Person: Quine, Willard Van Orman
Willard Van Orman Quine was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- A fellow student suggested that he would find reading Bertrand Russell's works interesting and indeed reading Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica quickly convinced Quine that he should study mathematics as his major subject with the philosophy of mathematics as a secondary topic.
- Quine completed his doctorate in two years supervised by Alfred North Whitehead.
- It was Whitehead who introduced him to Russell, who was visiting Harvard to lecture there, and from that time Quine began a correspondence with Russell.
- Indeed it was "a great year" for Quine who made an exciting visit to Europe financed by a Sheldon Traveling Fellowship.
- Quine spent six weeks in Warsaw with Tarski before going on to study at Prague under Rudolf Carnap.
- After Quine returned to Harvard in 1933 to take up the Junior Fellowship he published his first book A System of Logistics which was the published version of his doctoral thesis.
- From this time up to the break in his career for war service Quine's research was mainly on logic although always with a philosophical motivation.
- Quine presented no model for this theory, nor did he prove that the system was consistent.
- Quine was appointed onto the staff at Harvard in 1936 as an Instructor in Philosophy.
- The year 1940 was an exciting one for Quine at Harvard for in that year both Carnap and Tarski visited Harvard and the three debated logical positivism.
- Although Quine was a firm friend of Carnap the two took somewhat different stands on many philosophical issues which led to lively discussions and challenges.
- During 1953-54 Quine was Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford and during that time he published a book From a Logical Point of View which was a collection of his earlier articles.
- Quine became Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy at Harvard in 1956, a post he retained until he retired in 1978.
- We have commented above about Quine's work in mathematical logic.
- Quine developed a new type of philosophy, which he called naturalized epistemology.
- He claimed that epistemology's only legitimate role is to describe the way knowledge is actually obtained so, according to Quine, its function is to describe how present science arrives at the beliefs accepted by the scientific community.
- Among Quine's publications are works on logic, metaphysics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of logic.
- Quine won many prizes and medals for his outstanding contributions.
- The Kyoto Prize for Creative Arts and Moral Sciences focused on the field of philosophy and made the award to Quine as one of America's pre-eminent 20th century philosophers.
- Outside philosophy and mathematics Quine loved music, especially Dixieland jazz, Mexican folksongs, and Gilbert and Sullivan.
Born 25 June 1908, Akron, Ohio, USA. Died 25 December 2000, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive