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Introduction: Life and Work


Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780470672105.2014.00001.x


W.V.O. Quine was born on June 25, 1908 in Akron, Ohio. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1930 with a major in mathematics and honors in mathematical logic. He tells us in his autobiography that he worked through Venn's Symbolic Logic , Peano's Formualiair de mathematiques , Courtura's Algebra of Logic , Whitehead's Introduction to Mathematics , and Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica . This last work together with Russell's “On Denoting” deeply impressed Quine, as did his exposure to J.B. Watson's behaviorism in a psychology class. (Quine's version of behaviorism is discussed by Dagfinn Føllesdal and Gilbert Harman in this volume.) Quine entered the graduate program at Harvard in the fall of 1930. He amazingly completed his PhD in two years at the age of 23, with a dissertation The Logic of Sequences: A generalization of Principia Mathematica , directed by Whitehead. He was awarded a Sheldon Travel Fellowship for 1932–33, during which he visited Vienna, attending Moritz Schlick's Vienna Circle, where he met Kurt Gödel, F. Waismann, and A.J. Ayer, among others. He worked with R. Carnap in Prague and later visited Warsaw, where he met the logicians Stanislaw Leśniewski, Jan Łukasiewicz, and Alfred Tarski. On Carnap's influence on him, Quine wrote: Carnap was my greatest teacher. I got to him in Prague … just a few months after I had finished my formal studies ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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