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This work is an examination of Quine’s naturalized epistemology. Prior to Quine’s call for the naturalization of epistemology, there were attempts to establish a solid foundation upon which the edifice of knowledge can be built on. This search was attempted by Rene Descartes and Rudolf Carnap in their epistemological programs. The failure of the Carnapian and Cartesian foundationalism and also the inability of epistemologist to effectively deal with the Gettier problem led Quine to advocate for the naturalization of epistemology. He argues that epistemology should embrace the methods of science as the foundation of its operation in other to have certainty in epistemology as found in the natural science. The problem here is that it is not clear how a normative discipline like epistemology will be part of natural science. This work therefore examines Quine’s naturalized epistemology with a view to access what becomes of epistemology if naturalized. In order to achieve this objective, this work presents the Cartesian and the Carnapian epistemology, the traditional account of knowledge, the Gettier problem and it responses as well as Quine’s naturalized epistemology. Finally, it examines the possibility of naturalizing epistemology in view of its normative status.




Cover Page      -           -           -           -           -                       -           -           -           -           i

Title Page        -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           ii

Declaration     -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iii

Certification    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iv

Dedication       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           v

Acknowledgement      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           vi

Abstract          -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           viii

Table of Contents       -           -           -           -           -           -                       -           -           ix


1.1    Background of the  Study            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           1

1.2    Statement of  the Research Problem        -           -           -           -           -           -           3

1.3    Objectives of the Study               -           -           -           -           -           -           -           3

1.4    Significance of the Study -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           4

1.5    Justification of the Study -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           4

1.6    Method of the Study        -           -           -                       -           -           -           -           4

1.7    Scope of the Study          -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           4

1.8    Clarification of Key Terms          -           -           -           -           -           -           -           5

1.9    Organization of the Study           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           7

CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE    -           -           -           8


3.1       Biographical Sketch of W.V.O. Quine           -           -           -           -           -           20

3.2       The Philosophical Background of Quine’s Naturalized Epistemology          -           21
3.2.1    Traditional Epistemology       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           22

3.2.2    The Gettier Problem    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           23

3.2.3    Responses to the Gettier Problem       -           -           -           -           -           -           25

3.2.4    Foundationalism         -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           28

3.3       Quine’s Naturalized Epistemology     -           -           -           -           -           -           30


Evaluation       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           35

Conclusion      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           38

Works Cited   -           -           -           -           -           -           -           --          -           -           40









1.1       Background of the Study

           The major concern of the early philosophers like Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes was on the nature of things; they tried to state the ultimate principle or element of the universe. Following the failure of these philosophers to provide a universal truth about the ultimate principle of the universe, philosophers then changed focus to the problem of human knowledge, asking if it was possible for human mind to discover any universal truth. This gave rise to skepticism. The first sets of the skeptics were the sophists. They held that it is impossible to obtain any universal truth as individuals projects their perception into the nature of things. Protagoras, a leading sophist believed that knowledge is limited to our various perceptions and these perceptions differ. For instance if two people observe the same thing, their sensation would not be the same because the observers occupy a different position in relation to the object. So for him, man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are and of the things that are not that they are not (Idang 125). Based on the above, Protagoras concluded that knowledge is subjective, and this forms the basis of moderate skepticism. While Protagoras held that knowledge is subjective to persons and situations or circumstances, Gorgias held that there is no truth at all. He based his judgment on three propositions, (i) that nothing exist, (ii) and even if anything exists it is incomprehensible, (iii) even if it is comprehensible it cannot be communicated. Based on this, Gorgias was convinced that objective knowledge is not possible and universal truth is not attainable. This view forms the basis of radical skepticism.

           The skeptics challenge about the possibility of objective knowledge was a treat to human knowledge. The challenge was so serious that people were made to doubt their very own existence. This led Plato to respond to the skeptic challenge; he describes how the human mind achieves knowledge. He did this in his allegory of the cave, his metaphor of the divided line, and his doctrine of form. For him, objective knowledge or universal truth is possible, he defined knowledge in his Theaetetus (201) as “true belief based on argument” which was later translated as “justified true belief”, and this definition of knowledge is generally taken to be the traditional definition of knowledge.

            For many years, knowledge was seen as justified-true-belief until Gettier came up with an essay in 1963 in which he presented two cases to show that there was a problem with the traditional account of knowledge. “Gettier's thought experiments seem to show that the traditional account was inadequate by proving that someone could have a justified true belief that was not knowledge” (Ibrahim 135).This gave rise to the Gettier problem. Since then, various attempts have been made to state sufficient conditions for someone to know a given proposition. This in turn gave rise to the search for the fourth condition of knowledge which led to so many theories like the defeasibility theory, the causal theory, the reliability theory, the integrative theory and so on.

           Following the failure to provide a fourth condition that will be sufficient for someone to say that he or she knows a particular proposition for certain, and also the failure of the foundational programs of Rene Descartes and Rudolf Carnap  Willard Van Orman Quine proposed that instead of philosophers to continue searching for a fourth condition of knowledge, epistemology should be naturalized so that the methods of the sciences will be applied to the study of epistemology and when this happen, epistemology will be regarded as science or part of natural science. This is because of the level of objectiveness and certainty that Quine discovered in natural science. So for him, if epistemology is studied using the methods of science.

1.2       Statement of the Research Problem

The central problem of this research is that W.V.O Quine in his naturalized epistemology shifted attention from the issues bordering epistemologist and propose for a naturalize way of studying epistemology. By this he tried to dodge the problem of knowledge instead of solving it. The question that arises is that; if epistemology is naturalized can objective knowledge be acquired? And also can it provide a fourth condition of knowledge that will be universally acceptable? This work will examine Quine naturalized epistemology to see if epistemology can actually be naturalized.

1.3       Objective of the Study

The major aim of this work is to examine W.V.O Quine’s naturalized epistemology. Other objectives include:

i.                    to show how Quine arrived at his naturalized epistemology

ii.                  to expose  Quine’s naturalized epistemology

iii.                to show the challenges of naturalized epistemology to traditional epistemology

1.4       Significance of the Study

This work is significant in the sense that it examines Quine’s naturalized epistemology and its contribution to the search for the fourth condition of knowledge

1.5       Justification of the Study

            This work is justified on the basis that it projects Quine’s theory of knowledge; it shows the influence of Quine in the field of epistemology.

1.6       Method of the study

             The method of this research is essentially library based as it consulted and made use of relevant materials and literature in the field of epistemology and related fields. Such materials include textbooks, journals and internet sources. This work also employed the philosophical method of conceptual clarification, critical evaluation as well as analysis. In this regards, it helps the researcher to critically examine W.V.O Quine naturalized epistemology.

1.7       Scope of the study

            The scope of this work is limited to W.V.O Quine naturalized epistemology. At such it focuses on Quine contribution to epistemology.


1.8       Clarification of Key Terms

          i.                        Epistemology: It is also refer to as theory of knowledge. Epistemology is derived from two Greek words, ‘episteme’ which means knowledge and ‘logos’ which means ‘study or theory of’. Thus; epistemology is the theory or study of knowledge. It is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, scope of knowledge, how it knowledge is acquired and whether knowledge is possible (Pence 18). Its fundamental question include the origin of knowledge, the place of experience in generating knowledge, the relationship between knowledge and certainty, and between knowledge and impossibility of error, the possibility of universal skepticism and the changing forms of knowledge that arise from new conceptualizations of the world (Blackburn 118).

        ii.                        Knowledge: Ever since Plato’s definition of knowledge as justify true belief was pointed out to be incomplete by Gettier, epistemologist have tried to identify the essential, defining components of knowledge. A prominent traditional view, suggested by Plato is that propositional knowledge has three individual necessary and jointly sufficient components, justification, true and belief. On this view knowledge is by definition, justified true belief. This is the tripartite definition that has come to be called the standard analysis (Audi 274).

      iii.                        Truth: As one of the condition of the traditional analysis of knowledge. Something is true when we genuinely know that P only if it is the case that P (Audi 274-275).

      iv.                        Belief: This requires that anybody who knows a proposition or statement must belief in that proposition or statement (Audi 274).

        v.                        Justification: Knowledge is not simply true belief. Some true beliefs are supported only by lucky guesswork and hence do not qualify as knowledge. Knowledge requires that the satisfaction of its belief condition be “appropriately related” to the satisfaction of its truth condition. This is one broad way of understanding the justification condition of the traditional account of knowledge (Audi 275).

      vi.                        Naturalism: This is the view that ultimately nothing resists explanation by the methods of the natural sciences (Blackburn 309). It holds that everything is composed of natural entities (Audi 596).

    vii.                        Skepticism: This is the belief that knowledge or even ra

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