Quine, Ontology, and Physicalism

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Quine's views on ontology and naturalism are well-known but rarely considered in tandem. According to my interpretation the connection between them is vital. I read Quine as a global epistemic structuralist. Quine thought we only ever know objects qua solutions to puzzles about significant intersections in observations. Objects are always accessed descriptively, via their roles in our best theory. Quine's Kant lectures contain an early version of epistemic structuralism with uncharacteristic remarks about the mental. Here Quine embraces mitigated anomalous monism, allowing introspection and the availability in principle of full physical descriptions of the perceptual states which get science off the ground. Later versions abandon these ideas. My epistemic-structural interpretation explains why. I argue first-personal introspective access to mental states is incompatible with global epistemic structuralism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience and Sensibilia by W. V. Quine
Subtitle of host publicationThe 1980 Immanuel Kant Lectures
EditorsRobert Sinclair
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9783030049096
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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