, Volume 94, Issue 3, pp 335-356

First online:

The two faces of Quine's naturalism

  • Susan HaackAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Miami

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Quine's ‘naturalized epistemology’ is ambivalent between a modest naturalism according to which epistemology is an a posteriori discipline, an integral part of the web of empirical belief, and a scientistic naturalism according to which epistemology is to be conducted wholly within the natural sciences. This ambivalence is encouraged by Quine's ambiguous use of “science”, to mean sometimes, broadly, ‘our presumed empirical knowledge’ and sometimes, narrowly, ‘the natural sciences’. Quine's modest naturalism is reformist, tackling the traditional epistemological problems in a novel way; his scientistic naturalism is revolutionary, requiring restriction and reconceptualization of epistemological problems. In particular, his scientistic naturalism trivializes the question of the epistemic standing of the natural sciences, whereas modest naturalism takes it seriously, and can offer a plausible answer.