Quine's holism is marked by a scientific methodology. Perhaps not all beliefs in Quine's web of belief are accurate, but at its best the web consists of the refined, matured string of beliefs which are collectively of a scientific nature.

However, a natural question arises: just what qualifies as 'scientific' for Quine?

And another question: how is the traditional epistemologist's understanding of knowledge related to Quine's understanding?

A simpler summary of these questions is as follows: what does Quine accept and reject of the traditional conception of 'knowledge' and 'science', and how are the two related in Quine's approach?

And although it might be asking a bit much, what is the role of pragmatism in all this for Quine?

  • I think you need to be more specific. I don't know what you mean by "the traditional" such and such. Maybe there's no such thing.
    – user20153
    Aug 6, 2016 at 21:30
  • I mean by 'traditional' a culmination of things. For the sake of utility, 'traditional' here can mean simply 'whatever notions of knowledge Quine is criticizing or wanting to subsume under his new empistemological project'. It is Quine who separates himself from certain notions of knowledge, and a part of this question is asking in turn what specifically Quine is leaving in these notions from his suggested approach or perhaps assimilating/assuming in his approach.
    – Mos
    Aug 7, 2016 at 1:36

1 Answer 1


Quine is famous for suggesting that we should 'naturalize' epistemology. By naturalizing, he meant bringing epistemology under the microscope of science, whether that being psychology, physiology, or cognitive science. The suggestion is not a testable thesis supported by arguments, but a proposal for a new paradigm in the study of epistemology.

Why did Quine have the urge to reduce epistemology into a branch of science? Because he believed that the traditional epistemology (TE) is a lost cause. To Quine, the mantra of TE is the search for clear and distinct ideas (or clear and distinct (atomic) sentences by logical empiricists). Naturally, to him, Descartes is the paragon of TE, and we know how badly Descartes search went: the Cartesian skepticism only saved by Cogito Ergo Sum, which to many is just wtf. Quine himself tried to kill off the Cartesian minions (logical empiricists) with his "Two Dogmas of Empiricism."

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