Thursday, 22 September 2016

Willard Van Orman Quine (1903 - ?) - Pilos Profiles Vol 3

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An amazing child, Quine learned a lot at school. He was born an American, and became one of the most influential American philosophers of all time. He came from Oberlin, Ohio, and made his own collections of things, and was interested in stamps. He made newsletters for all his friends about stamps, and wrote essays and debated. All in all a very intellectual boy.

As he grew up, this did not change. He became more and more clever, and by the time he reached university he was reading Principia Mathematica by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead. He eventually wrote his doctoral thesis on these topics, and became a world-renowned researcher known for his clever, witty articles and smart arguments.

Quine was now typing at a very high speed, writing logical books for both researchers and students. He began to attend more colloquia, more widely, and there are many stories about him saying things in the car on the way to a conference. One is 'Will there be modal logic at the conference?' 'No' 'Then the car's fine'!

Quine's work became broader as he went on, and he had a whole vision of how mind and mathematics fit into the world, and the way to tell what exists, all regimented in austere logical symbolism. His was truly an impressive achievement.

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