Universiteit Leiden

nl en


LTP Lecture: Quine’s naturalized epistemology of ontology

Thursday 21 March 2024
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

The Leiden University Centre Theoretical Philosophy is pleased to announce a lecture by Prof. Dr. Lieven Decock, Professor of Philosophy of the Sciences at the Department of Philosophy Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Prof. Dr. Lieven Decock


After the Vienna Circle’s demise of metaphysics, Quine revitalized the ontological project in the 1950s, and his ontological framework has become the received view in contemporary metaphysics. Many metaphysicians taking issue with some of Quine’s central tenets still use the Quinean framework as the backdrop for their views. Recent work on fundamentality in metaphysics commonly starts from the Quinean framework, to which a new primitive ‘fundamental’ is added. The move to metametaphysics arguably started with a discussion of Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment.

In this lecture I want to explore an alternative metametaphysical approach, which I have called ‘cognitive metaphysics’ elsewhere. I will sketch the Quinean ontological framework, point out some of its weaknesses and argue that in Quine’s later work elements for a new approach in metaphysics can be found. Quine increasingly stressed the primacy of epistemology over ontology and the importance of our immediate contact with the outer world.

The main point I wanted to make is that there are good prospects for a naturalized epistemology of ontology or cognitive metaphysics. Quine’s philosophy is a good starting point but must be modified in two ways. First, behaviorism is no longer tenable and more recent work in the cognitive sciences must be considered. Second, an overall ontology is no longer tenable; the ontological categories in the understanding of one’s environment are radically different from the metaphysics needed in contemporary science, particularly physics.

Attendance at the lectures is free, and there is no need to register. For further questions, please contact Dr. Catharine Diehl at c.e.diehl@phil.leidenuniv.nl

All are welcome!

This website uses cookies.  More information.