Feminist Interpretations of W. V. Quine
Edited by Lynn Hankinson Nelson and Jack Nelson
Feminist Interpretations of W. V. Quine
Edited by Lynn Hankinson Nelson and Jack NelsonAs one of the preeminent philosophers of the twentieth century, W. V. Quine (1908–2000) made groundbreaking contributions to the philosophy of science, mathematical logic, and the philosophy of language. This collection of essays examines Quine's views, particularly his holism and naturalism, for their value (and their limitations) to feminist theorizing today.
- Table of Contents
- Sample Chapters
Some contributors to this volume see Quine as severely challenging basic tenets of the logico-empiricist tradition in the philosophy of science—the analytic/synthetic distinction, verificationism, foundationalism—and accept various of his positions as potential resources for feminist critique. Other contributors regard Quine as an unrepentant empiricist and, unlike feminists who seek to use or extend his arguments, they interpret his positions as far less radical and more problematic.
In particular, critics and advocates of Quine's arguments that the philosophy of science should be "naturalized"—understood and pursued as an enterprise continuous with the sciences proper—disagree deeply about whether such a naturalized philosophy is "philosophy enough." Central issues at stake in these disagreements reflect current questions of special interest to feminists and also bridge the analytic and postmodern traditions. They include questions about whether and how the philosophy of science, as a form of practice, is or can be normative as well as questions concerning the implications of Quine's philosophy of language for the transparency and stability of meaning.
In representing feminist philosophy centrally engaged with the analytic tradition, this volume is important not only for what it contributes to the understanding of Quine and naturalized epistemology but also for what it accomplishes in working against restrictive conceptions of the place of feminism within the discipline.
Aside from the editors, the contributors are Kathryn Pyne Addelson, Louise M. Antony, Richmond Campbell, Lorraine Code, Jane Duran, Maureen Linker, Phyllis Rooney, and Paul A. Roth.
Lynn Hankinson Nelson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.
Jack Nelson is Professor of Philosophy and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at the University of Washington, Tacoma.
Lynn Hankinson Nelson and Jack Nelson
Part I: Early Feminist Analyses of Quine
1. Who Knows: From Quine to Feminist Empiricism
Lynn Hankinson Nelson (1990)
2. Quine as Feminist: The Radical Import of Naturalized Epistemology
Louise M. Antony (1994)
Part II: Is Quinean "Naturalized Philosophy of Science" Philosophy of Science Enough?
3. A Case for a Responsibly Rationalized Feminist Epistemology
4. What Is Natural About Epistemology Naturalized?
5. Feminist Epistemology and Naturalized Epistemology: An Uneasy Alliance
6. Naturalizing Quine
Kathryn Pyne Addelson
Part III: Explications, Expansions, and Revisions of Quinean Positions
7. Feminism and Naturalism: If Asked for Theories, Just Say ‘No’
Paul A. Roth
8. The Last Dogma of Empiricism?
9. Feminist Epistemology Naturalized
10. Quine and Feminist Theory
11. Feminist Naturalized Philosophy of Science
Lynn Hankinson Nelson
Lynn Hankinson Nelson and Jack Nelson
1. W. V. Quine
At the time of his death in December of 2000, W. V. Quine was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Harvard University. Quine was born in 1908 in Akron, Ohio. He attended Oberlin College as an undergraduate and earned his Ph.D. at Harvard, under C. I. Lewis. He was the preeminent American philosopher of the twentieth century.
Quine falls within, and is influenced by, at least three intellectual traditions: the empiricist tradition of John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, the Vienna Circle, and, most importantly for Quine’s development, Rudolph Carnap; the pragmatist tradition of William James, C. S. Peirce, John Dewey, and C. I. Lewis; and the tradition of modern mathematical logic, running from Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead through Kurt Gödel and Alonzo Church. From the empiricist tradition comes Quine’s lifelong concern with explicating the relationships between experience and our best going theories of the world. From the pragmatist tradition comes his advocacy of holism and the tentativeness of all of science. From mathematical logic comes his commitment to extensionality and to Alfred Tarski’s theory of truth. Quine is the clear heir to the empiricist program for which Carnap set the agenda in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. He is a product of this tradition. In our view, he is also its own severest critic and its ablest defender. But these views are not uncontroversial, as the essays collected here indicate.
Given the nature and the significance of Quine’s positions, it is somewhat surprising that feminist philosophers have been somewhat slow to show interest in his work. In the 1980s, feminist critiques of the philosophy of science were largely directed at the logico-empiricist tradition, particularly the positions associated with Carnap, Carl Hempel, and Ernst Nagel. Arguably, Quine’s positions constitute some of the most fundamental and far-reaching challenges anyone has offered to central tenets of this tradition. The 1990s saw more interest in Quine’s work, as reflected in the number of contributors to Linda Martín Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter’s collection Feminist Epistemologies who make substantive appeal to Quine’s positions (Alcoff and Potter 1993), and in the conference “Feminism and Naturalism,” co-sponsored by the Philosophy departments at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Washington University in September 1999.
But although relatively rare, feminist analyses that did engage Quine’s positions in the 1980s constituted significant contributions to feminist philosophy of science and feminist epistemology. Helen E. Longino appealed to Quine’s underdetermination thesis to argue for the plausibility of science critiques motivated by feminist perspectives (Longino 1987). Underdetermination is also a key premise of Longino’s analysis and arguments in Science as Social Knowledge (Longino 1990), and of later articles in which she explores the viability of the traditional distinction between “cognitive” and “noncognitive” values (e.g., Longino 1995 and 1996). Alcoff explicated Quine’s thesis of holism to argue that it makes the notion of “feminist social science” viable, rather than inherently contradictory as some feminist analyses were then suggesting (Alcoff 1987). Potter also appealed to holism as advocated by Quine and others in proposing a model of the relationships between gender politics and science (Potter 1988). Individually and collectively, these analyses demonstrated that the issues with which feminist scientists and science scholars are concerned are not limited to cases of “bad” science, and that positivism and relativism do not exhaust the options available to feminist theorists. Finally, in The Science Question in Feminism, Sandra Harding recognized Quine’s arguments against the analytic/synthetic distinction as constituting a devastating challenge to key tenets of the logico-empiricist tradition central to the work of Carnap, Hempel, and Nagel (Harding 1986). At the same time, Harding was highly critical of other aspects of Quine’s philosophy of science, particularly of what she argued to be a pervasive scientism within it.
Harding’s critique of Quine’s positions and of empiricism serves as important background to the essays in this volume. Contributors who view Quine’s positions as having much to contribute to feminist philosophy of science and epistemology engage many of Harding’s criticisms—although it will be clear that there are substantive differences in how they understand a number of Quine’s positions and their implications. Contributors critical of one or more of Quine’s positions, and those who seek to further develop Quinean naturalism or to offer alternative versions of naturalism altogether, also engage Harding’s arguments. In general, they share Harding’s concern that central features of Quine’s philosophy of science straightforwardly preclude the kind and level of normativity feminist science studies calls for and invokes. Paul Roth, who advocates Quinean naturalism and its importance for feminist theorizing about science, concurs with the argument that naturalism rightly understood cannot provide the kind of normativity that contributors critical of it take to be important. But in Roth’s view, this is not a failing of Quine’s arguments for naturalized epistemology; it is what makes them sound and genuinely revolutionary.
Given these relationships, we review the major outlines of Harding’s arguments. We set the stage for that discussion and for our introduction to the essays, themes, and agreements and disagreements in this volume by going back to the beginning, to Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” (Quine 1953). Here Quine offered his most significant challenge to logico-empiricist philosophy of science, as then understood, by rejecting both the analytic/synthetic distinction and verificationism. In doing so, he challenged the tradition’s understanding of the philosophy of science and the tenability of its projects. Since its publication, philosophers have debated the soundness of Quine’s arguments and argued about the extent of their implications for the philosophy of science and Anglo-American philosophy more generally. For Quine, the arguments of “Two Dogmas” served as the foundation of his subsequent work in the philosophy of science, and constituted the origins of others of his positions—including holism, the indeterminacy of translation, and his argument for naturalizing the philosophy of science (epistemology).
We spend time explicating these arguments and their relationships to the positions just mentioned for two reasons. First, although most contributors do not directly engage the arguments of “Two Dogmas” (but see Maureen Linker, Chapter 3 of this volume, for an extensive critique of them), they do engage the positions we maintain rely on its arguments, including holism and naturalism, and in some cases indeterminacy of translation. Second, we do not presume extensive familiarity with Quine’s positions or the debates that have surrounded them. It goes without saying that not all contributors, let alone all Quine scholars or critics, will agree with our characterization of the structure, the implications, and the success of Quine’s arguments in “Two Dogmas” or of the other positions we outline. Readers who wish can go directly to the second part of this introduction, where we discuss the essays in this volume.
Finally, a word about terminology. Quine often uses ‘epistemology’ when discussing the philosophy of science, that subdiscipline of philosophy that takes science, rather than knowledge in general, as its subject matter. Accordingly, we use ‘philosophy of science’ when discussing many of Quine’s positions. But we also note that often Quine uses ‘science’ in an inclusive sense to include so-called common-sense theories and theorizing, as well as philosophy, indeed “the totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs” (Quine 1953, 42).
<2> “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”
I philosophize from the vantage point only of our own provincial conceptual scheme and scientific epoch, true; but I know no better.
—Quine, “Epistemology Naturalized”
Quine published “Two Dogmas of Empiricism” in 1951 in the Philosophical Review. In 1953 he included it as the second of nine essays in From a Logical Point of View. In it, he rejects outright both the analytic/synthetic distinction and verificationism, i.e., the verification theory of meaning applied to individual sentences. The analytic/synthetic distinction has its roots in Hume’s distinction between relations of ideas and matters of fact. The second dogma, verificationism, emerged as the basis of a strategy for completing one half of Hume’s agenda—that of showing how all empirical knowledge flows from experience.
Quine sets out to show that common, and superficially promising, defenses of the analytic/synthetic distinction invariably turn out to presuppose, rather than elucidate, the notion of analyticity. An investigation of the nest of interrelated notions—analyticity, synonymy, interchangeability salva veritate, and necessary truth—yields, Quine argues, an argument that “is not flatly circular, but something like it. It has the form, figuratively speaking, of a closed curve in space” (Quine 1953, 30).
Kant’s view, Quine claims, can be taken to be that “a statement is analytic when it is true by virtue of meanings and independently of fact” (21). Quine finds meanings, in the sense of mental objects or ideas, to be “obscure intermediary entities” that are “well abandoned” in favor of an investigation of “the synonymy of linguistic forms” (23; cf. Quine 1966). Instead of talking of meanings, he maintains, we can talk, given the notion of synonymy, of two linguistic forms—two sentences or two words—meaning the same if and only if they are synonymous. So we are making progress if we can give an account of synonymy. The progress is this: analytic statements fall into two subclasses—logical truths and statements that can be turned into logical truths by substituting synonyms for synonyms (23).
Quine’s example of a logical truth is “[n]o unmarried man is married,” and his general characterization of a logical truth is “a statement which is true and remains true under all reinterpretations of its components other than the logical particles” (22). An alleged example of a statement that is not a logical truth but yields one through the substitution of synonym for synonym is “[n]o bachelor is married,” where ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried man’ are taken to be synonyms.
So, this first part of the closed curve seeks to explicate analyticity in terms of synonymy. But synonymy, Quine contends, “is no less in need of clarification than analyticity itself” (23). Quine rejects the view that synonymy rests on definition, according to which ‘bachelor’ is supposedly defined as, and is therefore synonymous with, ‘unmarried man’ (24). The problem, he points out, is that ordinary definitions, dictionary definitions, are not stipulations but reports on usage. “The lexicographer is an empirical scientist, whose business is the recording of antecedent facts” (24). He or she does not create usage or synonyms.
Quine next turns to the notion of interchangeability of terms salva veritate as a possible explication of synonymy. The proposal is that expressions are synonymous if they are everywhere interchangeable without changing the truth or falsity of the containing statement. The problem here, Quine argues, is that such allegedly clear synonyms as ‘bachelor’ and ‘unmarried male’ are not so interchangeable. For example, ‘unmarried male’ cannot be substituted for ‘bachelor’ in
‘Bachelor’ has less than ten letters
without turning the above truth into the falsehood
‘Unmarried male’ has less than ten letters
(28). To make the substitutivity test work we have to limit substitutions to whole words. The word spelled b-a-c-h-e-l-o-r does not occur as a whole word in the above example, though its name does.
So far so good (assuming the notion of ‘wordhood’ is unproblematic). But to make the substitutivity test work—to prevent its declaring such co-referential but nonsynonymous expressions as ‘the first President of the United States [under the Constitution]’ and ‘the second husband of Martha Washington’ synonymous—we will have to consider substitutivity not only within such ordinary contexts as
The first President of the United States was married to Martha Washington
but also within such contexts as
Necessarily the first President of the United States was married to Martha Washington
for while the expressions ‘the first President of the United States’ and ‘the second husband of Martha Washington’ are intersubstitutable in the first context, salva veritate, they are not in the second.
Necessarily the first President of the United States was married to Martha Washington
is presumably false while
Necessarily the second husband of Martha Washington was married to Martha Washington
is presumably true.
But Quine now reminds us that to attach ‘necessarily’ to a statement is just to claim that the statement is analytic. That is,
Necessarily bachelors are unmarried
is best understood as
‘Bachelors are unmarried’ is analytic.
So our curve in space has closed itself. We can explicate analyticity in terms of synonymy, synonymy in terms of intersubstitutivity salve veritate, including in contexts governed by ‘necessarily,’ and such necessity in terms of analyticity.
Quine next turns his attention to his second target, verificationism. Historically, discussions of “Two Dogmas” have largely ignored the second dogma, perhaps because many defenders of the analytic/synthetic distinction have no sympathy for verificationism. And indeed at first it seems odd that Quine would see these two positions as paired or related dogmas. On reflection one might conclude that having rejected the analytic/synthetic distinction, Quine had no choice but to also reject verificationism, precisely because he does not want to abandon the meaningfulness of logic and mathematics. If the only criterion of meaningfulness is verification by sensory experience, then mathematics and logic appear to be meaningless, for there are no sensory experiences that can be taken to confirm or disconfirm the alleged truths of mathematics and logic. The view of logic and mathematics as consisting of important nonsense is one A. J. Ayer was willing to take in his explication and defense of verificationism in Language, Truth, and Logic (Ayer 1959). Being unwilling to follow Ayer, one might conclude that Quine has no choice but to reject verificationism as a theory of meaning.
But we suggest that this is not the motivation for Quine’s rejection of verificationism. Quine does not take the truths of mathematics and logic to be unverified by the standards of verificationism. He notes that “[a]s long as it is taken to be significant in general to speak of the confirmation and infirmation of a statement, it seems significant to speak also of a limiting kind of statement which is vacuously confirmed, ipso facto, come what may; and such a statement is analytic” (41). That is, Quine grants that “the truth of statements does obviously depend both upon language and upon extralinguistic fact” (41). If we allow sentences to be candidates for truth and falsity taken one-by-one, it follows that we can explicate analytic sentences as the limiting case, those in which “the linguistic component is all that matters,” i.e., where the role of extralinguistic fact is nil. Given verificationism, the truths of logic and mathematics and perhaps all commonly termed analytic statements are vacuously verified—verified “come what may” by way of experience. Hence were verificationism to stand, it would itself constitute a basis for an explication (and thus reinstitution) of the analytic/synthetic distinction, analytic statements being those that are verified come what may. So if the analytic/synthetic distinction is to be banished as an unsupportable dogma, so must verificationism. In fact, Quine asserts not just that the analytic/synthetic distinction is a consequence of verificationism, but also that “[t]he two dogmas are, indeed, at root identical” (41). We return to this issue below.
Quine holds verificationism to be closely connected with, if not equivalent to, radical reductionism—the view that “[e]very meaningful statement is . . . translatable into a statement (true or false) about immediate experience” (38). Quine’s argument against verificationism and radical reductionism takes the form of what might be called “dismissal by charitable reinterpretation.” Radical reductionism, he notes, goes back at least to Locke and Hume, who “held that every idea must either originate directly in sense experience or else be compounded of ideas thus originating” (38). Quine credits Tooke with improving on this idea by moving the focus from ideas to terms, allowing the doctrine to be rephrased “in semantical terms, by saying that a term, to be significant at all, must be either a name of a sense datum or a compound of such names or an abbreviation of such a compound” (38). But such a doctrine, Quine maintains, is “unnecessarily and intolerably restrictive in the term-by-term critique which it imposes. More reasonably, and without yet exceeding the limits of what I have called radical reductionism, we may take full statements as our significant units—thus demanding that our statements as wholes be translatable into sense-datum language, but not that they be translatable term by term” (38–39).
Devising a scheme for translating statements into sense-datum language was the goal of Carnap’s Aufbau (Carnap 1928). Although Quine finds Carnap’s attempt impressive, especially the constructions utilizing “the whole language of pure mathematics” (39), he believes the whole project is ultimately doomed to failure. This is because Carnap “provides no indication, not even the sketchiest, of how a statement of the form ‘Quality q is at x;y;z;t’ [a point instant] could ever be translated into Carnap’s initial language of sense data and logic. The connective ‘is at’ remains an added undefined connective; the canons counsel us in its use but not in its elimination” (40). Carnap abandoned his radical reductionism project subsequently to publishing the Aufbau. In “Two Dogmas,” Quine does not produce and criticize the arguments of those who continued to hold this view. Rather, he makes a “counter suggestion”—a charitable reinterpretation of the verificationism and radical reductionism of the Aufbau—namely, that “our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body” (41). This counter suggestion is, of course, holism—one of two key doctrines Quine was to spend the rest of his career elucidating and defending (the other being the explication of how experience does constrain theories—that is, of how we can have holism and empiricism).
The arguments that Quine gives against the analytic/synthetic distinction, the “closed curve in space” we have explored, are not decisive arguments. His strategy is rather to put the onus on those who want to rehabilitate the analytic/synthetic distinction. His challenge is this: If the analytic/synthetic distinction is to be maintained, then either the notion of meaning must be resuscitated and clearly enough explicated so as to provide grounds for deciding whether the “meaning” of one term is or is not included within that of another term (Kant’s original notion); or the notion of cognitive synonymy must be explicated, without appealing to analyticity; or the notion of substitutivity salva veritate must be explicated, without appealing to contexts that presuppose analyticity but are strong enough to distinguish between co-extensionality and synonymy.
Since the publication of “Two Dogmas” Quine’s critics have taken up this challenge, offering views of meaning or synonymy, or of modal operators such as ‘necessarily,’ that purport to break the “closed curve in space.” Although we are of the view that none is successful, there is not consensus concerning this.
We have noted that Quine’s rejection of verificationism sparked far less discussion than did his rejection of the analytic/synthetic distinction. Those who reject Quine’s holism do not generally do so in favor of some form of verificationism. Rather, they usually argue for or presuppose some version of a correspondence theory of truth, and a realism that grants to middle-sized physical objects, or molecules, or atoms and subatomic particles, or whatever, some status other than posits of our best going theories. That is, Quine’s discussion of verificationism occurs, as it were, within the family of empiricist views that grants a special status to experience or some refinement of it (firings of sensory receptors); within this family, but not within the wider philosophical community, verificationism and holism exhaust the available options.
Finally, we return to Quine’s claim, generally neglected in the literature, that the “two dogmas are . . . at root identical.” If they are, then those who find verificationism implausible or unacceptable should take the same view toward the purported distinction between analytic and synthetic statements. Quine’s argument to the effect that if verificationism can be defended then so too can the analytic/synthetic distinction is reasonably clear and has already been reviewed. Is there an implicit argument in the other direction? Perhaps. If there is an analytic/synthetic distinction, then it makes sense to distinguish the role of linguistic convention and the role of extralinguistic fact in determining the truth or falsity of a given statement. So if we are able to distinguish analytic statements from synthetic ones, it must be that we are able to identify the factors that determine their truth-values, the linguistic and nonlinguistic components, on a statement-by-statement basis. So for each synthetic statement we can identify the extralinguistic elements, the elements of experience that are relevant to its truth or falsity. But then we are free to identify the meaning of the statement with those extralinguistic elements. And this is just what verificationism does. So, in this sense, verificationism does follow from the analytic/synthetic distinction, if one is prepared to identify meaning with the experiences relevant to a synthetic statement’s truth or falsity. Traditional empiricists were ready to do this; but Quine, at least in this respect, is not a traditional empiricist.
<2> Holism, Indeterminacy of Translation, and Naturalizing Epistemology
We have noted that holism is Quine’s alternative to the analytic/synthetic distinction and verificationism. But there is in “Two Dogmas” no full-blown argument for holism, no lengthy explication of it, and no exploration of how it transforms empiricism. We next briefly outline our understandings of the relationships between the arguments so far summarized, Quine’s theses of holism and of the indeterminacy of translation, and his arguments for “naturalizing” the philosophy of science. Again, not everyone will agree with our analysis.
Although not argued for in “Two Dogmas,” the classic statement of Quinean holism is given in the last section of that article, entitled “Empiricism without the Dogmas.”
The totality of our so-called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matters of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man-made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges. Or, to change the figure, total science is like a field of force whose boundary conditions are experience. (42)
The first intertwined thesis of holism is that all of science (here, broadly construed to include “the totality of our so-called knowledge”) is our own construction, and that even the apparently most disparate parts are, in fact, interconnected.
A conflict with experience at the periphery occasions readjustments in the interior of the field. Truth values have to be redistributed over some of our statements. Reëvaluation of some statements entails reëvaluation of others, because of their logical interconnections—the logical laws being in turn simply certain further statements of the system, certain further elements of the field. . . . But the total field is so underdetermined by its boundary conditions, experience, that there is much latitude of choice as to what statements to reëvaluate in the light of any single contrary experience. (43)
The second intertwined thesis is that a recalcitrant experience can force an adjustment in the network of theories to which we are committed, to the totality of science. But such an experience cannot force a change of commitment to any particular belief or component sentence of science. This is because
No particular experiences are linked with any particular statements in the interior of the field, except indirectly through considerations of equilibrium affecting the field as a whole. (43)
And this is the overarching thesis of holism: Our theories of nature face experience as a collective body, not sentence by sentence, not even particular theory by particular theory. There is no one-to-one relationship between most sentences of this body and specific experiences.
We suggest that this overarching thesis is a consequence of taking the verification theory of meaning seriously—the thesis that a chunk of language has empirical meaning only if there are experiences that will confirm or disconfirm it. There are no such confirming or disconfirming experiences for most individual sentences. There are for sentences taken collectively, for bodies of theory, for our whole going theory of the world. So, for the most part, it is only sentences taken collectively—bodies of theory, or our whole going theory of the world—that have empirical meaning. Empirical meaning or content is spread across the sentences that together can be tested against experience.
In subsequent years, Quine offered a number of arguments for holism, and it emerged as a substantial doctrine (e.g., Quine 1960, 1966b, 1981a). Holism argues for the tentativeness of all theories and beliefs, from the most theoretical of the theoretical sciences to the most down-to-earth, common-sense theories and beliefs. In our view, but there are contributors who disagree, if holism holds, correspondence theories of truth go by the board and, with them, any possibility of construing empiricism as a theory of truth. Holism argues against the plausibility of “meta-level” theories of truth and for truth as immanent, à la Tarski. If there is a future for empiricism, it is as a theory of evidence: a theory about how the evidence provided by sensory receptors serves as the basis for warranted beliefs, and of how language contributes to “meaning,” but not in a way that can be isolated on a sentence-by-sentence basis.
If holism holds, foundationalism also goes by the board; there are no Archimedean standpoints. We work, to paraphrase Quine, as scientists, laypersons, and philosophers, from within—from our vantage points within an evolving body of theory that we inherit and seek to improve, on the basis of phenomenological experiences significantly shaped by this very same body of theory. Working from within this theory, we indeed take the claims we find to be warranted to be true. But truth is immanent and the firmest of warrants is provisional (see, e.g., Quine 1981a).
Finally, if holism holds, and again not all contributors agree, the thesis of the indeterminacy of translation follows. As we outline below, its consequences are profound. As Joseph Rouse puts this point, Quine’s thesis fundamentally challenges the “transparency and stability of meaning and experience” and, in this general respect, parallels challenges offered by feminist theorists Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Judith Butler, and others (Rouse, personal communication).
In works as early as Word and Object (1960) and as late as The Pursuit of Truth (1990a), Quine explores the implications of holism for empiricism, i.e., for the relationship between experiences and theories. Noting years later that the notion of “experience” in “Two Dogmas” “still awaited a theory” (1981b), he subsequently worked to develop a physicalist notion of experience (e.g., as “the firings of sensory receptors” or “the triggerings of exteroceptors”), and he drew on anatomy, physiology, and empirical psychology to do so. This, we suggest, is holism at work. And he worked to develop an account of the relationship between, on the one hand, this nonlinguistic and nonphenomenological notion of experience and, on the other hand, obviously linguistic objects such as theories and hypotheses. In these efforts, Quine makes use of a stimulus-response account of language acquisition to carve out a notion of an observation sentence, and ultimately that of observational categoricals, to argue that it is sentences of this kind that provide the link or bridge between the theoretical sentences of science, common-sense, and philosophy on the one hand, and experience construed in physicalist terms, on the other. Here we can only sketch this project, but the essays in this volume by Addelson, Antony, Duran, Linker, and Roth all address, to some extent, Quine’s “theory of mind” and/or “theory of language.”
In Quine’s account of language acquisition—both in the case of a child learning its first language and the field linguist attempting to construct a translation manual for a language entirely foreign to her (which Quine calls “radical translation”)—the role of one-word sentences is pivotal. Such sentences include literally one-word sentences (i.e., sentences that cannot function as part of a longer sentence—Quine’s example is ‘ouch’), terms like ‘red’ that can function as a complete sentence, and multi-word sentences when construed holophrastically, i.e., as one-word sentences. Quine’s contention is that, in both cases of language learning, one-word sentences (either literally one-word or multi-word understood holophrastically) are the first learned and initially keyed directly to sensory stimulation (experience physicalistically construed as, say, the firings of sensory receptors). There is, at this stage, no individuation or reference. Thus, for the infant, ‘mama’ is a feature-summoning or noting device on a par with ‘water’ (Quine 1969b, 7). For the linguist undertaking radical translation (i.e., translating a wholly foreign language), the question of whether ‘Gavagai?,’ which is typically assented to in the presence of observable rabbit-like phenomena, is really ‘Ga va gai?’ is deferred (Quine 1960, 35–52). (Although the linguist may impose her physical object ontology in this situation, translating ‘Gavagai’ as ‘rabbit,’ sensory stimulations do not warrant this; they only warrant a link with specific sensory stimulations equally compatible with ‘Gavagai’ signaling a rabbit-event or an instantiation of Rabbithood.)
Eventually, Quine suggests, the infant will catch on to the mechanics of individuation of her language community and learn to understand these initial sentences as incorporating reference and individuation. The linguist will solve the problem of how to translate the foreign language by importing her own conceptual scheme (Quine 1960, 1969c). And although beyond the scope of this discussion, we note that Quine famously or infamously maintains that “there is no fact of the matter” in terms of what the terms of our own language or those of a language we are attempting to translate refer to. In the case of our own language, we simply take our home language “at face value” (here again holism is at work). In the case of radical translation, we impose the same home language taken at face value (Quine 1969c, 47–49). But reference itself, given Quine’s thesis of the inscrutability (or indeterminacy) of reference, has withered away.
Quine uses the ability for a multi-word sentence to be construed holophrastically and linked directly to the firings of one’s sensory receptors in response to specific stimuli, and the ability of the same sentence to be made up of multi-words and incorporating reference, to carve out notions of observation sentences and observation categoricals (Quine 1990a; cf. Quine 1981a). The dual nature of these sentences, Quine maintains—that when construed holophrastically they are directly linked to sensory experience, and when not, contain theoretical terms that reappear in theory formulations—provides the link empiricists traditionally sought between a respectable notion of experience and the sentences of theories. It remains a matter of considerable debate, including among contributors to this volume, whether what we elsewhere call Quine’s effort to “reconstitute empiricism”—to reconstitute the relationship between experience and theories in light of holism—is successful (Nelson and Nelson 2000).
We now turn to the relationships between the positions so far summarized and Quine’s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation. We begin by noting that it is distinguished from the weaker thesis of the inscrutability of reference just discussed. Both theses are elusive, but we believe the following is a defensible interpretation of the thesis of indeterminacy of translation.
According to this thesis, it is possible to construct alternative translation manuals for translating one language into another, for example, Japanese into English, such that for any fairly extended passage of the language being translated, the manuals will yield different translations—different to the point that, in multiple instances, a sentence of the language being translated will go over into a true sentence of English in one scheme and a false sentence of English in the other scheme. Overall the translation manuals will be deemed equally acceptable, for they make, on the whole, equally good sense of the behavior, linguistic and otherwise, of the speakers of the language being translated. The difference between weak indeterminacy and strong is that in the former, but not the latter, truth is preserved, sentence by sentence.
Where does this strong thesis come from and what is the evidence for it? We elsewhere suggest that Quine takes the thesis to be, though strong and important, also obvious. It is an obvious consequence of his notion of empirical content—of his willingness, indeed eagerness, to identify empirical meaning or content, in the only clear sense he can give to this notion, with experience itself understood as the firings of sensory receptors, and with most individual sentences not enjoying, on their own, empirical content so understood. Put another way, Quine accepts the verification theory of meaning, but maintains that the relationship with experience is, in the case of most sentences, spread across the network of theories (this, again, is the thesis of holism). Strong indeterminacy of translation follows (Nelson and Nelson 2000).
Again, our recapitulation of Quine’s argument is not uncontroversial. But we draw attention to Quine’s remarks in response to Roger Gibson in The Philosophy of W. V. Quine:
Gibson cites Føllesdal’s interesting observation that the indeterminacy of translation follows from holism and the verification theory of meaning. Føllesdal mistrusts this defense because of doubts about verificationism, and I gather that Gibson agrees. But I find it attractive. The statement of verificationism relevant to this purpose is that “evidence for the truth of a sentence is identical with the meaning of the sentence”; and I submit that if sentences in general had meanings, their meanings would be just that. It is only holism itself that tells us that in general they do not have them. (Quine 1987, 155–56)
Holism precludes the assigning of meaning to individual sentences other than observation sentences and observation categoricals. As a result, translation is obviously indeterminate, for there will be multiple ways of translating sentences other than these special cases—and all of them will yield equally plausible though nonequivalent bodies of theory to be attributed to the native speakers of the language in question.
Why is the strong indeterminacy of translation thesis controversial and troubling? Suppose two field linguists have been studying a new language for a number of years, and that they have developed two nonequivalent manuals of translation. Suppose also that the population whose language this is has theories of genetics, the sophistication of which are on a par with ours. Suppose that the nonequivalent translation manuals that these linguists have developed yield nonequivalent translations of these theories of genetics. Suppose also that the two field linguists (and their research teams, who have all gone bilingual) assure us that the genetic theories in question seems as good as ours—as sophisticated, as predictive of future experience, and as well integrated into the broader science of this population as our genetics is into our science.
If Quine is right, the alternative translations of this theory of genetics will constitute, in English, two different and inconsistent theories of genetics. The linguists will grant that both cannot be accurate translations of the theories in question. We will see that both cannot be true. And the population being studied, who we may presume have had their field linguists studying us, will produce multiple translation manuals for English to their language, with similar discrepancies. Overall, these manuals may well be equally acceptable. And there is no fact of the matter concerning which manual is correct.
Finally, we might as well picture ourselves as becoming field linguists studying ourselves, and developing alternative translation manuals for English to English while being bound only by the requirement of preserving stimulus meaning and the canons of holism. We will develop distinct manuals of English to English translation, and they will attribute to us distinct, nonequivalent, theories. This is the strong indeterminacy of translation brought home (see, e.g., Quine 1990a, 50).
Thus, the only apparent way of resolving the indeterminacy, by accepting one translation manual and rejecting all alternatives, has more arbitrariness about it than does accepting one’s native tongue at face value, or so it seems. Strong indeterminacy holds that we could revise any significantly sized body of theory, throwing out some sentences and compensating for those by adding others, and end up with a theory that, on holistic grounds, is as good as the first.
Again, the implications of this thesis for notions of “meanings” and realism are profound, and both the thesis and its implications seem to us worthy of more exploration in feminist theory. As we outline below, the thesis also constitutes part of Quine’s argument for naturalizing the philosophy of science. Before turning to these arguments, we summarize Quine’s underdetermination thesis.
We have noted that feminists appealed to Quine’s underdetermination thesis in the 1980s in their efforts to explain the issues raised in and by feminist science critiques. Some contributors to this volume do so as well. Although many, including Quine, view the thesis as relatively straightforward (whether they accept it or not) and distinct from the strong indeterminacy thesis just discussed (see, e.g., Quine 1990b), we are no longer sure. Accordingly, we simply outline the grounds for the thesis as Quine explicates them.
Quine takes theories to be underdetermined in at least three ways in addition to, or as elaborations of, general Humean underdetermination. Sensory experience underdetermines the theory of physical objects, macro, micro, and atomic and subatomic, in the sense that there may be (and presumably are) alternative posits that would connect past sensory experience with future sensory experience equally well. This is true, but esoteric. Given our actual scientific heritage we are unlikely to abandon our ontology of physical objects for one of events or numbers or whatever else. Second, even given our choice of physical objects as the primary constituents of the bridge science affords between past sense experiences and future sense experiences, the details of the bridge are underdetermined by experience. We can redistribute truth-values at will (perversely), or in response to a recalcitrant experience, while retaining our overall commitment, more or less, to the familiar physical objects and to the bulk of the sentences of our present theories. Finally, Quine’s reconstructed notion of sense experience, be it as the firings of sensory receptors or the triggerings of exteroceptors, is itself a theoretical construct derived from our best going theories, of anatomy, physiology, neurology, and some branches of psychology. This theory of sense experience is itself, like all theories, underdetermined by available evidence (in the above senses). So we could, and future discoveries may lead us to, alter it; and thereby set the stage for a different science connecting, in different ways, our new versions of past sense experiences with our new versions of future sense experiences (see, e.g., Quine 1953, 1960, 1981c; see also Roth, Chapter 7 this volume).
As we noted earlier, we suspect there is more to underdetermination (specifically, more of a relationship with the strong thesis of indeterminacy), but what we have said is perhaps sufficient background for the essays included here. We conclude this section by relating the arguments so far summarized to those Quine offers for naturalizing the philosophy of science.
Quine’s suggestion that traditional philosophy of science be abandoned in favor of self-conscious science, for a “reciprocal containment of science and epistemology,” follows closely on the heels of his recognition that the project Carnap undertook in the Aufbau cannot be completed. It also reflects his doubts as early as 1936 that sentences of logic and mathematics are true by definition (Quine 1936). Both figure in the arguments of “Epistemology Naturalized” (Quine 1969a). In addition, Quine’s rejection of the analytic/synthetic distinction makes the alleged nonempirical status of the philosophy of science or epistemology a nonstarter.
The opening pages of “Epistemology Naturalized” locate the sources of Quine’s arguments for naturalizing the philosophy of science in the failure in the first half of the twentieth century to fulfill Hume’s mandate of showing that every truth can be accounted for either on the grounds of meanings (for logic and mathematics) or on the grounds of sensory experience (for empirical truths). Quine’s focus in this essay is, of course, the second project; but he begins by discussing the first. This enables him to later draw parallels between the failure of the first project (generally recognized by the time he published “Epistemology Naturalized”) and the failure he sees as inevitable (but not yet generally recognized) for the second. Commentators too often ignore these opening pages (but see Roth, Chapter 7 this volume).
Quine notes that there were two focuses in studies into the foundations of mathematics. “Conceptual studies” were to show that the concepts of mathematics can be defined in the terms of logic. “Doctrinal studies” were to show that mathematical truths can be derived from the “obvious or at least potentially obvious . . . truths of logic” (1969a, 70). Obviously, the two projects are linked. If mathematical concepts are definable in the terms of logic, then the truths of mathematics are, in the end, truths of logic. If the latter are self evident, so are the former.
The project failed, on both the conceptual and doctrinal sides, Quine notes, because it turned out that mathematics does not reduce to “logic proper,” but only to set theory (70). This was a deep disappointment for two reasons. “The end truths, the axioms of set theory . . . have less obviousness and certainty to recommend them than do most of the mathematical theorems we would derive from them. Moreover, we know from Gödel’s work that no consistent axiom system can cover mathematics even when we renounce self-evidence” (70). Thus, the reduction of mathematics to set theory does not “reveal the ground of mathematical knowledge,” does not “show how mathematical certainty is possible” (70).
Against this background, Quine turns to efforts to identify the foundations of (recognizably) empirical science. Here, too, there is a conceptual project and a doctrinal project. The conceptual project, dating back to Hume, is to define sentences about physical bodies in terms of something directly linked to (or identical with) sensory experience. In this project, Quine sees progress. For Hume, bodies were to be identified with bundles of sense impressions, an approach Quine describes as “bold and simple.” The subsequent shift from impressions to sentences as the bearers of empirical meaning shifted the focus of the conceptual project. The goal was now to show that sentences about bodies derive from, or reduce to, sentences about immediate sensory experience.
But again it turned out that set theory was needed. And, as in the study of the foundations of mathematics, set theory compromised the conceptual project. Comparing the recourse to set theory with that of recognizing sentences as the bearers of meaning, Quine notes that “[t]he two resorts are very unequal in epistemological status. Contextual definition is unassailable. Sentences that have been given meaning as wholes are undeniably meaningful, and the use they make of their component terms is therefore meaningful, regardless of whether any translations are offered for those terms in isolation. . . . Recourse to sets, on the other hand, is a drastic ontological move, a retreat from the austere ontology of impressions” (73).
Quine’s earlier discussion of studies into the foundations of mathematics is now brought to bear. The reason that recourse to set theory in studies of the foundations of empirical science was not generally recognized as a retreat from empiricism, Quine argues, is precisely because of the “deceptive hints of continuity between elementary logic and set theory” (73). These hints led Russell to be willing to define the conceptual project as that of accounting “for the external world as a logical construct of sense data,” a project that Quine credits Carnap’s Aufbau with coming “nearest to executing” (74). Even if Carnap’s project had been successful, it would not have aided the doctrinal project. To show that the sentences of science can be so reconstructed does not show that these sentences “can be proved from observation sentences by logic and set theory” (74). “On the doctrinal side,” Quine notes, “I do not see that we are farther along today than where Hume left us” (72).
Yet, Quine acknowledges, there were reasons to continue with the conceptual project, even in light of the failure of the doctrinal project and the retreat that recourse to set theory represented. One could still hope that the rational reconstruction of a sense datum language would “elicit” and “clarify” the sensory evidence for science, even if the steps between such evidence and scientific theories “fall short of certainty” (75). The reconstruction would contribute to understandings of how “all inculcation of meanings of words must rest ultimately on sensory evidence,” for had Carnap or others succeeded, “the sensory content of discourse would stand forth explicitly” (75). It was not even necessary for Carnap to be able to demonstrate that the construction he arrived at was “the right one.” “The question would have had no point. He was seeking what he called a rational reconstruction. Any construction of physicalistic discourse in terms of sense experience, logic, and set theory would have been as satisfactory if it made the physicalistic discourse come out right. If there is one way there are many, but any would be a great achievement” (75). But, for reasons earlier considered, Carnap did not succeed and Quine proposed holism as a countersuggestion to verificationism. With that proposal the stage is set for Quine’s suggestion in “Epistemology Naturalized” that the conceptual project be abandoned altogether. “But why all this creative reconstruction, all this make-believe? The stimulation of his sensory receptors is all the evidence anybody has to go on, ultimately, in arriving at his picture of the world. Why not just see how this construction really proceeds? Why not settle for psychology?” (75). The turn to psychology (and Quine himself also appeals to linguistics and evolutionary theory in exploring questions traditionally of interest to the philosophy of science and epistemology) does represent a “surrender of the epistemological burden” to science; but this is appropriate given the abandonment of the doctrinal project.
If the epistemologist’s goal is validation of the grounds of empirical science, he defeats his purpose by using empirical science in the validation. However, such scruples against circularity have little point once we have stopped dreaming of deducing science from observations. If we are out simply to understand the link between observation and science, we are well advised to use any available information, including that provided by the very science whose link with observation we are seeking to understand. (75–76)
Suppose, however, that we lower our sights on the conceptual side, seeking only to show that sentences of science can be translated into sentences involving sense data, logic, and set theory. If possible, such a translation would further the Humean project by demonstrating “the essential innocence of physical concepts,” showing them to be “theoretically superfluous.” In so doing, “it would legitimize them—to whatever degree the concepts of set theory, logic, and observations are themselves legitimate” by demonstrating that “everything done with the one apparatus could in principle be done with the other” (76). The project might also retain a role for philosophy. “If psychology itself could deliver a truly translational reduction of this kind, we should welcome it; but certainly it cannot, for certainly we did not grow up learning definitions of physicalistic language in terms of a prior language of set theory, logic, and observation” (76). The problem, Quine notes, is that Carnap’s project did not succeed even in terms of translation. The point at which it becomes clear that Carnap’s translation will not succeed, Quine argues, “comes where Carnap is explaining how to assign sense qualities in physical space and time” (76). In “Two Dogmas,” as we have seen, Quine argues that Carnap is unable to show how to translate a “statement of the form ‘Quality q is at x;y;z;t’ [a point instant] . . . into [his] initial language of sense data and logic” (40). Thus, Carnap is forced in subsequent writings to settle for “reduction forms,” something far less than straightforward translation.
This is a far cry from the outcome that translation “of the sterner kind” would have generated. To give up the project of defining, via translation, physical concepts in terms of observation, logic, and set theory, is to give up “the last remaining advantage that we supposed rational reconstruction to have over straight psychology: namely, the advantage of translational reduction” (78).
As he did in “Two Dogmas,” Quine suggests in “Epistemology Naturalized” that the source of the failure of the various projects just summarized is that most sentences do not have their own empirical meaning. The problem is not that “the experiential implications of a typical statement about bodies are too complex for finite axiomatization, however lengthy, but that the typical statement about bodies has no fund of experiential implications it can call its own” (79). Thus, if we persist in translation projects, we will need to focus on the “significantly inclusive portion” of a theory that has empirical meaning, axiomatizing “all the experiential difference that the truth of the theory would make” (79). This, Quine suggests, would be a “queer translation” because it would involve translating “the whole but none of its parts” and, indeed, perhaps ‘translation’ is not even the correct description. What we will have, in the end, might better be termed the “observational evidence for theories,” their empirical meaning (79–80).
But we would do still better to give up translation projects altogether. This is because the indeterminacy of translation plagues “even ordinary unphilosophical translation, such as from English into . . . Chinese.” Here, Quine repeats the argument earlier outlined, that “we can justify [the translation of sentences of English] into Chinese [or Japanese] only together as a body”—that there will be translations that will preserve the empirical implications of the theory we are translating (the observation sentences and observation categoricals it implies), and thus, there will be no grounds for saying one is correct. That is, if holism holds, indeterminacy of translation follows for everything but observation sentences and their kin. “If we recognize with Peirce that the meaning of a sentence turns purely on what would count as evidence for its truth, and if we recognize with Duhem that theoretical sentences have their evidence not as single sentences but only as larger blocks of theory, then the indeterminacy of translation of theoretical sentences follows. And most sentences, apart from observation sentences, are theoretical” (81).
In the end, then, holism and the indeterminacy of translation that it yields dictate the abandonment of the various conceptual projects to identify a foundation for science in sense data. In contrast to those who see “the irreducibility” involved as “the bankruptcy of epistemology,” Quine suggests, “it may be more useful to say rather that epistemology still goes on, though in a new setting and a clarified status.” Epistemology, “or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science” (82).
A question much debated since the publication of “Epistemology Naturalized” is whether the philosophy of science as Quine envisions it does or could carry normative import or force. As the summary of individual chapters to which we next turn indicates, there are deep disagreements, even among those who support Quine’s arguments for naturalism, and certainly among those who are skeptical about Quinean naturalism, in terms of its answer. We would only briefly note that Quine’s work subsequent to “Epistemology Naturalized” does suggest a normative role for naturalized philosophy of science, albeit not of the sort or to the degree that critics of his vision of naturalism believe are possible and necessary.
For example, the topics of Quine’s “Natural Kinds” are two hallmarks of human reasoning—“our sorting of things into kinds” and induction—the relationship between things, and what explains them (Quine 1969d). Each, Quine argues, is a problem. On the one hand, it is an implication of research in psychology and linguistics that there is “nothing more basic to thought and language than our sense of similarity, our sorting of things into kinds” (160). Sorting by resemblance—in terms both “of a resemblance between the present circumstances and past circumstances” in which a word is used, and in terms of phonetic resemblance—is necessary to language learning. Moreover, induction itself depends on such sorting and “our tendency to expect similar causes to have similar effects” (116–17). On the other hand, “the notion of similarity or kind,” so basic to human thinking and induction, “is alien to logic and set theory” (121) and “characteristically animal in its lack of intellectual status” (123). Moreover, “the relation between similarity and kind is less clear and neat than could be wished” (121).
Having spent considerable time in the essay to establish these several points, Quine’s question is this: “For me . . . the problem of induction is a problem about the world; a problem of how we, as we now are (by our present scientific lights), in a world we never made, should stand better than random or coin-tossing chances of coming out right, when we predict by inductions which are based on our innate, scientifically unjustified similarity standard” (127). In brief, the answer Quine poses to this question notes first that natural selection might explain inductive reasoning and sorting by kind; both might be adaptations. At the same time, Quine argues, it is also a result of science that the first is fallible and the second is indefensible (i.e., undermined by our most serious theories). In the end, then, what makes natural selection “perhaps enough of an explanation” is that it can explain induction’s “conspicuous failures” (127). Sorting by color seems endemic to the species and explicable in terms of its survival value (for example, it is useful for food-gathering). At the same time, our most serious theories of nature suggest that colors do “not qualify as kinds” and that the “distinctions that matter for basic physical theory are mostly independent of color contrasts” (127).
This sets the stage for the second part of Quine’s answer to the question he has posed. Quine maintains that science both reveals innate similarity space and dispositions to induction, and possibly explains them using natural selection. At the same time, analyses of science’s development and success, of the sort Quine here engages in, suggest that “things about [our] innate similarity sense that are helpful in one sphere [e.g., color to food gathering] can be a hindrance in the other [the search by science for ‘more significant regularities’]” (128). As a result, Quine suggests that
Evidently natural selection has dealt with the conflict by endowing man doubly: with both a color-slanted quality space and the ingenuity to rise above it.
He has risen above it by developing modified systems of kinds, hence modified similarity standards for scientific purposes. By the trial-and-error process of theorizing he has regrouped things into new kinds which prove to lend themselves to many inductions better than the old. (128)
This suggests that naturalized epistemology as Quine engages in it is an explanatory and a normative enterprise. “The career of the similarity notion,” Quine maintains, “is a paradigm of the evolution of unreason into science” (138). This is a normative assessment, an evaluation of both common-sense theorizing and scientific theorizing. It draws on knowledge provided by the sciences and simultaneously assesses scientific theorizing on the basis of that very same knowledge. And this, we suggest, is holism at work and naturalism illustrated.
<1> II. Feminist Interpretations of Quine
We noted at the outset of this introduction that analyses in the 1980s of Quine’s positions offered by Linda Martín Alcoff, Helen E. Longino, and Elizabeth Potter constituted important contributions to feminist philosophy of science and epistemology.
The essays by Lynn Hankinson Nelson and Louise Antony (Chapters 2 and 3), published respectively in 1990 and 1994, were among the first to undertake more extensive explorations of Quine’s positions in light of feminist scholarship. Antony and Nelson are concerned to analyze the implications of Quine’s positions for feminist theorizing about science and vice versa. They are also concerned to defend the usefulness of Quine’s positions to feminist science studies against feminist critiques of empiricism and “modern epistemology” offered in the 1980s.
Representative critiques were offered in essays by Jane Flax, Sandra Harding, and Nancy Harstock in Harding and Merrill Hintikka’s ground breaking collection, Discovering Reality (1983); in Hilary Rose’s “Hand, Brain, and Heart: A Feminist Epistemology for the Natural Sciences” (Signs 9(1), 1983); and in Alison Jaggar’s Feminist Politics and Human Nature (1983). Common to these analyses are arguments to the conclusion that empiricism is an inherently flawed doctrine—a doctrine that underwrites or propounds views of knowers, of evidence, and of science that are erroneous, that are incapable of accommodating the emergence and results of feminist science scholarship, and that function to insulate science from critical scrutiny. But, as earlier noted, Sandra Harding offered the most sustained and influential critique of empiricism in The Science Question in Feminism (Harding 1986).
Harding identified three general epistemological frameworks available to and drawn upon by feminist scientists and science scholars: feminist empiricism, feminist standpoint theory, and feminist postmodernism. Describing each framework as a hybrid that combined or attempted to combine feminists’ questions, concerns, and findings, on the one hand, with those of an older, nonfeminist tradition, on the other, Harding explored how their advocates found themselves having to wrestle with a “parent” tradition not designed to accommodate or explain the issues emerging in feminist science critiques and scholarship.
Harding insisted on the contingency of her analysis, maintaining that each framework is unstable and would evolve in response to its own internal tensions, developments in the other two frameworks, and future developments in feminist science studies (cf. Harding 1994; Rooney, Chapter 5 this volume). She also maintained that each is best thought of as a “tool,” useful or not depending on the specific domain being engaged. For example, Harding viewed feminist empiricism as the most useful tool when feminists were attempting to engage scientists—this because, in her account, feminist empiricism does not challenge traditional empiricist norms (25; but see Campbell, Chapter 9 this volume). Notwithstanding these qualifications, it is an implication of Harding’s arguments that feminist empiricism is the least promising of these approaches, if in fact it is coherent. According to Harding, the problems at issue were within empiricism itself. “Empiricist conceptions of scientific method,” she maintained, “create obstacles for and in feminist thinking about science” (36; italics in original).
In brief, Harding argued that the Marxist and postmodernist traditions in epistemology trace their roots to “emancipatory” projects. In contrast, she argued, empiricism is an inherently conservative tradition, committed to the view “that scientific method is sufficient to account for historical increases in the objectivity of the picture of the world that science presents,” and rules out any relevance of movements of social liberation in fostering advances in knowledge (25–26). Although Harding took Quine’s challenges to the analytic/synthetic distinction as an advance, she attributed several other “dogmas” to twentieth-century empiricists, including Quine, that would make it difficult to construct a viable explanation of the emergence of feminist science scholarship. Finally, Harding maintained that epistemologies are as much justificatory as they are explanatory, and that these same dogmas would preclude justification of feminists’ claims within and about the sciences.
The dogmas Harding attributed to empiricism include the distinction between the contexts of discovery and justification (25); the tenet that “the social identify of the inquirer is . . . irrelevant to the ‘goodness’ of the results of research,” an assumption Harding linked to the context/discovery distinction as well as to the empiricist thesis that sensory evidence is the source and check point of knowledge (25); and the “sacred science dogma,” which Harding described as the principle that “human understanding is decreased rather than increased by attempting to account for the nature and structure of scientific activity in the ways science recommends accounting for all other social activity” (38).
If feminist empiricism is necessarily committed to these dogmas, as Harding then assumed (i.e., if a framework not so committed is not empiricist), some significant problems immediately arise. As she noted, these dogmas would require feminist empiricists to assume that bias of any sort, and surely political bias, is inherently compromising. But this would make it difficult to explain the emergence and findings of feminist science critique, which are obviously motivated and informed by feminist politics (i.e., bias), and difficult to explain how or why feminist perspectives are more objective than those they criticize. In addition, feminist empiricists would need to assume that the problems feminists identified in scientific research—for example, androcentrism—represent failures on the part of scientists to adhere to empiricist norms and methods, not flaws in the norms or methods themselves. Harding’s characterization of feminist empiricism reflects both assumptions: “Feminist empiricism argues that sexism and androcentrism are social biases correctable by stricter adherence to the existing methodological norms of scientific inquiry . . . [and that] the women’s movement produces not only the opportunity for . . . an enlarged perspective but more women scientists, and they are more likely than men to notice androcentric bias” (25, italics in original). We must note, Harding argued, the contradictions internal to such explanations. To explain feminist science studies on the basis of the women’s movement or women’s alleged abilities to more readily recognize androcentrism is in direct conflict with the empiricist assumption that “the social identity of the inquirer is irrelevant to the ‘goodness’ of the results of research” (25). Thus, Harding concluded, feminist empiricists will be unable to offer plausible explanations of the emergence and findings of feminist scholarship—or, if they do so, the explanations will “deeply subvert empiricism” by exposing the “empirical inadequacies in empiricist epistemologies” (25–26).
<2> Part I: Early Feminist Defenses of Quine
Although we later identify what we take to be very significant differences in the details and general conclusions of Antony’s and Nelson’s arguments, we begin by noting some parallels. Both argue that the characterizations of empiricism with which critics such as Harding were working in the 1980s are outdated, and use Quine’s positions to support this claim. Neither sees Quine as committed to the dogmas Harding attributes to empiricism; rather, each maintains that Quine fundamentally and successfully challenged these dogmas. Both offer arguments (but quite different ones) that Quinean naturalism and holism are compatible with and promising for feminist theorizing. This is not to say that Antony and Nelson take Quine to be everywhere right. Each criticizes aspects of his work, albeit different aspects of it.
In “Who Knows: From Quine to Feminist Empiricism” (Chapter 1), Nelson frames her discussion of the implications of Quinean positions and feminist science studies for one another in terms of issues she takes to be central to Harding’s critique of empiricism and to those other feminists offered. In one line of argument, she seeks to distinguish empiricism as a theory of evidence from empiricist theories of science built from this theory, such as those developed in logical positivism and postlogical positivism. In a second, Nelson argues that several of Quine’s positions represent significant advances over positions maintained not only by the Carnap/Hempel/Nagel tradition but also by Kuhn, and that there are important parallels between Quine’s positions and those suggested by the emergence and findings of feminist science studies. In particular, Nelson maintains, Quinean holism and naturalism call for empirically based studies of science and for explanations commensurate with actual scientific practice rather than “rational reconstructions” of it—precisely what research in feminist science studies indicates are needed. Nelson also maintains that naturalism and holism constitute viable and promising alternatives to two assumptions implicit in Harding’s characterization of empiricism and feminist empiricism: that there is a need for a philosophy of science that can justify feminist claims, and that there is an epistemological chasm between feminists and their nonfeminist colleagues that cannot be bridged by evidence.
Among those of Quine’s positions on which Nelson focuses are his arguments concerning the relationships between metaphysics and science, so-called common sense and science, and science and the philosophy of science (or epistemology). Each, she argues, can serve as an important resource for feminists; at the same time, each needs to be expanded or revised in light of the emergence and results of feminist science studies. For example, Nelson takes Quine’s arguments that scientific theorizing and theories are interdependent with those of common sense to represent an important advance over views that portray science as uninformed by common-sense beliefs (but see J. Nelson, Chapter 8). She also argues that this feature of Quine’s holism can serve as a model of evidential relationships that might explain the presence of androcentrism in scientific research, and the ability of feminist scientists to recognize it. In her view, holism also makes an unbridgeable chasm between feminists and nonfeminists implausible; there are many theories about which these groups will agree and these can be appealed to in attempting to adjudicate their differences.
But Nelson also maintains that Quine’s account of “common-sense theory” is ahistoric and artificially limited, virtually exhausted as it is by what Quine calls “physical object theory.” One obvious implication of feminist science scholarship, she argues, is that many kinds of “common-sense” beliefs inform scientific research; another is that so-called common-sense beliefs are no less dynamic than scientific hypotheses and theories. In a related line of argument, Nelson argues that the boundary Quine maintains between good science and (nonepistemic) values is no more real than the other traditional boundaries he challenges.
In her conclusion, Nelson supports Quine’s argument for naturalizing the philosophy of science and argues for its relevance to feminist philosophy of science. Responding to Harding’s arguments, she maintains that although Quinean naturalism is not justificatory, it is normative; it represents the abandonment of the traditional project to justify science—an abandonment she takes Quine to show is unavoidable (see also Roth, Chapter 7). But Nelson also argues that the individualism implicit in Quine’s vision of naturalized epistemology is in fact undermined by his arguments against foundationalism and for holism. She maintains that these arguments, and research in developmental psychology, indicate that genuinely naturalizing epistemology requires abandoning individualism and taking communities or groups as the primary epistemic agents. She seeks to develop this project for the philosophy of science in “Feminist Naturalized Philosophy of Science” (Chapter 11).
At the outset of “Quine as Feminist: The Radical Import of Naturalized Epistemology” (Chapter 2), Louise Antony notes that she finds it “both unfortunate and ironic” that feminists interested in the philosophy of science and epistemology have “uniformly neglected” Quine’s work and, for this and other reasons, have concluded that analytic epistemology is irrelevant at best to feminist science studies. In her larger discussion, Antony offers several arguments for why feminists should draw on the resources of analytic epistemology, and seeks to illuminate what she takes to be “confusions” and “distortions” in feminist critiques of analytic epistemology. In particular, Antony maintains that contemporary naturalized epistemology—both as it conforms to what Quine envisioned and as it has moved beyond problematic aspects of Quine’s work—provides the necessary and sufficient resources for justifying feminist claims.
Antony uses the question “How is bias properly conceptualized?,” which figured prominently in Harding’s analysis of feminist epistemologies, to frame these arguments. The question is a pressing one for feminists, Antony maintains, because exposing androcentric assumptions and other forms of bias is a central goal of feminist science scholarship—at the same time that feminists express skepticism about the possibility or desirability of impartial perspectives. Antony notes that, taken together, these features of feminist theorizing about science raise an important question: “Put baldly, if we don’t think it’s good to be impartial, then how can we object to men’s being partial?”
Whether impartiality is possible, Antony argues, is an empirical question, an answer to which will need to rely on evidence supplied by empirical psychology and the cognitive sciences. But what can be said of analytic epistemology subsequent to the turn to naturalism is that work undertaken in it demonstrates that partiality or bias (of at least some sorts) conveys an “epistemic advantage.” Citing Quine, Nelson Goodman, Hempel, Hilary Putnam, and Richard Boyd, Antony maintains that not only have they and others demonstrated that bias cannot be eliminated, they also demonstrate the “positive value of certain forms of it.” And although Antony argues that the vindication of rationalism demonstrates the failings of Quine’s behaviorism and his “theory of mind,” she sees Quine’s general argument for naturalism as important. It was the turn to naturalism, she contends, that allowed for questions within analytic epistemology concerning the plausibility of value-neutrality, and led to the view that such neutrality is “not sound epistemic policy.” Antony argues that these developments in turn demonstrate that naturalized epistemology authorizes precisely the kind of critical assessment of epistemic norms that feminists call for.
This is not to say, Antony maintains, that analytic epistemology has answered all the questions that a proper conceptualization of bias needs to address. Epistemologists, including feminists, still need to address the question “How do we tell the good bias from the bad bias?” According to Antony, this project further illuminates the costs feminists incur when they reject analytic epistemology. For, she argues, we cannot expect an answer to this question to be provided solely through the empirical investigations into the processes through which knowledge is generated that feminists advocate. The question calls for a normative answer, and any such answer is impossible for an approach “that eschews the notion of truth—for any theory that tries to steer some kind of middle course between absolutism and relativism.” Antony describes feminist standpoint theories and postmodernism as such approaches, and maintains that it is because the notion of truth remains central to the analytic tradition, including naturalized epistemology, that the tradition can maintain an “appropriately realist” conception of truth able to make sense of the distinction between “the world as we see it” and “the world as it is.”
Thus, realist conceptions of truth make it possible to identify bias that is conducive to truth-seeking as “good,” and bias that “impedes” truth seeking as “bad.” Feminists, Antony argues, must be willing to talk about truth and falsity when critiquing epistemic ideals or particular theories that are sexist, racist, or in some other respect wrongheaded. Finally, Antony argues that the notion of truth is appropriately brought to bear on epistemologies—that what warrants acceptance of a feminist or any other epistemology is the belief that it is likely to be true. Here too, Antony maintains, naturalized epistemology has the advantage. It is likely to be able to “explain the facts” (including the “central” fact of “the long-ignored experiences and wisdom of women”) and thus likely to be true.
Although Antony seems to dismiss feminist standpoint theory rather precipitously, particularly in light of her own arguments concerning the positive role of bias, we take her arguments concerning the recognition of the positive role of bias and other developments in analytic epistemology as making a strong case that more inclusive approaches in feminist theorizing about science and knowledge—in which the resources of analytic epistemology are seriously considered and evaluated—could contribute to feminist philosophy of science.
We earlier noted parallels between Antony’s and Nelson’s views concerning the relevance of Quine’s naturalism and holism to feminist theorizing about science. We next note what we take to be fairly fundamental differences in their positions. Perhaps the most obvious is that Nelson holds that there is work done and remaining to be done by the feminist of ‘feminist philosophy of science’ and ‘feminist epistemology,’ i.e., that feminist science studies contribute unique insights into the nature of the sciences that have not in fact been embraced in analytic epistemology. In contrast, Antony sees the resources of analytic epistemology as not only important for feminist theorizing about science in the ways earlier outlined, but sufficient. There is, in her view, no need for distinctively feminist theories of science or knowledge. In addition, and we suspect related to the next difference we discuss, Antony takes naturalized epistemology to be a theory (and likely a true theory); Nelson views naturalism as a methodological approach to which the notions of ‘true’ or ‘false’ do not apply.
There is another difference that is a good deal “thicker,” and we later suggest that it recurs in a number of essays in this volume. Antony argues that feminist philosophers’ neglect and misunderstandings of analytic epistemology, including Quinean naturalized epistemology, have resulted in the perception that there is a need for distinctively feminist epistemologies (such as feminist standpoint theories) and feminist interest in postmodernist approaches to science and knowledge. According to Antony, the resources of analytic epistemology—in particular its robust notions of truth and realism—are necessary to the defense and justification of feminist claims about science. In contrast, Nelson does not view Quine as an analytic philosopher (nor, arguably, did Quine, who has described his philosophy as “post-analytic”). We suggest that this disagreements is far more than a semantic quibble.
We noted in our summary of her chapter that Antony disavows Quine’s behaviorism and what she calls his “theory of mind.” We believe that it is these disavowals that enable her to both champion some of Quine’s positions and not accept the full implications of Quinean holism, including the indeterminacy of translation. If Quine’s arguments for these theses are successful (and Antony does accept Quine’s arguments for holism, from which we, along with others, argue the strong thesis of indeterminacy follows), the notion of “meanings” as stable entities, the notion of “truth” as more than “immanent” (more than a predicate of a metalanguage attributable to sentences of an object language, as Tarski defined it), and a version of “realism” as robust as that advocated by “scientific realism,” are nonstarters. Nelson assumes Quine’s arguments to these several conclusions are successful. Antony, so it seems, does not. Similarly, Antony maintains that no epistemology that attempts to carve out a middle ground between “absolutism and relativism” can succeed. Nelson takes Quine to have developed just such an approach (as do a number of other contributors). Accordingly, their accounts of the resources Quine’s positions afford feminist theorizing are significantly different.
<2> Part II: Is Quinean “Naturalized Philosophy of Science” Philosophy of Science Enough?
We bring together the essays by Maureen Linker, Lorraine Code, Phyllis Rooney, and Kathryn Pyne Addelson because each is, to a significant degree, critical of Quine’s vision of naturalized epistemology. In apparent contrast, the essays in Part III are generally supportive of the turn to naturalized philosophy of science that Quine envisions and maintain its usefulness, together with others of Quine’s positions, for feminist theorizing.
But the contrast between the two sections is not as neat or straightforward as our organization of these sections suggests. Briefly put, Code offers a constructive alternative version of naturalism, Rooney seeks to demonstrate that those who describe themselves as naturalized epistemologists are not in fact engaged in the kind of research Quine called for or they say they ought to undertake, and Addelson seeks to develop Quine’s vision of naturalized philosophy of science so that it actually reflects the pragmatism she attributes to him. Linker’s chapter, although also constructive, argues for a “feminist rationalized epistemology” as an alternative to naturalized epistemology. Conversely, although generally supportive of Quine, most essays in Part III seek to extend or revise one or more of Quine’s positions in light of feminist science studies. (The exceptions are Roth, Chapter 7 and Duran, Chapter 10.) Thus, what divides most essays in the two sections is not whether naturalism itself is viable, but whether Quinean naturalism (at least in its present form and as individual authors understand it) is viable for feminist theorizing.
There are other themes common to the essays in Part II. One is that the philosophy of science and/or epistemology, and certainly feminist research in these fields, must enjoy a healthy autonomy from the sciences if they are to yield the kind of critical, and not simply affirmative, stance toward the sciences that is called for. (The degree of autonomy the authors advocate differs.) Another is that Quinean naturalism does not seek such autonomy and, at least as some authors understand it, may be incapable of it.
In “The Case for a Responsibly Rationalized Feminist Epistemology” (Chapter 3), Maureen Linker argues that aspects of Quinean naturalism make it straightforwardly unsuitable for feminist theorizing about knowledge and science. Linker maintains that naturalized epistemology and holism of the sort Quine advocated and L. H. Nelson supports in Chapter 1 fail to allow for even “minimally satisfying” conceptions of meaning and truth—and certainly not conceptions able to underwrite the normative force of feminist claims. Linker advocates the development of a “rationalized feminist epistemology” as an alternative to naturalism on the grounds that it will allow for realist conceptions of meaning and truth sufficiently robust to justify the normative principles that motivate the empirical correctives feminists advocate.
Linker’s main arguments—against the appropriateness of Quine’s positions for feminist epistemology and in support of a rationalized feminist epistemology—are connected in her analysis through her sustained critique of Quine’s arguments against the analytic/synthetic distinction and “meanings.” She maintains that a core assumption of these arguments and of Quine’s thesis of the indeterminacy of translation is that substitution criteria define the identity criteria for meanings. This assumption, she argues, is unwarranted, here building from arguments offered by J. J. Katz and from research in linguistics. Linker also maintains that a realist theory of meanings along the lines that Katz advocates—a theory that posits a realm of mind-independent sentences, senses, and sense relations—has significant advantages over Quine’s denial of meanings. Among others, such a theory is able to explain data from linguistics that any viable theory of meaning must be able to explain and Quine’s account cannot. These include the “infinite expressibility of the syntactic and semantic components of language,” “literal meaning,” and “the relationship of literal meaning to pragmatic meaning contexts.” Moreover, Linker argues, the mind-independent objects that figure in Katz’s realist theory of meanings constitute an objective source of language use and an objective constraint on it.
Linker uses several arguments to explicate the notion of a feminist rationalized epistemology. She argues that because Quine’s arguments against the analytic/synthetic distinction are unsuccessful, so too are his challenges to “a priori truth” and to a distinction between science and the philosophy of science/epistemology. Thus, both remain available to the would-be rationalist. Second, Linker maintains that “a priori truth” allows for the objectivity of values and normative claims, and yields far more robust criteria for the assessment of claims and theories than those to which Quinean holism would limit us (coherence with sensory experience and with accepted theories). This is important, she maintains, because the “empirical correctives” feminists advocate in their analyses of science are not identical with the moral and political correctives that motivate their empirical investigations and recommendations. And neither Quinean naturalism nor feminist naturalism of the sort L. H. Nelson advocates can provide the grounds on which these moral and political principles can be defended. The justification of principles of “reason and fairness” requires a correspondence theory of moral and logical truth—something disallowed by naturalism but embraced by rationalism. Thus, a rationalist epistemology is better able to provide the grounds on which to defend feminists’ normative claims—e.g., that “the exclusion and oppression of persons by institutions of knowledge and power is both morally wrong and at odds with the goal of truth production.”
Lorraine Code begins “What Is ‘Natural’ about Epistemology Naturalized?” (Chapter 4) by drawing a distinction between, on the one hand, naturalistic approaches to processes and institutions that generate knowledge that is likely to produce “potentially transformative consequences” (such as Foucault’s) and, on the other, “the North American version of naturalism” that traces its roots to Quine’s arguments. Code attributes three general features to Quinean naturalized epistemology that “thwart . . . [its] transformative possibilities.” These include its “veneration of physical science” and its assumption that science is the only knowledge-producing institution “worthy of analysis”; its reliance on scientific psychology and cognitive science, which in turn precludes critical evaluation of these disciplines and “begs the question” concerning their epistemic status; and its problematic representations of physical and human nature. Code maintains that although there are “rich possibilities” for “a well-conceived naturalism” (i.e., a naturalism that responds to postmodern, postcolonial, and postpatriarchal critiques), Quinean naturalism is not well conceived in these senses. The first sections of Code’s chapter are devoted to a critique of naturalized epistemology as Quine proposed it. In the last section, she argues for an alternative version of naturalism, which she maintains is more in keeping with the results of feminist scholarship and avoids many of the problems she attributes to Quinean naturalism.
Code sees research undertaken by Hilary Kornblith and others who look to empirical psychology for knowledge about “humans as cognizers” as representing precisely the sort Quine envisioned, and maintains that it suffers from some significant problems. For one thing, she contends, the scientism that informs both psychology and naturalized epistemology excludes many kinds of knowledge and subjects. Folk psychology and “the practices and wisdoms of extra-scientific, nonmainstream, marginalized people” are denigrated by empirical psychologists and cognitive scientists, and thus by naturalized epistemologists who assume that only their own disciplines offer genuine explanations of knowledge and science.
As importantly, Code argues, and contrary to the assumption of both psychologists and epistemologists, the subjects who figure in the observer-observed laboratory experiments to which naturalists appeal are not “natural objects”; in effect, they have been “denatured.” Given an underlying assumption that human beings form a “natural kind,” given as well methodological commitments to “gloss over human differences and specificities,” the “new human subject” that is the focus of psychological research is as much the result as it is the subject of such research. Its specificity, its historical and cultural “particularity,” are set aside, resulting in the creation of a decidedly artificial “human subject.” Moreover, Code maintains, “the rhetoric of the ‘natural’ claims a proximity to the ‘real’ that exercises a normative persuasion.” This rhetoric, which Code argues figures in both the scientific research in question and epistemology, would suggest that no “stipulating” is occurring. But Code identifies factors that are set aside to demonstrate that psychologists and epistemologists make choices concerning what counts as “human natural identity,” which expressions of it warrant empirical study, and so forth. Given scientism, Code argues, choices of the sort she details are unlikely to be reflected upon, let alone scrutinized, when psychologists and epistemologists assume that only scientific knowledge can provide “truly explanatory accounts” and when epistemology is taken to reduce to psychology.
Unlike many critics and advocates of Quinean naturalized epistemology, including some whose essays are included in this volume, Code does view this enterprise as normative. But she takes these dimensions to amplify the problems just noted. So practiced, Code argues, naturalized epistemology “will transform epistemology’s justificatory strategies,” but not in critically reflective ways.
Code next turns to the positive project of her chapter, that of identifying a kind of naturalism that would “reclaim” its emancipatory promise. She recommends “a revisioned naturalism,” an epistemological approach the core assumptions of which are analogous with those that inform the discipline of ecology. Code maintains that the normative questions to be pursued in this epistemology will be concerned to investigate the implications for humans as potential knowers of living in certain environments, and the potential for cognitive practices that will create environments “where people can live well.”
In “Feminist Epistemology and Naturalized Epistemology: An Uneasy Alliance” (Chapter 5), Phyllis Rooney introduces several distinctions to lay the groundwork for her argument that the alliance mentioned in her title is not only uneasy but should remain so. Rooney begins by drawing a distinction between what naturalist epistemologists do and what they say they ought to do. She argues that although naturalists are committed to making substantive use of scientific research in their theorizing about knowledge and science, they typically do not do so. Instead, it is the work of other philosophers, published in the main in philosophy journals, which is typically cited in naturalized epistemology. Nor, Rooney argues, is it common for naturalist epistemologists to engage with scientists, even those in empirical psychology and cognitive science on whose work they claim to rely.
Rooney builds from these arguments to introduce a distinction between what she calls the “noun-sense” of epistemology and the “verb-sense.” According to this schema, those who subscribe to a noun-sense of epistemology take “a specific fixed theory of knowledge” as their goal and, in this and other ways, are committed to “final philosophizing”—in the case of epistemology, to “some ‘final conception’ of knowledge.” In contrast, those who subscribe to a “verb-sense” of epistemology are concerned with doing epistemology and are more likely to devote critical attention to “particular kinds of motivating concerns, questions, and methods” that shape the way they do epistemology, rather than taking a final theory as their goal. Rooney uses this distinction to argue for what she takes to be important differences between naturalized epistemology and feminist epistemology as they are currently practiced. Those engaged in the former, she maintains, typically engage in epistemology of the noun-sense. Feminist epistemologists, on the other hand, typically engage in what she describes as verb-sense epistemology.
Rooney identifies a number of assumptions at work in naturalized epistemology that she takes to illustrate a commitment to a noun-sense of epistemology and other “non-naturalistic” features of work in the field. She cites assumptions of individualism, “that knowledge and knowing (and hence epistemology) are paradigmatically about having and acquiring beliefs,” that scientific knowledge and practices are paradigmatic examples of knowledge and knowledge-producing activities, and that psychology can provide an accurate account of how people “actually arrive at beliefs.” Rooney also argues that naturalized epistemology presupposes more “uniformity and generality” in scientific methods and practices than empirical investigations of scientific practice indicate is warranted. For the self-styled naturalist, Rooney contends, the problem with maintaining these assumptions is that they reflect philosophical preconceptions rather than empirical investigation.
In identifying what she takes to be differences between naturalized and feminist epistemologies, Rooney’s analysis suggests that the approaches characterizing the latter are more naturalistic than those characterizing the former. Rooney argues that feminist epistemologists are more concerned with the nature and consequences of their practices—what she cites Helen E. Longino as identifying as the question of what it means “to do epistemology as a feminist”—than arriving at some specific theory of science or knowledge. She maintains that feminists engage with practicing scientists (something naturalists prescribe but rarely partake in), and assume a more critical stance toward scientific practice and theories, and philosophical theorizing about them, than do naturalists. Finally, Rooney maintains that feminists are typically more conversant and comfortable with the diversity and “messiness” of the knowledge-generating practices they study. Rooney takes these things to reflect feminists’ engagements with practicing scientists, their attention to sociological and historical analyses of science, and their familiarity with debates within and across scientific specialties.
Rooney uses an extended case study to provide concrete examples to support her arguments. She concludes that, rather than feminists drawing on naturalized epistemology as some contributors advocate, naturalist epistemologists should look to feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy of science for “inspiration . . . and guidance.”
At the outset of “Naturalizing Quine” (Chapter 6), Kathryn Pyne Addelson describes Quine’s work “like all really good philosophical work [as] Janus-faced.” Addelson credits Quine with exposing a number of problems in the assumptions and commitments of logical empiricism. At the same time, she argues that Quine preserves important aspects of that tradition and offers new solutions to its problems, including the research tradition of naturalized epistemology as its intellectual heir. Addelson’s chapter as a whole reflects her positive and negative appraisals of Quine’s work. She argues that the most significant and positive premise of Quine’s arguments in “Epistemology Naturalized” is that knowledge is a natural phenomenon to be studied like all such phenomena. She also maintains that Quine clings to some dogmas even as he challenges others, and that the dogmas he retains both shape and limit his naturalized epistemology.
Among the dogmas and assumptions Addelson attributes to Quine and questions in her chapter are “that knowledge of nature and ‘reality’ is embodied in language” and particularly that knowledge of nature “is given in the discursive, representational use of language”; that science is a network of sentences; that science is “the authority” on nature, “including the relationship of the knower to the known”; and the dualism, criticized by Donald Davidson, “of conceptual scheme and experience.” Addelson’s analysis of these assumptions and dogmas is by no means limited to critique; she works to extend Quine’s own positions about science and naturalized epistemology in light of the pragmatism that she also finds within his work and seeks to develop.
In another constructive project, Addelson seeks to demonstrate that there can be a philosophy such that its notions of science and knowledge do not assume that knowers are individuals, that knowing is observational rather than participating, or that nature is “an object of study”—and she explores how such a philosophy might underwrite a naturalized epistemology that would enable scientists to understand their own practices in a more reflective way. Addelson offers several arguments to demonstrate the possibility and coherence of the philosophy she envisions and to explore its normative dimensions.
In her most extensive example, Addelson uses historian Wamba-dia-Wamba’s explication of the classic Kongo world picture (“cosmovision”) to several ends. Here, Addelson argues, we have an example of a coherent worldview and set of practices that does not posit or create “individuals” in the sense assumed in Western (modern) societies, epistemologies, and sciences. Addelson argues that this worldview helps to demonstrate that the individuals that figure in Western worldviews are themselves constructed beings whose “collective enactment” is culturally specific. Addelson also uses the Kongo world picture as an example of a “presentational” rather than “representational” view of language that in turn entails a view of translation that does not reduce the “enactment” of the world or meaning to discursive representation able to be translated or evaluated on the basis of notions of “truth” and “falsity.” Finally, she uses the Kongo cosmovision to “show people and their world as generated in collective action.” From this perspective, Addelson maintains, one can interpret Quine’s arguments concerning objects as “posits” and his talk of redistribution of truth values in “Two Dogmas” in far more pragmatic and fertile terms: in terms, that is, “of collective activity in making a world not as a linguistic game.”
In her conclusion, Addelson builds from these arguments to use the notion of “sensitizing,” which figures in the tradition of symbolic interactionism in sociology, to discuss how Quine’s effort “to embody knowers as actors in making knowledge” might be developed in ways that would allow scientists to accommodate the philosophical insight that they are “producing the account of the relationships between knower and known.”
We take an important argument common to the essays of Part II to be that epistemology and the philosophy of science, of any sort, are active and interventionist engagements with forms of knowing and knowledge-making—whether those engaged in these enterprises recognize or embrace this and recognize responsibilities attendant to it. Seen this way, the philosophy of science and epistemology are inescapably normative, whether engaged in from philosophers’ armchairs (in Rooney’s sense of “noun-sense epistemology”), self-styled as “purely descriptive” (as some naturalists see their efforts), or self-consciously aimed at transformation, as these authors advocate.
Another common argument is that a philosophy of science or an epistemology worth undertaking and taking seriously will be, to a substantial degree, empirically focused on and grounded in empirical research. Each author maintains that a viable epistemology will make use of and critically engage at least research in those scientific disciplines that provide or claim to provide insights into knowledge-making. Taken together, the authors cite cognitive science, empirical psychology, cross-cultural studies, and linguistics among the sciences to be drawn on and/or to be critically engaged.
Yet there are differences in the implications the authors attribute to their analyses of the relationships between Quine’s positions and feminist theorizing within and about the sciences. Linker advocates a rationalized rather than a naturalized epistemology on the grounds that only the former can underwrite the normative force of feminists’ claims and projects. In contrast, Code and Addelson do not reject naturalism itself; Code takes Quinean epistemology to be insufficiently “emancipatory” or “transformative,” and Addelson seeks to further develop it. And although Rooney argues that an alliance between naturalized epistemology and feminist epistemology should remain “uneasy,” her central argument is that feminists engage in the kind of research and interaction with science that is called for and that naturalists say they “ought” to do but don’t. This suggests that it is not the self-described project of naturalized epistemology that is problematic, but the failure by self-styled naturalists to execute it. In this argument, Rooney engages Code’s arguments in Chapter 5, exploring their common uneasiness over an alliance with naturalized epistemology but offering somewhat different reasons for it.
There are also parallels and contrasts between the essays of this section and those of the first. We have noted that Linker directly engages L. H. Nelson’s arguments in Chapter 1 concerning the usefulness of holism and naturalism for feminists. She also engages Antony’s arguments. Both Linker and Antony maintain that a realist conception of truth is necessary to underwrite the normative force of feminists’ claims, and both take rationalism to be necessary to any such conception. But Linker advocates rationalism as an alternative to naturalism, while Antony maintains that naturalized epistemology vindicates rationalism, and the epistemology she argues for would seem to be informed by both. In contrast to the fallibilism Antony and Nelson attribute to Quine and to naturalized epistemology, Code and Rooney argue that aspects of Quinean naturalized epistemology are informed by scientism. Finally, Antony maintains that naturalized epistemology can provide “aid and comfort to feminists.” In contrast, and as earlier noted, it is an implication of Code’s and Rooney’s analyses that naturalist epistemologists would do well to look to feminist epistemology and philosophy of science for models of genuine naturalism. In terms of this issue, Rooney engages Antony’s arguments directly, maintaining that an alliance between feminist and naturalized epistemologies should “take the direction of influence in the direction opposite to that which Antony submits.”
Finally, it seems to us that the essays by Code, Rooney, and Addelson raise the bar in terms of the criteria to be met by a genuinely naturalistic epistemology, and all four essays in this section raise the bar in terms of the criteria to be met by a responsible epistemology and responsible scientific practice.
<2> Part III: Appropriating, Extending, and Revising Quine’s Positions
The essays by Paul Roth, Jack Nelson, Richmond Campbell, Jane Duran, and Lynn Hankinson Nelson are in general supportive of Quine’s positions and see them as specifically relevant to feminist theorizing about science. But, as noted, there are also substantive disagreements among these contributors concerning the nature and implications of some of Quine’s positions, and most seek to extend or revise some of them.
The first chapter of this part, Paul Roth’s “Feminism and Naturalism: If Asked for Theories, Just Say ‘No’” (Chapter 7), most clearly connects the chapters of this section with those of the preceding section. Like other authors in Part III, Roth advocates Quinean naturalism and argues for its relevance to feminist approaches to science. But Roth is also in agreement with the general claim that Quine’s naturalized epistemology cannot be used to the normative ends that some so-called naturalist and feminist philosophers of science try to use it. As he indicates in his introduction, Roth’s central argument is that Quine’s arguments in “Epistemology Naturalized” are far more revolutionary—indeed, that they sound the death knell of philosophical theories of science—than self-described naturalists in mainstream and feminist philosophy of science have come to terms with or embraced in their approaches to studying science.
In the first section of his chapter, Roth lays out what he takes to be the salient features of “philosophical theories,” features he will go on to argue are not only not attributable to naturalized philosophy of science or epistemology, but also vitiated by Quine’s arguments. According to Roth, philosophical theories are solutions to conceptual puzzles, unable to be falsified by experience, and proposed without the aid of science or any empirical inquiry. Moreover, he contends, the failure to solve these puzzles is not regarded as disconfirming the theory in question, but as identifying a “difficulty” that calls for more philosophical theorizing. Roth’s examples of philosophical theories in the philosophy of science are the verifiability theory of meaning and the rational reconstructions sought by Carnap and others. Roth also criticizes the efforts of contemporary self-styled naturalists, such as Philip Kitcher, who he maintains attempt to water down Quine’s arguments so as to arrive at some sort of “limited,” as opposed to “radical,” naturalism. These efforts, he maintains, misrepresent or misunderstand the implications of Quine’s “Epistemology Naturalized,” which are radical indeed.
Roth next turns to a detailed explication of the arguments of Quine’s “Epistemology Naturalized” and what he takes its implications to be for the philosophy of science. Roth takes a primary source of Quinean naturalism to be (Quinean) holism, and holism in turn to be the obvious consequence of developments in empiricism post-Hume. To those who have taken “the holist turn,” Roth argues, questions about the justification of empirical claims “must be adjudicated intra-theoretically,” and “Epistemology Naturalized” explicates the consequences of doing so. Central to Roth’s analysis is his argument that Quine demonstrates a parallel between the demise of foundationalist projects in mathematics and what Quine takes to be the demise of the foundationalist project to justify recognizably empirical claims. Roth maintains that Quine’s arguments for this parallel, although “wholly ignored” by commentators, demonstrate that we are no worse off surrendering the epistemological burden to the sciences than we are in accepting incompleteness theorems of mathematics. Finally, in response to a common critique of Quine’s arguments in “Epistemology Naturalized,” Roth maintains that the issue of normativity is not “whether to be normative” but “how.” If Quine’s arguments are successful, as Roth maintains they are, legitimation projects—such as those undertaken in traditional philosophy of science and, according to Roth, in feminist philosophy of science—are nonstarters.
In the balance of his chapter, Roth turns to the specific implications of his analysis of Quine’s arguments for feminist philosophy of science, including the work of feminists who describe themselves as naturalists. Emphasizing what he takes to be parallels with the Strong Programme in feminists’ efforts to develop “social epistemologies” that can provide “causal/social constructionist” explanations of scientific practices, Roth maintains that all such efforts represent precisely the kind of philosophical theorizing Quine shows to be vacuous. The faith, reflected in both social constructionist and feminist approaches to science, that there is some underlying structure that “explains” why people (including scientists) believe what they do is, Roth maintains, philosophical baggage. For experience tells us that “whatever processes there are that lead people to associate beliefs in the way they do,” they are impenetrable. Thus, in Roth’s view, many engaged in feminist philosophy of science, including those who describe themselves as naturalists, are not yet engaged in a truly revolutionary project. Recognizing “the limits of reason in light of the science of the late twentieth century”—limits that Roth credits Quine with identifying and embracing—would yield (genuinely) revolutionary and constructive approaches to science in feminist philosophy of science.
In “The Last Dogma of Empiricism?” (Chapter 8), Jack Nelson addresses the general question of whether the distinction between science and values that Quine upholds can be maintained in light of Quine’s own holistic view of evidence. Nelson argues that there are strong Quinean reasons for rejecting the distinction and that it is far from clear that doing so would, as Quine seems to think, vitiate the objectivity of science. Indeed, Nelson maintains that there is a compelling reason to attempt to accommodate value claims in science—“the hope of bringing something of the ‘objectivity’ and openness that are characteristic of science to bear on value claims.”
Nelson devotes the first section of his chapter to outlining what he refers to as “some fairly noncontroversial boundary conditions” that any viable view about the relation between “facts” and “values,” or about the nature of science, must work within. On the one hand, he maintains, it is an implication of holism that none of the theories we currently accept is immune to revision or possible abandonment. On the other hand, Nelson argues, no theory or thesis that presently challenges the basic success of science (at least large parts of it) is itself viable. “Any viable philosophy of science,” he argues, “must recognize the indisputable success of science,” a success that Nelson attributes to science’s demand for empirical confirmation. The question raised by feminist science scholarship, Nelson suggests, is whether science’s success can only be accomplished “by building and maintaining an absolute wall between science and values.” Nelson proposes to explore this question within the bounds of empiricism and the views just outlined.
In the next sections of his chapter, Nelson explores Quine’s reasons for upholding the science/value distinction and the tenability of that distinction given other of his positions. He considers a number of traditional views that took values and the sentences of value theory to be problematic, and argues that only one of these is a likely reason for Quine’s defense of the distinction “that in [Quine’s] view ‘empirical controls’ work only on science.” Nelson next explores two themes within Quine’s work that, at least on the surface, argue against “a complete science/value distinction”: holism and Quine’s “notion of posits and reality.” Nelson argues that the implication of holism is that what counts for or against a claim or theory are two things: “how it is integrated in a larger theory or set of theories, and how well these interconnected claims and theories collectively predict, explain, and integrate the firings of our sensory receptors.” Thus, on the surface, Quinean holism would seem “to invite, or at least allow,” the inclusion of value-laden claims or value claims within science. So too, Nelson argues, Quine’s arguments that our ontological commitments are to those things that we must posit to make the sentences of our theories come out true (in the Quinean sense of ‘true’) also suggest that such claims are included in the holistic web. “To the extent that we are concerned to understand us, Homo sapiens, our theories also posit social structures, and individual and social goods and rights,” and we have collectively constructed a world “in which pain, suffering, happiness, joy, and prejudice are as real as trees, cars, political entities, and quarks.”
Nelson next considers aspects of Quine’s work that suggest that the holism Quine has in mind is, in fact, “far more modest” than that which Nelson earlier outlined. Analyzing Quine’s discussions of holism, Nelson suggests that it is probable that Quine includes only the natural and social sciences within this network—that it does not in fact include what Nelson describes as “all of our seriously held beliefs.” Nelson next asks what the consequences are of the view that “rationally based agreement is obtainable on all and only the claims of the traditional science.” He argues that two are particularly untoward: first, that “we may mistake broad agreement concerning some specific belief with that belief as being part of science”; second, that we may be “too ready to tolerate divergence of belief in areas outside the traditional sciences.” In light of these problems, Nelson advocates a broader holism than that which he attributes to Quine, according to which the web of interconnected theories consists of “all our seriously held beliefs, our whole world view including beliefs about values and value-laden beliefs.” Including the disciplines of moral theory, political and social theory, and aesthetics, Nelson argues, amounts to admitting that we take these disciplines seriously. And, in the end, deciding whether science itself can, in principle, “be made value free” is less important than “bringing reason and evidence construed holistically to bear on value issues.”
In his conclusion, Nelson explores the consequences of a science that, at a minimum, makes less of the science/value distinction. He argues that whether or not the science/value distinction is abandoned, the failure to take values seriously works against the doing of good science. Nelson has added a postscript to his chapter that reflects some changes in his views concerning what motivates Quine’s skepticism about values and value-laden claims since his essay was originally published.
The projects of Richmond Campbell’s “Feminist Epistemology Naturalized” (Chapter 9) are to defend feminist empiricism, to explicate the logic of feminist naturalized epistemology, and to extend some of Quine’s positions so as to develop a normative realism. Although Campbell defends Quine’s holism and his arguments for naturalism, the feminist naturalized epistemology he envisions differs in important respects from Quine’s vision of naturalized epistemology. Campbell parts ways with Quine in terms of the viability of a fact/value distinction and in terms of the objectivity of values, and he uses Quine’s own arguments for holism to counter Quine’s skepticism about values. In the conclusion of his chapter, Campbell builds on these several arguments to advocate what he calls “a feminist normative realism.”
Key to Campbell’s argument that feminist empiricism is viable is a distinction he draws between what he calls “internal feminist empiricism” and “external feminist empiricism.” Campbell maintains that arguments against feminist empiricism, in particular those of Harding’s we earlier outlined, ironically assume the distinction between the contexts of discovery and justification they typically criticize. What critics of feminist empiricism have in mind, Campbell argues, is “external feminist empiricism,” according to which feminist commitments are only brought to bear within the context of discovery (i.e., in forming a research agenda)—not in the context of justification where, as Harding and others assume, only empiricist norms function. Campbell uses Quinean holism to argue that factors in the context of discovery always carry over to the context of justification—thus, he maintains, even in what Harding calls “science as usual,” it is not only empiricist norms that are at work. An “internal feminist empiricism,” in which both feminist and empiricist norms function, is a more accurate understanding of feminist empiricism, and the latter is, indeed, a viable framework.
Campbell’s argument that feminist empiricism should be understood as a version of naturalized epistemology proceeds in several stages. In the first, he seeks to demonstrate that naturalized epistemology is normative, even if “Quine misunderstands his own project.” Campbell maintains that not only are empiricist methodological norms (such as induction) inherently normative, so too are the “end norms” that give them their purpose. Naturalized epistemology engages in research and/or makes use of scientific research to determine whether the methodological norms scientists and laypersons use do result in theories that satisfy the ends inquiry sets itself. Campbell builds from this argument to outline the logic of feminist naturalized epistemology. Feminist political commitments, he maintains, will function both as end norms and in the application of methodological norms such as explanatory power. To take a naturalistic approach to feminist epistemology, Campbell argues, is to follow the logic of naturalized epistemology so described to investigate whether specific methodological norms lead to hypotheses and theories that satisfy the “end norms” of feminist politics.
Campbell next turns to questions concerning realism and objectivity, first in terms of recognizably empirical theory (such as science), and subsequently in terms of moral theory. His account of the purpose and justification of the methodological and end norms that guide inquiry are central to his arguments for a feminist normative realism. He works first to demonstrate that the justification of methodological norms on the basis of their relationship to objectivity requires that we assume they are more likely than any alternatives to help us arrive at “reasonably accurate models of what the world is like.” Campbell next argues that realism is required if we are to be able to make sense of the notion that the end norms guiding inquiry are themselves objective. Campbell introduces what he calls “fact-value holism” as a framework that allows for the evaluation of end norms, including feminist norms, on the basis of notions such as objectivity.
In a third line of argument, Campbell maintains that Quine’s arguments that the empirical meaning (content) of particular sentences is largely determined by their relationships to other sentences come to the claim that the “factual and meaning components of language are inextricably intertwined.” If we also grant, as Campbell earlier argues, that holism so understood extends to normative commitments, and that there are reciprocal relationships between one’s acceptance of descriptive claims and one’s norms, then it is clear that normative realism is as viable as empirical realism. Moral claims, Campbell maintains—such as “the suppression of women is unjust”—are like empirical claims in that both “can be true independently of their being recognized to be true.”
In “The Importance of Quine for Feminist Theory” (Chapter 10), Jane Duran argues that Quine’s naturalism, which her analysis suggests she views to be central to but not identical with naturalized epistemology, is the most significant aspect of his work, and deeply commensurate with core feminist principles. Duran characterizes Quine’s naturalism as the view that it is “futile” to attempt to “divorce our experience of the world from our theorizing about it.” Quine demonstrates, she argues, that efforts to disentangle language, theorizing, sense data experience, and observation are necessarily doomed.
Duran builds from her account of Quinean naturalism to argue that there are fundamental differences between, on the one hand, Quine’s positions and, on the other, logical positivism, Carnap’s positions, and “the Received View” that long dominated the philosophy of science. Duran maintains that Quine’s view of the relationship between language and world led to his critique of sense data as a form of experience prior to conceptualization and language, and ultimately to his arguments against foundationalism. Quine’s view of the language/world relationship in turn relied on a model of language acquisition that maintains that children’s sensory experiences are inseparable from their experiences of learning language. And, Duran argues, Quine takes the inseparability in the language-learning process of experience, conceptualization, and categorization as also attributable to the esoteric observations and categorizations of the sciences. The physicist encountering the world, using her senses and the categories implicit in her language, does so in ways and to ends not different in kind from the child who is learning a language.
Duran’s third line of argument emphasizes Quine’s rejection of the a priori and of what she terms “universalizability,” positions that she maintains sharply distinguish Quine’s naturalism from much Western philosophizing. Duran locates Quine “directly in a line of thinkers, beginning with James and Dewey [and including Rorty],” who have denied the possibility of “One True Account” and whose challenges to this are grounded in a rejection of the possibility of universalizability and an a priori construction of ontology. Duran takes the source both of Dewey’s emphasis on the importance of experience and “the weakness of a priori theorizing” and of Quine’s naturalism to be in their common view of the relationships between language and the world. Both Dewey and Quine reject the view that language has “a nonhuman, hypostatized link to the world.”
In her conclusion, Duran argues that there is a deep convergence between Quine’s naturalism and feminists’ commitments to theorizing on the basis of the realities of “women’s lived lives.” Duran draws parallels between “the sense-oriented nature of a gynocentric world view” that reflects “immersion in the world of mundane particulars” and the emphasis in Quine’s theorizing on sensory experience. In more general terms, Duran argues, Quinean naturalism is valuable for feminist theorizing “precisely because it takes us thoroughly out of the realm of a priori theorizing.”
In “Feminist Naturalized Philosophy of Science” (Chapter 11), Lynn Hankinson Nelson explores the implications of Quine’s positions and feminist science studies for the philosophy of science. Extending and revising “A Feminist Naturalized Philosophy of Science” (1995), Nelson advocates a philosophical framework for studying science that makes use of three methodological principles she argues to be commensurate with the implications of Quinean holism and of feminist science studies—a methodological approach she calls “feminist naturalized philosophy of science.” Her central thesis is that an approach to science based on these principles allows for the recognition that many of the questions feminist raise about the social processes that characterize and influence science are simultaneously questions about the bodies of evidence available to and drawn upon by scientists. That is to say, the distinction between the “sociology of science” and “epistemology of science” that both traditional philosophers and sociologists of science assume is not genuine (cf. Rouse 1996).
Nelson positions her discussion in relation to recent debates in naturalized philosophy of science. She notes that three criteria for assessing methods used in the discipline have emerged in these discussions: the commensurability of the explanations such methods yield with the actual history and current practices of science; sufficient grounding in empirical research relevant to the study of the sciences; and consistency of methodological approaches, in particular, a consistent approach to episodes deemed progressive and nonprogressive. Nelson argues that the general commitment among naturalists to evaluate philosophical methods on the basis of empirical warrant, and the interdependence naturalists maintain between philosophical methods and a current state of science and science scholarship, make feminist naturalized epistemology a viable and promising methodological approach.
In the second section, Nelson introduces the three methodological principles, maintaining that they both satisfy the criteria largely accepted in naturalized philosophy of science and better satisfy them than currently available alternatives. Two principles concern the construal of evidence, and the second represents a revision of the article originally published with the same name (Nelson 1995). The first builds on what Nelson takes to be the implications of Quine’s arguments for holism; it maintains that the evidence for specific hypotheses and theories is both empirical success and integration with bodies of accepted theory. She takes an implication of feminist science studies to be that holism must be construed inclusively so as to include claims and theories in which social beliefs and values are integrated.
Nelson’s second methodological principle seeks to refine Quinean holism so that it reflects the substantial body of evidence indicating that the sciences are in fact less unified, and characterized by more dissent, than Quine recognizes or that she has identified in earlier publications. She adds to the principle calling for inclusive holism by building on the work of Alison Wylie and Ian Hacking to argue for a principle that emphasizes the importance of “evidential independence.” She argues that the evidence for a particular hypothesis, whether in the form of empirical results or intertheoretic integration, is stronger if it enjoys some degree of independence (vertical and/or horizontal) from the research program within which the hypothesis emerged. Nelson’s third methodological principle takes science communities, rather than scientists qua individuals, as the loci of philosophical reconstructions and explanations of scientific practice. She maintains that this focus is an implication of the holistic account of evidence she advocates.
In her conclusion, Nelson considers the question of whether feminist naturalized philosophy of science as she has outlined it is normative. She seeks to demonstrate that it is a significant implication of research in both the feminist and naturalist traditions that the methods employed in the philosophy of science carry both empirical and normative import, and can and should be pursued as carrying such import.
As we have had reason to note in several contexts, even contributors who support Quine’s arguments for naturalizing the philosophy of science and holism, and who also agree that these positions are relevant to and promising for feminist theorizing about science, sometimes disagree deeply about the nature and implications of these positions. There is, to start, obvious disagreement about whether naturalized philosophy of science is justificatory. And like the disagreement we noted between Antony’s analysis and L. H. Nelson’s in Part I, contributors in this section differ sharply in their understandings of the implications of holism for realism, for correspondence theories, and for related notions—disagreements that, in some cases we suggest, are partly related to disagreements concerning the viability and/or implications of Quinean holism and his thesis of the indeterminacy of translation.
We conclude by noting some significant parallels and disagreements in the volume as a whole, and what we think are important and unresolved questions concerning the implications of feminist scholarship for Quine’s positions and vice versa.
A number of contributors analyze and evaluate Quinean holism, and there are disagreements about its extent and implications. Linker maintains that this doctrine is inherently conservative and, as such, incompatible with feminist theorizing. Others, including Campbell, J. Nelson, L. H. Nelson, and Roth, argue that holism is an important resource for feminist theorizing, but the first three contributors seek to extend it so as to include more than science narrowly construed and, certainly, values. The second chapter by L. H. Nelson also seeks to develop a view of evidence that, although holistic, avoids the conservatism that she takes to rightly concern Linker. There are also important differences in the ways those sympathetic to Quinean holism understand this position. For example, Jack Nelson argues that holism as Quine understood and advocated it may only encompass the sciences, and identifies what he takes to be some unfortunate consequences if this is the case. Campbell, Duran, and L. H. Nelson, on the other hand, take Quine’s arguments to entail a more inclusive holism, one that encompasses common-sense theory and theorizing as well as philosophy. Campbell goes even further to use what he calls Quine’s “fact/meaning holism” as the basis for his own argument for “fact/value holism.” In his efforts to expand Quinean holism to include values, Campbell’s interest parallels that of J. Nelson, but their specific understandings of holism seem to us quite different.
Roth maintains that Quine does not draw distinctions between types of sciences, but understands science as incorporating any form of inquiry that respects the experimental method. At the same time, Roth’s arguments would suggest that the ways other contributors seek to use Quinean holism and naturalism reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of Quine’s arguments. The disagreements involved are significant, for they raise the question not only of what the philosophy of science postnaturalism is or could be, but also questions concerning where Quine’s work is located in relationship to “analytic” philosophy and postmodernism.
At its heart, the disagreement seems to us to concern whether naturalized philosophy of science properly understood is or could be an explanatory enterprise or whether it is, instead, (merely) interpretive. In criticizing feminist approaches to science that retain the features he attributes to “philosophical theories,” Roth focuses on Helen E. Longino’s arguments for viewing science “as social knowledge” and on the guidelines she proposes for science communities to further the kind of objectivity she articulates. But Roth’s arguments have much wider applicability. In this volume alone, a number of contributors identify themselves as feminists and naturalists, and suggest philosophical approaches to studying science—approaches that they, like Longino, take to be simultaneously philosophical and empirical inquiries. If Roth is correct, these are in fact philosophical in ways Quine that showed are untenable. What reason is there for thinking this is so?
As we read Roth, any attempt to explain the beliefs of individuals or of groups is a nonstarter. Feminist theorizing, then—including that self-described as naturalist—is not empirical inquiry, but philosophical theorizing of a sort Quine showed to be a dead end. This raises several questions, perhaps the most obvious being just what is the philosophy of science? And in what does the continuity between the sciences and the philosophy of science, a core tenet of Quine’s argument for naturalization, consist? If the sciences are explanatory and the philosophy of science is limited to offering interpretations, it is not clear that any such continuity obtains. Perhaps, given that the problems with causal explanations that Roth emphasizes concern efforts to explain beliefs, he is of the view that the social sciences and the philosophy of science cannot be explanatory, but the physical and life sciences can. But again this seems challenged by Quinean holism and the breadth (which Roth himself stresses) of Quine’s notion of what constitutes “empirical inquiry.” Given these positions, it would seem to follow that either all empirical inquiry is interpretive, rather than explanatory, or all empirical inquiry, including some approaches taken to the philosophy of science, is explanatory.
Whatever the answers to these questions, we take these issues—at the heart of this disagreement and others we have noted concerning the implications of holism for the notions of realism and truth, explanation and interpretation, and all of these for the study of science and other knowledge-generating practices—to warrant further exploration in feminist theorizing. For they suggest that Quine’s philosophy bridges the philosophies of the analytic and postmodern schools that many, including some contributors to this volume, take to be diametrically opposed.
On one level, there is apparently more consensus concerning Quine’s commitment to individualism than there is concerning holism. Of those who discuss it, most see aspects of Quine’s work, including his arguments in “Epistemology Naturalized,” as presupposing epistemological individualism and view this position as problematic. On another level, there are differences in the weight contributors attribute to individualism as they evaluate the usefulness of naturalism to feminist theorizing. Code’s and Linker’s essays suggest that Quinean naturalism is inseparable from individualism. Duran, J. Nelson, and L. H. Nelson, while critical of Quine’s commitment to individualism, see room for developing naturalism beyond it. And Campbell, J. Nelson, and L. H. Nelson argue that others of Quine’s positions undermine any residual commitment he has to individualism. As importantly in terms of this issue, we take Rooney’s analysis of research in cognitive science to raise significant questions about the distinction between the individual and the social that informs some of the other essays, and about the not uncommon assumption that research focused on the cognitive capacities of individuals cannot yield results with any relevance for feminist science studies.
A question enjoying center stage in these essays is whether naturalism and others of Quine’s positions are able to yield a sufficiently normative philosophy of science. Although contributors disagree in their answers to this question, we end by noting arguments that we find common and significant.
Most contributors maintain that, by current lights, the methods employed by philosophers of science should be empirically grounded and should yield critical evaluation of the sciences, including those that naturalists seek to use. And all call for critical self-reflection on the part of philosophers—whether feminists, naturalists, rationalists, or some combination thereof—concerning the empirical warrant and the normative implications of our practices.