Volume 6, 1998
Kristin K. DeKam
Quine’s Physicalist Epistemology
A Contradictory Aesthetic Preference or Justified Bias?
Quine, in his article "In Praise of the Observational Sentence," claims to establish naturalized epistemology and the work of science as a realist mapping of the world. Invoking Rorty's criticisms of foundationalism from Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, this paper analyzes Quine's observational sentence by discussing the unresolved issue of justification. It discusses whether a causal explanation can be a justified true belief and adequate "grounding" of knowledge. I suggest that the criticisms of Quine bypass similarities between Rorty's position and Quine's. Such polemic positions - characteristic of the postmodern/modern debate - imply a false dichotomy. These criticisms of justification and grounding are best understood as a means to argue for eclectic viewpoints of human understanding. I conclude that Wittgenstein's idea of "human life form," or world-picture, provides further context for insisting upon interdisciplinary dialogue in lieu of an assumed hierarchy of specialized sciences.