1996Arts and PhilosophyThought and Ethics
Willard Van Orman Quine photo

Willard Van Orman Quine

  • U.S.A. / 1908-2000
  • Philosopher
  • Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

A Philosopher Who Made Significant Contribution to the Development of Contemporary Philosophy by Rejecting the Method of Analytic-Synthetic Distinction and Naturalizing Epistemology Based on a Holistic and Systematic Linguistic Framework

Developing countless sensational arguments filled with insight covering fields from epistemology to philosophy of language and science, Dr. Quine has created a new paradigm of philosophy for the second half of the 20th century.
*This category then was Category of Creative Arts and Moral Sciences.
*This field then was Field of Philosophy.


Brief Biography

Born in Akron, Ohio, U.S.A.
Graduate from Oberlin College and take a degree in Mathematics
Ph.D., in Philosophy at Harvard University and take a degree in Ethics under the guidance of A.N. Whitehead
Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University
President, Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association
Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

Selected Awards and Honors

Fellow, Society of Fellows, Harvard University
Fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton
N.M. Butler Gold Medal, Columbia University
Frantisek Polacky Gold Medal, Czech Republic
Rolf Schock Prize in philosophy, Sweden
Charles University Silver Medal, Prague
Oberlin College, Washington University, University of Chicago, Oxford University, Cambridge University
American Philosophical Society, National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, British Academy

Major Works


Methods of logic


Two Dogmas of Empiricism


From a logical point of view


Word and Object


Philosophy of logic


The roots of reference


A Philosopher Who Made Significant Contribution to the Development of Contemporary Philosophy by Rejecting the Method of Analytic-Synthetic Distinction and Naturalizing Epistemology Based on a Holistic and Systematic Linguistic Framework

A great analytic philosopher, Dr. Willard Van Orman Quine, has made outstanding contributions to the progress of philosophy in the 20th century by proposing numerous theories based on keen insights in logic, epistemology, philosophy of science and philosophy of language.

Dr. Quine’s first major achievements were in the fields of mathematical logic and set theory, in which he formally simplified B. Russell’s logical system. While actively engaging in theoretical exchanges with logical positivists in Europe, he fundamentally restructured their theories in the pragmatic tradition of American philosophy. As a result, he founded an original holistic philosophy, which can be characterized as radicalized empiricism.

Traditional empiricism holds that in testing a scientific hypothesis, an individual statement is compared with an empirical fact. Dr. Quine pointed out, instead, that in such testing, statements will be subject to comparison with experience as a collective whole (the Quine – Duhem Thesis). This holistic theory of knowledge overturned the dualistic epistemological assumption of the logical positivists, which distinguished “analytic statements” (such as the statements in mathematics and logic), in which truth is established independent of experience, from “synthetic statements” (empirical statements), in which truth is established only through experience. Because the distinction between the analytic and the synthetic was an assumption shared by the philosophy of rationalism as well as Kant’s critical philosophy, Dr. Quine’s attack on this distinction is tantamount to a fundamental criticism of traditional Western philosophy. In place of traditional epistemology, Dr. Quine proposed a new conception of philosophy as a theoretical undertaking that is inherently related to natural sciences (Naturalized Philosophy).

Furthermore, Dr. Quine pointed out that in translating between two mutually unrelated languages two or more translation manuals that are empirically, equally adequate but logically incompatible may exist (the Indeterminacy of Translation Thesis). This discovery in the philosophy of language has not only given rise to fundamental questions regarding the meaning of words and the reference to objects but has also served to provide a logical basis for discussing a wide range of issues, such as cultural relativity and mutual comprehension of different world views.

The achievements of Dr. Willard Van Orman Quine, supported by his rigorous logical analysis, have contributed greatly to revitalizing and deepening the discussion of the fundamental problems of philosophy. It is impossible to discuss contemporary philosophy without mentioning Dr. Quine’s achievements. For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to bestow upon Dr. Willard Van Orman Quine the 1996 Kyoto Prize in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences.


Abstract of the Lecture


A childhood interest in maps fostered my taste for structure and precision as well as curiosity about the world. Aptitude for mathematics emerged, and a leaning toward language and philosophy. In college I majored in mathematics with honors reading in mathematical logic. This subject was offbeat in America, but later gained glory through G?del’s theorem and computer theory. I revealed in the rigor and economy of Whitehead and Russell’s reduction of mathematics to a few symbols of logic and set theory. I even enhanced it, as had Tarski and G?del.

Besides reducing concepts by definitions, Whitehead and Russell reduced theory to axioms. Contradiction then threatened, in Russell’s paradox of the class of all non-self-members. His solution involved complicating the grammar and infinitely reduplicating the objects of mathematics. I freed his solution from these drawbacks. This strengthened the system, again threatening contradiction. None has been found.

The paradoxes and G?del’s theorem reveal the power of classes, in contrast to elementary logic. It is misleading to say mathematics reduces to logic. Say to logic and set theory.

Some balk at assuming classes and other abstract objects. But what does assuming an object consist in? Not in direct specification, but in repeated reference to an unspecified object of a specified sort. This lends structure to science. Science needs classes but no properties or meanings. These are in trouble over identity and difference.

As my logico-mathematical concerns rounded off in middle life, my attention turned more to the philosophy of natural science. But tidy parsimony is a beacon for natural science as well, and for its philosophy.

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Language, Holism, and Naturalism

Tuesday, November 12, 1996
Kyoto International Conference Center
Michiko Kobayashi Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Professor, Faculty of Literature, Osaka City University Keiichi Noe Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences; Professor, Faculty of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University


Greetings Toyomi Inamori
Managing Director, The Inamori Foundation
Greetings Natsuhiko Yoshida
President, The Japan Association for Philosophy of Science;
Professor, Faculty of Literature, Rissyo University
Greetings Norio Fujisawa
Chairman, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences;
Director, Kyoto National Museum
Introduction of the Laureate Akira Oide
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Soka University
Commemorative Lecture Willard Van Orman Quine
Laureate in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences;
"Instinct, Reification and Extensionality"
Chairperson Hide Ishiguro
Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Creative Arts and Moral Sciences;
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chiba University
Lecture I Takashi Iida
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Chiba University
"Number and Individuation"
Chairperson Keiichiro Kamino
Professor, Faculty of Business Administration and Information, Setsunan University
Lecture II Nobuharu Tanji
Professor, Department of Philosophy, Tokyo Metropolitan University
"Theory-Ladenness of Observation Sentences"
Chairperson Junichiro Takeo
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Kansai University
Lecture III Kenzo Hamano
Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Nagoya Institute of Technology
"Naturalism and Norms"
Chairperson Hyakudai Sakamto
Professor, Philosophy Department, Nihon University
President, Philosophy of Science Society, Japan
Lecture IV Yasuhiko Tomida
Associate Professor, Faculty of Integrated Human Studies, Kyoto University
"Reification and Naturalism"