Is Logic Empirical? - W.V. Quine

W.V. Quine

What is the epistemological status of the laws of logic? What sort of arguments are appropriate for criticising purported principles of logic? In his seminal paper "Two Dogmas of Empiricism," the logician and philosopher W.V. Quine argued that all beliefs are in principle subject to revision in the face of empirical data, including the so-called analytic propositions. Thus the laws of logic, being paradigmatic cases of analytic propositions, are not immune to revision.

To justify this claim he cited the so-called paradoxes of quantum mechanics. Birkhoff and von Neumann proposed to resolve those paradoxes by abandoning the principle of distributivity, thus substituting their quantum logic for classical logic.

Quine did not at first seriously pursue this argument, providing no sustained argument for the claim in that paper. In Philosophy of Logic (the chapter titled "Deviant Logics"), Quine rejects the idea that classical logic should be revised in response to the paradoxes, being concerned with "a serious loss of simplicity", and "the handicap of having to think within a deviant logic". Quine, though, stood by his claim that logic is in principle not immune to revision.

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    Meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word.
    —Willard Van Orman Quine (b. 1908)