Ontology supervenient upon epistemology: a question…

Can anyone unpack Quine’s slogan a bit?

“[Quine] holds, quite generally, that we should not postulate entities without having clear identity-criteria for them. (This is the view that he sums up in the slogan “no entity without identity” (1969: 23. Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, New York: Columbia University Press)) in Hylton 2014 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/quine/#QuiEpi

I’m looking for support for the notion that ontology is supervenient upon epistemology. All pointers, one way or the other, welcome.

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One Response to Ontology supervenient upon epistemology: a question…

  1. Eric says:

    This was recently unpacked in Noah Roderick’s book THE BEING OF ANALOGY. It’s in chapter 4 (specifically, 124-28), but the context of other chapters is helpful for people like me (non-philosophers). Roderick provides a clear overview, and then contrasts his philosophy with Quine’s (rather than directly attacking it — in fact, Roderick is clearly impressed, even more so with Sellars). Quine’s general idea is to defend human access to self-same identity by creating a frame of reference. It’s a way of “atomizing reality for the purposes of creating a productive analytical discourse.” This ultimately means excluding similarity from the cosmos, and excluding realism from one’s discourse.

    As Quine sez: “It is a mark of maturity of a branch of science that the notion of similarity or kind finally dissolves.” Roderick goes on: “But, says Quine, the infinite regress of reference does not negate the meaning that is produced at each stage of reference…” In other words, even if you don’t make “really real” statements, you can still make statements that approach the limits of meaning. It’s all about producing good criteria for collapsing experience into self-same units, rather than getting at reality itself.

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