Quine argues for a naturalized epistemology over traditional kinds. The implications of this move lead to pure descriptions that relinquishes all normativity. Is Quine's method of science as a "paradigm of inquiry" and commitment to empiricism in the pragmatic sense--ontological relativity--a form of eliminativism? Is a recipe for aprescriptive or anormative meaning and value even possible as Quine seems to suggest?


Good, tough questions

First, one should be cautious about claiming that any view "relinquishes all normativity". The extent to which Quine avoids charges that he is 'sneaking in' values or normativity is precisely the extent to which he defers to others (e.g., scientists). The goal of Quine's position is not to provide "pure descriptions" or to end up with a value-free epistemology or ontology. Indeed, one of the key lessons we are supposed to have learned from Quine (and others before him, as well as pragmatists generally) is that there are no value-free facts. So the answer to your second question seems to be: No, such things are not possible, but this is not contrary to Quine. [For more detail see: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/quine/#QuiNatImp, especially the section on "normativity".]

As for the first question, your own recognition that Quine is an ontological relativist is noteworthy. Eliminativism comes in different stripes, most prominently materialistic. To be an eliminativist of any kind, however, is to privilege one ontology over all others and thus to be ontologically absolutist.

  • Fascinating! Thanks for the analysis. I will check out the link to normativity. I really didn't catch the move to an absolutist ontological stance--I think this is important and particularly noteworthy. Jan 6 '15 at 0:57

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