Undogmatic Empiricism: Quine’s Epistemic Norms in Practice

Michael Shepanski

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Contemporary philosophy often chants the mantra, ‘Philosophy is continuous with science.’ Now Shepanski gives it a clear sense, by extracting from W. V. Quine’s writings an explicit normative epistemology – i.e. an explicit set of norms for theorizing – that applies to philosophy and science alike. It is recognizably a version of empiricism, yet it permits the kind of philosophical theorizing that Quine practised all his life. Indeed, it is that practice, more than any overt avowals, that justifies attributing this set of norms to Quine.The Quinean epistemology is supported by a metaphilosophy that judges epistemologies by the tenability of their consequences. Shepanski explores the Quinean epistemology’s consequences for inductive and abductive inference, for mathematical entities, for science and for common sense. Moreover, he finds that it continues to be fruitful, as illustrated by a case study in which Quinean methods lead to a new formal treatment of the propositional attitudes. Finally, there is critical discussion of popular alternative views, including foundationalism, the centrality of knowledge, and Quine’s own epistemological naturalism.By focusing on Quine’s normative epistemology, Shepanski illuminates a part of Quine’s thought that has hitherto been insufficiently discussed, and provides a tractable starting point for readers who are new to Quine. Most importantly, he isolates the part of Quine’s thought that has the greatest potential impact outside epistemology, outside philosophy of language, and even outside philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages150
Publication statusAccepted/In press - May 2023


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