Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Williard Van Orman Quine's "Common Sense"

“Science is a continuation of common sense, and it continues the common-sense expedient of swelling ontology to simplify theory” (Quine, 1961, para. 8). That is a direct quote from Williard Van Orman Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism (1961) and in light of further course readings is a very delusional statement. As was noted by Professor Steven Ogden and in fact Quine himself, this author is a very strong empiricist. An empiricist, by definition, is “the view that experience, especially of the senses, is the only source of knowledge” (answers.com, 2010). Therefore if I cannot feel, hear, smell, see, or taste something, it cannot be real. This feels like a very Darwinist viewpoint as it calls on existence of everything on earth, but does so by saying that there has to be some way to know it is there.

However, we do not know about certain aspects of the world and universe. There is no way to sense it or quantify it in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, there are certain individuals out there that do believe that everything can be broken down quantitatively and qualitatively. This however is a miss conception as not everything in this world can be known to be true. To say “Science is common sense” is a very big stretch, as not every situation can be broken down into a simple mathematical formula or theory (Quine, 1961, para. 8). No one can be sure that one chain of events causes another.

Darwinists would like to think that mapping, documentation, and studies would be able to give them the proper answer that it is natural selection that causes variation in different species. They would say that it is just common sense that this is the way nature works. As was stated last class, we have come a long way in thinking that it is just religious fanatics that think that Darwinism may not be true to see that there are other critics as well. Well this is an example of absolutism, and even though Quine does not state he is a Darwinist, I can almost guarantee you that Darwinian followers would love to use this as ammunition. This is almost as bad as religious fanaticism as it does not leave the door open for anything else besides these thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. Would it be acceptable to sum up this post in the counter phrase; science is not common sense? As you are arguing that Quine's statement is false, I think it is safe to say that you feel science is not common sense (If I'm inaccurate in this assumption please forgive me). However, I really like this statement in that, even common sense is not all that 'common'. This concept is problematic to me as it indicates that all human beings have a similar thought pattern that unites us all. I do not believe this to be true; there is human nature, and habits, but a similar logic that transcends all races and cultures is something that remains to be seen in this world. Much less should science be deemed 'common sense'. This entails that it is simple enough for anyone to understand. Anyone who has had difficulty in high school science class before knows this to be untrue. Science and interpretations of it also differs across cultures. To reduce it to some sort of so-called 'common sense' gives no explanation of what Science is at all.