substantial theoretical commitments implicit in the traditional view. Gregory argues that the responses to the circularity and non-normativity objections do just that. His analysis further reveals that Quine’s departure from the tradition penetrates the conception of the knowing subject, and he thus offers a new and engaging defence of Quine’s naturalism.

‘Paul Gregory has written a wonderfully clear and useful book on Quine's naturalistic epistemology. Gregory does a fine job of explaining central Quinean doctrines and their interrelationship, as well as providing an illuminating defense of these views against various objections.’

Professor Hilary Kornblith, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

‘An important contribution to the ongoing debate over philosophical naturalism. This clearly and engagingly written work casts important new light on Quine’s contributions to the theory of knowledge, and to the development of contemporary naturalism.’

Matthew Moore, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, CUNY, USA