Passing by the Naturalistic Turn: On Quine’s Cul-De-Sac

Peter M. S. Hacker


Quine contributed actively to the naturalistic turn away from the a priori methods of traditional philosophy to a conception of philosophy as continuous with natural science. Although there is resistance among naturalists to take Quine as a paradigm of a naturalistic philosopher (see Brandl’s and Sukopp’s articles), doubtlessly American naturalism is closely associated with Quine. Hacker’s contribution is a thorough analysis of Quine’s naturalized epistemology. According to Hacker, Quine rarely was concerned with questions of traditional epistemology. However, when he was, his answers were not part of empirically testable theories as he demanded for naturalized epistemology but traditional philosophical claims. Hacker concludes that “naturalized epistemology does not answer the great questions of epistemology and is no substitute for their answers.” It remains a major task of epistemological and methodological reflection to point out conceptual confusions and incoherences of scientific theories. This does not imply that philosophy is the Queen of sciences. Rather it should be conceived as a tribunal before which scientific theories may be arraigned when trespassing beyond the limits of their qualification.


epistemology; Naturalism; Carnap Rudolf; Quine Willard Van Orman; truth

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